Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. Before joining TPM, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She is a graduate of New York University, where she served as the deputy managing editor of NYU's student newspaper, the Washington Square News. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Catherine

The Senate Ethics Committee on Tuesday dismissed a complaint filed by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

Vitter requested earlier this month that the committee carry out an investigation into what he called "attempted bribery" on Reid's and Boxer's part, after reports emerged that Senate Democrats were drafting a plan to deny government contributions to lawmakers' health care plans if there is "probable cause" they solicited prostitutes. The plan would have raised the specter of Vitter's 2007 prostitution scandal if he continued to push an amendment repealing federal contributions to congressional staffs' health care coverage.

The Senate Ethics Committee's chief counsel, John C. Sassaman, wrote in a letter to Vitter that the complaint Sens. Boxer and Reid and their staffs violated committee rules in proposing the draft legislation and circulating it to the press had no merit.

From the letter:

The Committee has previously concluded that mere allegations, with no evidence or information to support their substantive merit, are insufficient to extend the Committee's investigative process. The complaint offers no concrete information to support the allegation that Senator Reid, Senator Boxer, or their staffs were involved with the legislative language drafted by unknown parties that you described. Further, an inquiry involving speculation over draft legislative language not part of any bill or any proceeding would be unprecedented.

The daughter-in-law of former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) on Tuesday stood by her account of a tense encounter between the Wyoming politician and Lynne Cheney, sparked by his support for daughter Liz Cheney's Senate primary opponent.

Deb Oakley Simpson wrote on her Facebook page Saturday that during a fundraiser in Cody, Wyo., the wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney told her father-in-law to "shut your mouth" about his support for incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY).

"I just wanted to say, I stand by my post as honest and straight-forward," Simpson wrote Tuesday. "Despite what others are saying, it did happen and I am fascinated by people who won't own up to their actions." 

Simpson also clarified her role in the incident. She wrote that she was not part of the alleged conversation between Lynne Cheney and her father-in-law, but instead "was near and was told by my husband and my father-in-law at the dinner table of Lynne's comments."


A lawyer for Newt Gingrich ordered a group of supporters encouraging him to mount a campaign for U.S. Senate to "cease and desist" from associating itself with the former speaker of the house, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. 

Andrew Hemingway, a former state director in New Hampshire and national digital fundraising director for Gingrich's 2012 presidential campaign, launched the Draft Newt PAC last week to persuade the former Georgia representative to run against Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) in 2014. 

Gingrich's lawyer, Stefan C. Passantino, said in a letter to the organization that the newly minted co-host of CNN's "Crossfire" will not run for Senate at any point in the future. 

"For this reason, Speaker Gingrich encourages supporters to ignore solicitations from any group seeking to raise funds in the name of a 'Draft Newt' movement," the letter stated, as quoted by the Washington Post.

"Accordingly, we hereby demand that you cease and desist from the unauthorized use of Speaker Gingrich's name or likeness and that you further cease and desist from any activity implying or insinuating that your group is in any way authorized by, or affiliated with, Speaker Gingrich or his organizations," the letter continued.

While Former Vice President Dick Cheney has stayed mostly mum on his daughter's bid for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), his wife allegedly had some harsh words Saturday for a former senator who voiced his support for Enzi.

Lynne Cheney told former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) to "shut your mouth" about Liz Cheney's primary opponent at a fundraiser in Cody, Wyo., according to Simpson's daughter-in-law. 

“So I’m at the Patrons Ball tonight and Lynne Cheney, the mother of Liz, comes up to my father-in-law and tells him to… I believe the direct quote was 'Shut your mouth' regarding his support of Mike Enzi,” Deb Oakley Simpson wrote on her Facebook page, as quoted by the Casper Star-Tribune.

Liz Cheney's campaign denied those were her mother's words.

"We love Al and Ann," a statement from the Cheney camp emailed to the Star-Tribune and attributed to Lynne Cheney read. "We have been friends for over 40 years. As to the story posted on Facebook, I have to admit I am at a bit of a loss. That simply did not happen."

Alan Simpson did not offer comment to the newspaper on the issue.

Update: Deb Oakley Simpson's Facebook post was visible to the public Tuesday.

Correction: The headline of this post originally misstated Lynne Cheney's alleged remark. She reportedly told Simpson to "shut your mouth."

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Monday wasn't rattled by news that some of his fellow Republicans encouraged a Fox News anchor to trash him on air, and instead called his detractors "fearful" of him for not following "the clubby way Washington does business."

