TPM News

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) just dealt a big blow to the labor movement by announcing publicly that he would support a GOP filibuster of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), unions' No. 1 priority for this year and a subject of intense lobbying on both sides of the aisle.

"My vote on this bill is very difficult for many reasons," Specter said in a Senate floor speech, minutes after the news was broken by the Washington Independent. "It is very hard to disappoint many friends ... who are urging me to vote their way."

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The Transportation Security Administration has cleared Senator David Vitter (R-LA) of wrongdoing in his reported airport rage incident.

To be exact, it was determined that Vitter did not pose a security threat. He did open the door to his plane's gate, which he should not have done after it had been shut, but he didn't go further after the alarm went off.

The TSA's statement: "TSA worked with local partners to review the incident and determined the actions of the individual did not pose a security threat. The individual caused a door to alarm but did not proceed into a restricted area."

Check out the new attack ads from Jim Tedisco, the Republican candidate in next Tuesday's special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat. The first one belongs to that very novel category of attack, practiced by all sides in politics -- the kind that blasts his Democratic opponent Scott Murphy for running attack ads:

Some things should be noted about the citations here, such as the Albany Times Union saying a Murphy ad was "unfair." To be exact, the ad was from the DCCC, though the Murphy campaign itself did stand by it. On the other hand, the same newspaper recently eviscerated an ad from Tedisco, as its staff has gone about policing the claims on both sides.

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Centrist GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME), whose support the White House is counting on to pass health reform, the budget, and climate change, offered a warning to President Obama today: Clarify your position on taxing bonuses at bailed-out companies, or risk losing more political capital.

"I think the president has an obligation to address this [and to] explain why he doesn't think this is necessary," Snowe told reporters today, referring to Obama's initial embrace of taxing bonuses -- which was followed days later by a pullback from his advisers amid questions about the measure's constitutionality.

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This doesn't sound like good news for Sir Allen...

James Davis, the number two at Stanford Financial Group, is cooperating with the federal civil and criminal probes into the $8 billion Ponzi scheme that both are accused of orchestrating, Davis' lawyer has told (sub. req.) the Wall Street Journal.

That's a shift by the former SFG chief financial officer, who was also Allen Stanford's college roommate. Previously, Davis had taken the fifth, along with Stanford himself, and had refused to provide investigators with key company documents.

To date, Stanford, Davis, and a third Stanford employee, Laura Pendergest-Holt, have been charged in a civil complaint filed by the SEC. But only Pendergest-Holt currently faces criminal charges, relating to obstruction of justice.

That's likely to change. Even Davis' cooperation doesn't appear likely to shield him from facing his own criminal charges. But it can hardly come as welcome news for the cricket-loving billionaire.

Frustrated by the recent bonus bonanza Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) asks for a chart of bonus statistics for all TARP recipients. Geithner demurs. Check it out.

Moments ago, Secretary Geithner artfully dodged a question that's on everybody's mind: What happens if his plan fails. Echoing the architects and supporters of the success-bonanza that is the Iraq war, Geithner said that the only thing we need to ensure the plan works is sufficient will.

Goldman Sachs is planning to give back the TARP money it got last fall, "ideally in the next month," reports the New York Times.

The firm is saying it just can't handle the level of government oversight that comes along with the funds, especially amid the outrage over AIG bonuses. "It's just impossible to run our business in this environment," one exec told the Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Sounds great.

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Earlier in the hearing, Tim Geithner suggested that Goldman Sachs could be one of five institutions helping to manage the public-private partnership program to buy up a bunch of toxic legacy assets from ailing banks.

Goldman has played a central role in this drama. As an institution, it's been extremely close to the Treasury department. And, as Josh noted, it's also about to pay off all of its TARP money (with the help, perhaps, of the other government money it received as an AIG counterparty) which will free it up to return to a status quo of paying enormous bonuses.

It's also, of course, one of the institutions that helped bring the financial system to its knees--it holds many of the toxic assets in question and may be well placed to bid them up and inflate their prices at auction. (How you manage the fund to rescue financial institutions with toxic assets while you yourself hold those same assets has yet to be sussed out by committee members.)

Anyhow, in the event that you're feeling left out and want a piece of the Goldman pie for yourself, you can apply with the government to be a private asset manager here.

As Brian observed earlier, the big story of this morning's testimony from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was their request for broad governmental powers to seize non-bank financial institutions -- effectively paving the way for receivership in case another AIG-sized firm heads for collapse. But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) isn't prepared to hand over those powers to Treasury without getting more questions answered.

At his weekly briefing with reporters, Hoyer was notably cool to the idea of handing Geithner takeover powers without greater congressional oversight:

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