TPM News

Michael Steele: I Am Pro-Life Michael Steele is sharply walking back a statement in his GQ interview that seemed to indicate he agreed abortion is an individual choice, and that it should be left to the states. "I support our platform and its call for a Human Life Amendment," said Steele. "It is important that we stand up for the defenseless and that we continue to work to change the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen so that we can welcome all children and protect them under the law."

Obama And Biden Addressing Stimulus Implementation Today President Obama and Vice President Biden are both speaking at the Recovery Act Implementation Conference, held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at 11 a.m. ET. At 1:10 p.m. ET, Obama will speak at the dedication of Abraham Lincoln Hall at the National Defense University. At 2:30 p.m. ET, Obama and Biden will be meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. President Obama will be speaking to the Business Roundtable at 4 p.m., and then he and Biden will meet with Hillary Clinton at 5:15 p.m. ET.

Geithner To Defend Obama Budget In Senate Committee Tim Geithner will be speaking at 10 a.m. ET before the Senate Budget Committee, promoting President Obama's plan. Geithner is expected to get tough questions on several topics, most notably Obama's proposal to restrict deductions for top-earners.

Rove Blasts White House For Attacking Limbaugh In his latest Wall St. Journal column, Karl Rove lambastes the Obama White House for attacking Rush Limbaugh. "In the face of our enormous economic challenges, top White House aides decided to pee on Mr. Limbaugh's leg," writes Rove. "This is a political luxury the country cannot afford, and which Mr. Obama would be wise to forbid. Or did he not mean it when he ran promising to "turn the page" on the "old" politics?"

New DNC Slogan: "Americans Didn't Vote For A Rush To Failure" The Democratic National Committee will be rolling out a new slogan today: "Americans didn't vote for a Rush to failure." The slogan was the winner of an online contest, and will be displayed on a billboard in Limbaugh's hometown of West Palm Beach, Florida.

TSA Reviewing Vitter's Alleged Airport Rage Incident The Transportation Security Administration is reviewing the reported airport rage incident by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA). Vitter has admitted that he opened the gateway door to his plane after it had been closed, and that he had a "conversation" with an airline employee, but denies it having been the angry confrontation reported by Roll Call.

Lieberman: I'm Supporting Dodd's Re-Election Joe Lieberman told The Hill that he is supporting Chris Dodd's re-election campaign, and has gotten over his disappointment at Dodd's active campaigning for Ned Lamont in the 2006 general election. "We have a long relationship that goes back 40 years," said Lieberman. "That's over. I'm going forward."

Poll: Corzine Trails By Nine In New Jersey A new Quinnipiac poll shows Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) trailing former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie for this November's election, the likely Republican nominee, by a margin of 46%-37%. Democrats normally have the edge in New Jersey, but Corzine's numbers are currently dragged down with an approval rating of only 40%, and disapproval of 50% -- though on the other hand, Christie has yet to face the inevitable political attacks that he was a Bush Administration appointee.

Did Michael Steele actually say he's pro-choice? In the GQ interview, Steele appears to agree that abortion is a right, despite his own moral opposition and desire for a state-based approach as an issue:

How much of your pro-life stance, for you, is informed not just by your Catholic faith but by the fact that you were adopted?
Oh, a lot. Absolutely. I see the power of life in that--I mean, and the power of choice! The thing to keep in mind about it... Uh, you know, I think as a country we get off on these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth.

Explain that.
The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.

Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
Yeah. I mean, again, I think that's an individual choice.

This seems very odd, considering how Steele wasn't just pro-life in his Senate run in 2006 -- he compared stem-cell research to the Nazi medical experiments, while speaking to a Jewish audience, necessitating a public apology.

And he more or less accepts the scientific consensus on homosexuality:

Do you think homosexuality is a choice?
Oh, no. I don't think I've ever really subscribed to that view, that you can turn it on and off like a water tap. Um, you know, I think that there's a whole lot that goes into the makeup of an individual that, uh, you just can't simply say, oh, like, "Tomorrow morning I'm gonna stop being gay." It's like saying, "Tomorrow morning I'm gonna stop being black."

So your feeling would be that people are born one way or another.
I mean, I think that's the prevailing view at this point, and I know that there's some out there who think that you can absolutely make that choice. And maybe some people have. I don't know, I can't say. Until we can give a definitive answer one way or the other, I think we should respect that.

Of course, Steele also recently called civil unions "crazy," but here he says homosexuality is not a choice and should be respected.

How will the Family Research Council -- or dare we say it, Rush Limbaugh -- handle this one?

A few more points from the Minnesota trial today, besides the huge mess involving breached donor data from the Coleman campaign:

• After Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton announced that the campaign was postponing the resting of their case, from today to some time tomorrow, lead Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg asked for another day to begin his rebuttal. The judges said no, they expect a rebuttal to begin tomorrow, as well.

