TPM News

It's been just over a week since Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) switched parties, and already progressive activists are taking the temperature in Pennsylvania to see if the climate's right to retire him. The liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in partnership with some of the Netroots' most visible blogs, is conducting a week-long straw poll to determine both the level of progressive grassroots support for challenging Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) in the 2010 primary, and whether the challenger should be Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA).

The development resembles in some ways the early days Ned Lamont's successful campaign--backed by the progressive grassroots--to defeat Sen. Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Connecticut primary. Lieberman, of course, turned around and beat Lamont in the general election by running as an Independent, but election laws in Pennsylvania would prevent Specter from doing the same thing.

For his part, Sestak seems to be positioning himself to become Netroots darling. In the last week he has grown more and more critical of both the party establishment for thoughtlessly backing Specter, and of Specter himself, who he says is an unreliable representative for Pennsylvania Democrats.

So, as the New York Times has reported, the Pentagon's Inspector General has taken the unusual step of withdrawing a report into the department's use of retired military analysts to tout Bush administration policies on network news shows.

The report, released just days before the Bushies left office in January, found that DOD didn't violate prohibitions on using public funds for propaganda, as part of a program that was exposed by David Barstow's Pulitzer-winning New York Times story.

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Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has put out this statement on his committee assignments:

"Senator Reid assured me that I would keep my committee assignments and that I would have the same seniority as if I had been elected as a Democrat in 1980. It was understood that the issue of subcommittee chairmanships would not be decided until after the 2010 election. Some members of the caucus have raised concerns about my seniority, so the caucus will vote on my seniority at the same time subcommittee chairmanships are confirmed after the 2010 election. I am confident my seniority will be maintained under the arrangement I worked out with Senator Reid. I am eager to continue my work with my colleagues on the various committees on which I serve and will continue to be a staunch and effective advocate for Pennsylvania's and the Nation's priorities."

Harry Reid appeared on CNN this afternoon, and apparently indicated that he may be trying to cut a deal to get Arlen Specter some important committee position.

"Arlen is a senior member of the Senate, and that's significant. I think also we can try to work something out with individual chairmen, and I'm certainly doing that," said Reid. "But I think everyone should just kinda relax and understand that he's a Democrat. We're doing our best to make him happy as a Democrat. I think he is, I've talked to him often. And any other situation I think is something that's kinda being made up."

John Baldacci, the Governor of Maine, has signed a law legalizing gay marriage.

"I have followed closely the debate on this issue," Baldacci said. "I have listened to both sides, as they have presented their arguments during the public hearing and on the floor of the Maine Senate and the House of Representatives. I have read many of the notes and letters sent to my office, and I have weighed my decision carefully. I did not come to this decision lightly or in haste."

The move represents a change in the governor's thinking. "In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions," Baldacci said. "I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."

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On Monday we brought you news that the Chrysler bond-holding hedge funds courageously defending the U.S. Constitution by holding out for a bigger payout in bankruptcy court were appealing to have their names sealed after receiving death threats.

Blaming a "hostile climate" perpetuated by the Obama administration "publicity campaign," Tom Lauria, the attorney representing the group of twenty hedge fund calling themselves the "Chrysler Non-TARP Lenders," filed a motion to seal claiming the hedge funds "targeted by the president" -- presumably Oppenheimer Funds and Stairway Capital, since those were the only funds associated with the group -- had "received various threats, including dozens of death threats directed to their employees."

But today bankruptcy court Judge Arthur Gonzales denied the motion, seeing "no evidence that authorities found the threats bona fide" -- maybe because the only evidence of said threats cited in the motion was a printout from the comments section of the Washington Post website.

We've excerpted the relevant portion of the motion after the jump, so we'll leave it to you to determine the seriousness of these elusive zealots operating pseudonymously under enigmatic handles (e.g. "jerkhoff").

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Labor organizations may be unsure whether their old allegiances to Sen. Arlen Specter can withstand his new anti-Employee Free Choice stance. But Pennsylvania Democrats aren't nearly as conflicted--they're welcoming the new Republican with open arms, despite an older allegiance to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA)

"He's our incumbent senator," noted Abe Amoros, Acting Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Democratic party. "We've welcomed him with open arms."

"Congressman Sestak is one of the hardest working congressmen in Pennsylvania," Amoros said, but, he adds, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Governor Ed Rendell "have promised to back Specter and raise money for him and make campaign appearances throughout the state."

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Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) just appeared on CNN, and was asked about the loss of his seniority on his committees. He responded that Harry Reid made a commitment to him that he would keep the seniority, and he's confident he'll get it back "in due course," apparently after the 2010 elections:

"Sen. Reid said that I would maintain my committee assignments, and that my seniority would be established as if I had been elected in 1980 as a Democrat," said Specter. "Now that has to be ratified by the caucus, and I think in due course that will be done. It may not -- we did agree, but as to committee assignments, that would await until the new election, and the caucus action overall apparently is gonna wait until after the election. But I'm confident that Sen. Reid's assurances will be fulfilled."

The other day we took a look at the modus operandi of the team of aides around Porter Goss. The Gosslings, as they were known to their many detractors, developed a reputation, both on the House intelligence committee and at the CIA, for partisan knife-fighting and a willingness to do the bidding of the Bush White House.

In recent days, there's been speculation -- though only speculation -- that the Gosslings may have been involved in the leak to CQ about Rep. Jane Harman's wiretapped conversation with a suspected Israeli agent.

But there was one interesting story we missed in that roundup. In November 2004, Newsweek reported on the clash between top Gossling Patrick Murray, and Steve Kappes, a high-ranking CIA official, which led to Kappes's resignation. We've noted that incident before, of course, but the Newsweek story had a particularly interesting passage about the way that Murray -- who was Goss's chief of staff at CIA -- operated while he was a top Goss staffer on the committee.

Reported the magazine:

"He was just impossible," says one staffer who dealt with him. "He was sarcastic, snide and had this uncanny ability to push people's buttons." One former CIA official told NEWSWEEK that Murray leaned on him more than once to declassify information so he could use it to "embarrass the Democrats." Murray was irritated when the agency declined. He regarded much of the CIA as a nest of obstructionist bureaucrats, time-servers who had schemed to undermine the administration's policies--especially in Iraq.

Again, it's worth repeating that there's no solid evidence that Murray, or any of the other Gosslings, were behind the leak. But at the very least, the Newsweek story offers additional evidence of just what kind of political hardball the Gosslings were capable of playing.

Last month, when teabaggers were rampant and the Governor of Texas was threatening to secede, we brought you the story of a movement--with roots in right wing separatism--making its way through conservative states.

That movement has resulted in the Georgia Senate, the South Dakota House, and both chambers of the Oklahoma legislature passing resolutions affirming their sovereignty and affirming their belief that the federal government stands in violation of the Constitution. The Georgia resolution in particular held that if the U.S. Congress were to pass, say, an assault-weapons ban, then "all powers previously delegated to the United States of America by the Constitution for the United States shall revert to the several States individually." In other words, in the eyes of the Georgia legislature, the union would cease to exist!

The Oklahoma resolution is significantly milder, but the state's governor Brad Henry vetoed it anyway. That's not stopping the legislature, though, which is set to override the veto and put Washington on notice.

This doesn't really change anything in a legal sense, but it's interesting inasmuch as it tells us whom Oklahoma's elected officials take their cues from.


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