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The Obama Administration has released a lengthy response to the Washington Times story that reported Democrats are using the White House as a fundraising tool, saying that "contributing does not guarantee a ticket to the White House, nor does it prohibit the contributor from visiting."

"Given that nearly 4 million Americans donated to the campaign, it's no surprise that some who contributed have visited the White House," the statement says.

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Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales got the Joe Wilson special last night.

Gonzales was speaking to students at the University of Tennessee at Martin, when someone busted out the same line Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) heckled President Obama with during a speech to a joint session of Congress in September.

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The liberal group Accountable America, which is advocating for greater oversight of Wall Street in the wake of the financial crisis, has a new ad in the NY-23 special election, targeting Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman's links to the right-wing Club For Growth.

"Will Doug Hoffman support real investigations?" the announcer says. "Hoffman's Wall Street-backed Club For Growth doesn't want bank investigations. Don't let the banks get away with it.

The group is spending $25,000 on the ad.

Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate in the NY-23 special election, has sworn off earmarks as part of his campaign to cut the size of government in Washington -- but it turns out that he's not so pure on this subject, the Watertown Daily Times reports.

Hoffman sat on the finance committee of a local hospital, the Adirondack Medical Center, which two years ago asked Republican Rep. John McHugh (whose appointment as Secretary of the Army triggered this special election) for federal funding to construct a primary health clinic.

The hospital ultimately received $479,000. This was actually less than the undisclosed amount that the hospital had originally asked for, which is a typical practice in a process that involves requesting a large amount and securing a smaller one.

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President Obama hasn't talked to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the last few days since the votes for the health care bill seemed to fall away on Capitol Hill.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters this afternoon Obama last spoke with Reid last week when leadership huddled with him here.

Reporters - including TPMDC - sort of ganged up on Gibbs to pin him down, but he dismissed questions about Sen. Joe Lieberman's stance on the public option and a potential filibuster as hypotheticals.

"I'm not going to judge the end of this process by what people say today," Gibbs said.

He cited Lieberman (I-CT) saying today that he would vote for the motion to bring the health care bill to the floor, adding "That's the first part of the process."

Reporters reminded him the filibuster part is a bit more important, and Gibbs interrupted, "Can't get to the second before you get to the first."

Asked if Obama and Lieberman have spoken, Gibbs said he wasn't sure the last time.

"The legislative affairs team is in touch with many on Capitol Hill," he said.

Gibbs also went into where things stand with health care.

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We asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's spokesman Jim Manley whether Sen. Joe Lieberman's (ID-CT) position as a senior member of the Democratic caucus and a committee chairman is still secure, in light of his new comments that he will filibuster the public option.

"Nothing has changed," Manley told us.

Responding to comments by Sens. Olympia Snowe and Joe Lieberman that they may join a filibuster against health care reform, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today there's still a long road ahead.

"This is a debate that is and will go on for quite some time. We've got a decent ways to go just in this round of it," he said. "I hate to look two weeks down the road based on what somebody may or may not say today."

"What's changed is we've never gotten to this point before in debating health care reform," Gibbs added.

He also said he expects to "continue to see progress being made."

The GOP's new line of attack against health care reform is starting to sound familiar.

On Monday, we reported on the House GOP's plans to target AARP in the health care reform debate. Republican leaders say AARP is supporting changes to the Medicare system included in Democratic health care reform bills because they would result in more sales of AARP-branded insurance. They claim that "backroom deals" between executives of the AARP and Democratic leadership -- deals the GOP say are designed to protect the executives' high salaries -- led to the group's pro-Medicare reform stance.

Yesterday, the message gained traction among the right wing commentariat. AARP flatly denies the claims and says it's beginning to feel a little like the GOP's new ACORN.

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Last month we told you about Dawn Rizos, the owner of a popular Dallas strip club who was going to be honored with an "Entrepreneur of the Year" award from Newt Gingrich's conservative group. Rizos planned to attend a private dinner in D.C. and made a $5,000 donation to Gingrich's group, American Solutions for Winning the Future, before the invitation was rescinded and the donation returned -- presumably because Gingrich's group realized they were about to honor a strip club owner.

Now Rizos is striking back. She's taking the $5,000 she tried to donate to Gingrich and building a shelter for unwanted pit bulls at an animal shelter outside of Dallas.

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As part of a plea deal in a fraud case last year, espionage suspect Stewart Nozette agreed to cooperate with authorities in a separate criminal probe and was specifically allowed to keep his passport because international travel was essential to his work as an informant, according to newly unsealed court documents.

The revelations raise a number of difficult-to-answer questions, including why a man with access to Top Secret weapons information and a fraud conviction -- about whom authorities already had national security concerns -- was permitted to retain his passport. And they add yet another layer of intrigue to the case of a top government scientist who allegedly sold classified info to an FBI employee posing as an Israeli agent in September.

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