• The Coleman lawyers have served subpoenas to local officials, seeking more evidence on voters who were among the 3-A ballots, to be presented during their rebuttal. The Franken camp moved to quash the subpoenas, and argued a motion in limine to prevent such evidence from being admitted on the grounds that Team Coleman has rested their case, and previously gave no indication that they wanted to leave the case open in this respect. A judgment from the court is still pending.

Read More →

Check out this line from Michael Steele, in an interview with GQ, discussing the rap artists that he's listened to over the years:

Who do you listen to?
I actually listen to a cross section, because I like to hear what the medium is saying, what the voice is.

But do you have a favorite?
P. Diddy I enjoy quite a bit.

Do you want to rethink that?
[laughs] I guess I'm sorta old-school that way. Remember, I came of age with the DJ and all this other stuff, so I'm also loving Grandmaster Flash, and that's not hip-hop, but... Um, you know, I like Chuck D. And I always thought Snoop Dogg was--he just reminded me of the fellas back home. So I've always thoroughly enjoyed him.

This is not to say he is any kind of poser -- maybe he does listen to those acts, and we should take him at his word.

But now take a look at his statement that he's a big fan of Frank Sinatra and the other guys in the "Pack Rats":

Who else?
I like Sinatra. I like old-school. You know, Bing Crosby, Sinatra, Dean Martin. Love Dean Martin. He was one of these guys who just didn't give an F. He just didn't. Life was a party, and you either want to party or you don't. But yeah, I like those. I'm a big Pack Rat. I love the Pack Rats from the 1950s--Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, those guys.

You mean the Rat Pack.
The Rat Pack, yeah.

So Steele doesn't just sound like a middle-aged man trying to talk to his kids and failing to sound cool. He's also trying to talk to his parents and failing to sound cool.

Norm Coleman just delivered a statement outside the Minnesota courtroom, addressing the breach of security on his online donors' data -- and putting the blame squarely on political opponents, who are allegedly attempting to scare Coleman's supporters out of donating.

"It is obviously an attack on this campaign," said Coleman. "But beyond that, just in terms of the campaign we're involved in a very expensive legal proceeding. Online fundraising is a very critical element of that, and clearly the theft of this information, the publication of this information undermines that. But this is more about my campaign or the ability to fund a legal effort or campaign. We do so much online. Politics today relies on online fundraising, and unfortunately we find ourselves in a situation where the level of trust and confidentially in that information is severely undermined."

Coleman attorney Fritz Knaak took questions from reporters, and claimed that the campaign became aware of a possible data breach in late January, which was investigated by the Secret Service and the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, whose analysis found that no downloads had taken place -- which leads him to believe that further hacking has taken place over time.

"We thought that we had fended off an effort at that point," said Knaak. "Clearly more efforts have occurred. Still we have every reason to believe that what was attempted in January was not successful."

The accusation made by is that the data wasn't actually hacked, but that the campaign for a few hours in January stored the entire unencrypted database of their site in a publicly-accessible location. Noah Kunin, a reporter at The Uptake, also just announced that he personally knows people who had downloaded it and told him about it at that time, and who posted the news online.

Read More →

No one likes lawyers rifling through their underwear drawer.

Laura Pendergest-Holt, the chief investment officer for Stanford Financial Group -- who has been charged along with Allen Stanford himself and number 2 Jim Davis -- is trying to get overturned a court order that put her assets under the control of a court-appointed receiver.

In an emergency motion, attorneys for Pendergest-Holt wrote that lawyers for the receiver, Ralph Janvey, conducted a raid of her Mississippi home March 2, seizing her family's car, diverting her mail, went through her underwear drawer, and mocked her husband -- telling him he wouldn't be living in the house for long.

The court filing called the move a "stunning act of bad faith", and asked for the assets to be returned form the control of the receiver. It argued that Pendergest-Holt had agreed to the seizure only before she knew that criminal charges would be filed against her. Now that they have been, the seizure violates her constitutional rights, according to the filing.

The filing says:

In effect, the Receiver's lawyers, in the context of the civil case, have conducted a free-wheeling warrantless search of Ms. Pendergest-Holt's home and have taken Ms. Pendergest-Holt's personal property without due process of law. Because the Receiver's lawyers are duty-bound to cooperate with the SEC, DOJ and FBI under the Receivership Order, the Government will no doubt be the primary beneficiary of the Receiver's unlawful search and seizure of Defendant's property.

Pendergest-Holt was charged by the SEC earlier this month with making misrepresentations to the FBI about, among among things, her knowledge of Stanford's portfolio.

