TPM News

"We are pleased to announce our decision to rebrand to a familiar name -- VALIC," begins a brochure titled, "Back to our roots" that was recently distributed to holders of policies with the Variable Life Insurance Company. Um, and guess what slightly more familiar name VALIC has decided to cast off? Yes, that would be everyone's favorite federally-funded money vortex the American International Group.

Possibly, and this is entirely idle speculation on our parts but, the fancy public relations firms the zombie insurer retained are known for running focus groups. Perhaps the feedback concluded that somehow the AIG name was a turnoff to people looking for a place to store their remaining life savings?

"We believe this decision is timely," the brochure goes on, adding that with its return to its more venerable brand it restores a name "that has represented more than a half a century of helping people plan for and enjoy a secure retirement"* and also sounds vaguely like the pickle brand, possibly to convey a sense of "preservation."

Read More →

Did the people -- whoever they may be -- who leaked details about Rep. Jane Harman's wiretapped conversation with a suspected Israeli agent, break the law?

The law quite clearly prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of classified information "concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government." And Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy, confirmed to TPMmuckraker: "It seems crystal clear that if this was a FISA wiretap," as appears to be the case, "then whoever disclosed it committed a felony."

Read More →

Following up on the news that Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) met with SEIU President Andy Stern today, Greg Sargent gave the congressman a call. "I cannot see the unions across the board supporting Specter if he cannot support EFCA," Sestak told Sargent. "[Stern] let it be known that it's very much on the top of their agenda."

Sestak has become more and more forthright in recent days about his intent to challenge Specter for the 2010 Pennsylvania Senate nomination if Specter doesn't move left. Before Specter got in the race, Sestak said he had no intention of attempting a bid for the Senate. After Specter made his switch that all changed. First Sestak criticized Specter for lacking principles. Then said he'd wait to see what Specter stands for before making any decisions. Then Friday he said he was "thinking about getting in" to the race. Now he tells Greg "[i]f [Specter] doesn't demonstrate that he has shifted his position on a number of issues, I would not hesitate at all to get in."

I just got off the phone with Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, after he'd read the rebuttal given by GOP outfit Resurgent Republic to his criticism of their new poll. His bottom line: They're still acting in a way that is, to use his phrase, "self-deluding."

Whit Ayres of Resurgent Republic responded to Greenberg's criticism, that the firm's new poll and strategy memo was slanted to produce a favorable result for GOP positions. First of all, he said the poll did not have only a two-point gap in partisan identification, as Greenberg measured it, but was a 33%-29% gap in favor of the Democrats. And he defended his phrasing of the Democratic positions, saying the intent was to effectively paraphrase what a Democrat would say.

Greenberg isn't buying it.

"I meant my response to be a little pointed. I meant it to be a little on the bemused side, at the start of the discussion," said Greenberg. "I'm sure you and, other blogs will answer the partisan I.D. question. Nothing changes the fact that this is an outlier on Party ID, even looking at the way he calculated it."

Read More →

Last week a group of hedge funds that had invested in Chrysler bonds "came out with guns blazing", in hedge fund terms anyway, against the administration's 33 cent on-the-dollar settlement offer, forcing the automaker into bankruptcy in spite of the president's stern verbal appeals for everyone involved to make a "sacrifice." But most observers agreed the holdouts were not likely to get much higher than 30 cents in any bankruptcy court, and some of them undoubtedly would have made a profit under the terms of the Obama deal, as this Bloomberg story points out: in March, after all, Chrysler bonds traded as low as 13 cents.

But the crusade was about so much more than money, the holdouts insisted. By Friday they had organized into a group they dubbed the "non-TARP lenders" -- to differentiate themselves from Chrysler's biggest creditors, four big banks which had, like all big banks, received TARP funding. One hedge fund manager, Geoffrey Gwin -- who officially joined the holdouts Friday -- even allowed a Wall Street Journal reporter to bear witness to the "turmoil" plaguing him as he wrestled with his own decision on the matter.* And a preliminary objection filed today in the bankruptcy court on behalf of the group calls the administration's bankruptcy proposals "patently illegal" and "not proposed in good faith" in a "tainted sales process" that is "unconstitutional."