When Fox News anchor Sean Hannity asked how Cruz would respond to the "top Republicans" who fed his colleague Chris Wallace opposition research on him, Cruz's response was measured.

"Folks can do whatever they want to resist change, and there are a lot of people who’ve been in Washington a long time that are fearful of change, fearful of risk, they’re fearful of anything that changes the clubby way Washington does business," he said.

Cruz added that his colleagues had thrown some choice insults at him in recent weeks as he moved forward with his effort to defund Obamacare, but said that he was "not going to respond in kind."

At least one politician has already lept to Cruz's defense. Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin took to Twitter Sunday to call for Fox News to reveal the "anonymous sources" that bashed the Texas senator.

Vice President Joe Biden assured victims of the Colorado floods on Monday that even if the government shuts down next week, the state will continue to receive federal aid for its recovery efforts.

"It's probably going to scare the living devil out of you," Biden said of what he called the "disfunction of Congress" threatening to halt funding for the federal government, according to a pool report. Regardless of whether that funding freeze comes to pass, Biden said, FEMA resource centers and hotlines would continue to aid flood victims.

Biden took a helicopter tour Monday to survey the damage in the flood-ravaged area around Greeley, Colo. with Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and FEMA administrator Craig Fugate. So far, $35 million in federal aid has been granted to the state for emergency repairs to infrastructure destroyed in the floods, according to the pool report. 

“That’s obviously not going to be enough,” Biden said. “We are going to keep working with the governor ... until we make you whole.”

Former President George W. Bush defended the commander-in-chief's right to hit the links in an interview with the Golf Channel set to air Tuesday.

"I see our president criticized for playing golf. I don't. I think he ought to play golf," Bush said. "Because I know what it's like to be in the bubble. I know the pressures of the job, and to be able to get outside and play golf with some of your pals is important for the president. It does give you an outlet."

President Barack Obama played the 100th round of golf of his presidency last summer, according to CBS, and was criticized earlier this summer for playing golf on Martha's Vineyard while the crisis in Syria escalated. Fox News host Greta Van Susteren went as far as to suggest that a photo of Obama missing a putt was "staged."

For his part, Bush quit golf in 2003 "in solidarity" with the families of soldiers fighting in the war in Iraq. 

The interview is scheduled to air on "In Play With Jimmy Roberts" at 10:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.

The European Union's foreign policy chief announced Monday that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are expected to meet this week, the Wall Street Journal reported.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the meeting, expected to take place on Thursday, will put Kerry and Zarif face-to-face along with their counterparts from five other nations that are negotiating the containment of Iran's nuclear program.

The meeting would mark the highest-level in-person talks to take place between the U.S. and Iran since the Iranian revolution in 1979. 

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last week that he would like to pursue "constructive engagement" with the United States and the rest of the world aimed at ending "unhealthy rivalries" among the international community. He also emphasized in the opinion column that Iran's nuclear program is "peaceful" and central to the nation's identity.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney cost his team a victory Saturday at the One Shot Antelope Hunt when his gun malfunctioned, Wyoming TV station KTWO reported.

The other two members of Cheney's Wyoming competition team, including Gov. Matt Mead (R), made their shots. Mead called Cheney an "excellent shot," but said Cheney didn't hit his buck because his gun malfunctioned.

Firearms manufacturer Remington fielded the team that won the competition. The One Shot Hunt Club's president, Terry Martin, told KTWO that Cheney's team would have won with the shortest time if all three members of the Remington team hadn't made their shots.

The captain of the Wounded Warrior competition team joked that Cheney's Remington bullets were the cause of the misfire. 

"It shouldn't surprise anyone that Dick Cheney's gun had a major malfunction today, he had Remington ammunition," Jeff 'Doc' Sinchack said, as quoted by KTWO. "But the good news is, his gun didn't work and nobody got hurt."

The jab referenced Cheney's 2006 hunting accident, in which he failed to spot a quail hunting companion retrieving a bird and accidentally shot him. 

"I don't take it personally," Cheney told the crowd at the event's awards banquet. "I'm sure there was some flaw with the manufacturer. But I will be back next year and I have enjoyed it, it's been fantastic."

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright officially joined Twitter on Monday. 

Albright, who served as the head of the State Department under President Bill Clinton, pointed out that although she was the first woman to serve in that post, she lagged behind her female successors Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton in joining the social media service. Clinton joined in June.

Her Twitter bio reads "Grateful American Czech immigrant, mother & grandmother, fmr SecState, passionate democrat, author, prof, bizwoman, pin collector, & occasional drummer."