As he signed a $410 billion spending bill that Republicans hammered for its thousands of earmarks, President Obama unveiled new proposals to shed sunlight on the practice that's known as either "pork" or "congressionally directed spending" -- depending on whether you're talking to its critics or its defenders.

Earmarks have undoubtedly been misused and abused over the years, both by disgraced lawmakers (see Cunningham, Randy "Duke") and lobbyists (see Abramoff, Jack). The process' inherent risk of influence-peddling makes it no easy task to defend earmarks -- and sure enough, Obama's attempt to defend the practice fell flat with its chief Senate critics, Russ Feingold (D-WI) and John McCain (R-AZ).

Feingold and McCain's unmoved reactions to the presidential earmark fueled some critical media coverage, with the Politico headlining its story "Obama goes soft on pork".

Did Obama offer little more than a band-aid on the growth of earmarks?

Read More →

South Carolina Republican chairman Katon Dawson has moved to quash a report that he's behind an effort to kick out Michael Steele, sending this statement to Jim Geraghty:

I support Michael Steele. Our Committee elected him knowing that he can lead us during this critical time for our Party. The people behind this anonymous rumor are clearly intent on dividing the Republican National Committee and our Party at a time when we need to be united.

It may well be true that Dawson isn't behind any attempt to boot Steele. On the other hand, he hasn't done a particularly sterling job of supporting him, either, recently telling the Politico that he would be doing things differently -- that it wouldn't have taken him as long to transfer some money to the House and Senate campaign committees. And Geraghty has heard conflicting accounts from GOP insiders -- that Dawson either doesn't seem inclined to challenge Steele, or that he's likely to do it.

But again, it is absolutely true that saying you'd be doing a better job is not necessarily the same as actively plotting against somebody.

We don't usually write about state-level legislative wrangling, but in this case, we think you'll agree that there's good reason.

Before the election, we wrote a lot about the Republican effort to make it harder for poor and minority voters to cast ballots. In several states, the GOP took advantage of restrictive voter ID laws, passed in recent years, to try to force election officials to purge voters from the rolls.

A well-organized campaign by voting rights groups and Democrats helped mitigate the damage. But that doesn't seem to have deterrred the GOP...

In fact, Texas Republicans have doubled down on the strategy, "pushing a bill to require voters to show a photo ID -- a requirement that, studies show, would hit poor and minority voters, who vote disproportionately Democratic, particularly hard. As usual, the stated rationale for the bill is to protect against voter fraud -- and as usual, Republicans have produced no actual evidence that such fraud is occurring.

Similar laws exist in Indiana and Florida, Republican election officials in both states sought to use those laws to make it harder to vote.

The bill passed the GOP-controlled Texas Senate today, on a party-line vote, reports the Dallas Morning News -- but not before some noteworthy developments during Senate hearings.

First, in an sign of how the movement for this bill ties in to broader GOP efforts to make voting harder, Republicans wheeled out arch voter suppression guru and
TPMmuckraker fave Hans Von Spakovsky to testify about the dangers of voter fraud.

Then, the hearing, run by Republicans, ended up dragging on from Tuesday morning all the way until this morning. Some citizens who had been called by Democrats to testify did not get to speak until 6am this morning.

Reported the DMN:

One woman who waited all night sobbed during her testimony, saying she had no idea she would have to wait more than 20 hours to speak.

The bill is expected to face a much tougher time in the closely divided House. And Democrats have said they plan to challenge the bill's legality in court, under the Voting Rights Act.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the Senate Rules committee, chaired by Chuck Schumer, released an MIT study finding that up to 7 million voters were prevented or discouraged from casting votes in the November election, thanks largely to barriers to voter registration.

As Republicans understand, making voting harder can make a difference in a close election. And the terms of battle for 2010 and 2012 are already being drawn...

The Franken legal team is postponing the resting of their case -- which lead attorney Marc Elias had announced yesterday evening would be happening today -- due to logistical difficulties in bringing in some witnesses.

Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton told the judges that he has another absentee voter whose ballots has been rejected, ready to come in tomorrow. And he's been trying to line up testimony by the Clay County auditor.

"We would be prepared to provisionally rest at some point tomorrow," Hamilton said, "once we get that remaining testimony in, and allow the case to move forward."

On the one hand, a couple loose ends have introduced a slight delay into the process. But on the other hand, this is still way ahead of when anyone would have predicted the Franken camp resting their case.

Also, the court has just handed down a ruling to allow the counting of 14 ballots from a petition brought by a group of Franken-voters. There were 61 people involved in the original petition, for which the court initially granted permission to 24 a month ago, then rescinded permission on three a little over a week ago, and is now adding in 14 after additional evidence was submitted -- a total of 35 Franken-voters in this action who have been granted permission for now to have their ballots opened and counted at a later date.