TPM News

Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA), who hopes to unseat Republican David Vitter in the Senate this fall, publicly parted ways with President Obama over the government's response to the oil spill in the Gulf. In an interview this afternoon, Melancon gave Obama's response a middling grade.

"Probably a 'C'," Melancon told TPMDC. "Even though his secretaries engaged, he himself didn't really get engaged immediately. I see him making up for that or trying to make up for that, but it's hard to play catchup when you start off slow."

Melancon isn't just upset about Obama's public response, but about the administration's decision to place a moratorium on deep water drilling.

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Whether or not Erik Prince is fleeing America for the United Arab Emirates, his military contracting company continues to thrive on lucrative government contracts.

The latest: the Obama Administration has awarded Xe, formerly known as Blackwater, with a $120 million contract to provide security for U.S. consulates in Afghanistan. The contract could last as long as 18 months.

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There comes a time in a person's life when you give up on that dream of replacing the decently paying job you lost with another decently paying job. Rand Paul, Republican nominee for Senate from Kentucky, believes that time is now.

In an interview with WVLK-AM in Lexington, Kentucky on Friday, Paul told host Sue Wylie he supported the Republican filibuster last week of more than $100 billion in emergency spending that includes extended jobless benefits. Paul said the bill must be paid before the extension is voted into law -- and if that can't happen, it's time for America's unemployed to face facts and stop holding out for jobs similar to the ones they've lost.

"As bad as it sounds, ultimately we do have to sometimes accept a wage that's less than we had at our previous job in order to get back to work and allow the economy to get started again," he said. "Nobody likes that, but it may be one of the tough love things that has to happen."

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Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), who is currently challenging Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary on a right-wing platform, had an interesting job for a time in 2007: Appearing as an infomercial pitchman -- for a company telling people that they can get free grant money from the federal government.

In 2007, shortly after Hayworth lost his re-election battle in 2006, Hayworth appeared in a half-hour informercial for the National Grants Conferences, a program set up by a company called Proven Methods Seminars, which advertises itself as running seminars in which people can find out how to get grant money from the federal government -- which the infomercial's on-screen text pitched as being "FREE MONEY" in quotes.

"Well I don't want to shock anybody's sensibilities, but I have to use a four-letter word: Real. This is real," Hayworth said in the infomercial. "The money is out there, the opportunities are out there. And by the way, it's not something where it's the government's money -- it's really your money. You surrendered it in the form of taxation. Now's the time to take advantage of a situation where the government can invest in you. And in turn, you'll have a chance to build a business, or make a better life for yourself -- and in so doing, you'll help improve the country."

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It's no secret that Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) isn't the most popular guy in the Senate, or that his rather conservative positions on national security have left many people suspicious of his motives when it comes to national security legislation. So it should have come as no surprise when CNET chief political correspondent Declan McCullagh wrote that Lieberman intended to give the President the power of an "Internet kill switch" in the event of a national emergency -- and sparked an uproar.

But, surprising it was -- especially to Lieberman and his staff on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. They argued that, in fact, the bill limited the powers already invested in the President to shut down telecommunications providers. Leslie Phillips, the communications director for the committee, said, "The very purpose of this legislation is to replace the sledgehammer of the 1934 Communications Act with a scalpel." So, who is right?

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May was a good month for both party committees charged with sending Senators to Washington. New fundraising numbers from the NRSC released this morning show the group raised $3.6 million last month. The GOP group has $18.1 million on hand, and spent just over $2.5 million last month.

That puts the Republicans ahead of the Democrats when it comes to the money in their bank account, but well behind them when it comes to raising more. According to numbers reported elsewhere today, the DSCC raised $5 million in May and has $17.6 million in cash heading into the summer.

"Republicans were quick to tout their cash position after Democrats had nearly a 2-to-1 financial advantage last fall," CQ reports.

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In a move that has Washington scratching its head a bit, former SEIU President Andy Stern has joined the board of SIGA Technologies--a company that specializes in developing drugs to combat biological warfare pathogens.

"Andy is a strong leader and a great addition to our Board of Directors. His insight, experience, and leadership, particularly his understanding of how our federal government works, will complement the skill sets of our existing board members," reads a statement from Dr. Eric Rose, SIGA's Chief Executive Officer.

I've reached out to Stern for comment on this. An unexpected step to say the least.

There's one thing both Democrats running in tomorrow's North Carolina Democratic Senate primary runoff can agree on: turnout is going to be very, very low. But even if most North Carolinians don't care much about the runoff, you probably should.

Democrats didn't exactly pour out back on May 4, the first time former State Senator Cal Cunningham and Secretary of State Elaine Mashall met in the primary. And even fewer of them are expected to head out in the summer heat to cast a ballot this time around. So it might be easy to write-off tomorrow's runoff election (after all, most North Carolinians have.) But the candidate who wins tomorrow faces Sen. Richard Burr (R) -- a relatively unpopular incumbent in a seat known for changing occupants regularly. National Democrats have long said the North Carolina Senate race could be one of this fall's surprises. That alone makes the primary worth watching.

But beyond that, the Democratic battle is another setting for the progressive vs. establishment fight that has defined primaries on both sides all year -- but with a twist.

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Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) did not report on his personal financial disclosures over $50,000 in loans from a New York businessman that he used to pay for a large home in the Jamaica section of Queens, the Daily News reports.

Meeks, who has been on TPMmuckraker's radar recently because of a federal probe into his Hurricane Katrina charity, told the News that the loans, for $40,000 in 2007, and $15,000 in 2008, were not reported because of an "oversight."

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