So why are so few of the holdouts willing to go on the record upholding the Constitution on this weighty matter? Today in court the non-TARP lenders' chief counsel Tom Lauria, pleaded with the court to keep his clients' firm names sealed, according to the Detroit Free-Press.:

Read More →

Back in the spring of 1986, after having successfully appointed scores and scores of conservative judges to serve on courts across the country, President Ronald Reagan went too far. He picked a federal prosecutor to a fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court in Alabama whose nomination was so controversial that it got quashed by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.

That prosecutor was Jeff Sessions, the senator who, in all likelihood will serve as that committee's most powerful Republican for the next year and a half.

But back to 1986. During the debate over his nomination, committee Democrats questioned Sessions' prosecutorial discretion, focusing in particular on a case he pursued against three Marion, AL civil rights workers--Albert Turner, Turner's wife Evelyn, and Spencer Hogue, Jr.--whom he accused of voter fraud. Sessions was unconcerned with claims of fraud outside the so-called Black Belt, but he alleged that the trio had falsified absentee ballots in Perry County during the 1984 election. After conducting an exhaustive investigation, though, he was able to account for only a small handful of questionable examples, and even those he couldn't pin on his defendants, who were acquitted after only a few hours' deliberation.

Albert Turner--who was an adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr.--passed away in 2000, and his wife could not be immediately located, but Hogue still lives in Marion, and by phone today he expressed his displeasure with the news that Sessions is, in effect, getting a promotion.

Read More →

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) has an interesting metaphor for how the House GOP needs to take control of its message. Rather than rely on outside initiatives like the GOP's National Council for a New America, the House GOP conference needs to take charge for itself.

Or, as he put it, House Republicans need to act as an "entrepreneurial insurgency."

It may be that McCotter was just speaking figuratively when he spoke of an insurgency -- in the sense that someone might speak of an insurgent politician going up against the establishment, for example. On the other hand, the revolutionary language really has been spreading through the GOP's ranks -- it's not just Michele Bachmann.

Resurgent Republic, the Republican polling/analysis firm that aims to be a GOP counterpart to Democracy Corps, is firing back at the accusations leveled against them by the Dem firm's Stan Greenberg, who has essentially accused them of running a stacked survey.

Greenberg said that Resurgent Republic's first poll defeated its own mission, borrowed from Democracy Corps, of being a partisan pollster that at the same time is explicitly not geared to favor its own side, but to critically examine public opinion and give the party constructive advice:

Nothing is more self-defeating than attributing to the Democratic argument the language and themes Republicans use to attack Democrats rather than the language Democrats use themselves. In effect, your survey has you winning an argument with yourself. Indeed, that is where you start your analysis of the first poll - telling readers in bold and underlined type that you are winning the big ideological debate by two-to-one, which "verifies America remains a center-right country."

In an interview with TPM, Resurgent Republic co-founder Whit Ayres sought to debunk the accusations.

Read More →

Michael Steele has an interesting message for moderates, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports. During a news conference at the Wisconsin GOP convention on Friday, Steele said moderates are welcome to join the Republican Party -- but not to change it.

"All you moderates out there, y'all come. I mean, that's the message," Steele said. "The message of this party is this is a big table for everyone to have a seat. I have a place setting with your name on the front."

But, he added: "Understand that when you come into someone's house, you're not looking to change it. You come in because that's the place you want to be."

Read More →

Congress has asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a 2005 memo written by a top State Department lawyer, which is said to have taken an alternative view on the legality of torture to that famously offered by DOJ lawyers.

In a letter to Clinton, Reps John Conyers and Howard Berman, who chair, respectively, the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees wrote that the memo "may shed important light on the process by which these interrogation practices were evaluated, approved, ad implemented by the former Administration." Reps Jerry Nadler and Bill Delahunt, who chair subcommittees of Judiciary and Foreign Affairs, respectively, also signed on.

Read More →


I'm here!