Monday, December 08, 2008

Have You Applied For A Job With The Obama Administration?

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If you have applied, you answered 63 questions. One of which asked about your blog posts, e-mails, and Facebook page. Along with others that asked all sorts of personal information.

Have you wondered where that information will end up?

The legal chain of custody of the paperwork is clear.

According to the National Archives, all documents created by the presidential transition are the personal property of the president-elect, not the federal government. In theory, transition staff could pack up all of the applications on Jan. 19 and send them to Chicago to be stored in Obama’s Hyde Park home.

But what’s most likely to happen is that the papers will be turned over to the Obama White House, where they’ll become official presidential records and be subject to the Presidential Records Act.

All such papers must eventually be turned over to the National Archives. Staff there will request the Obama team eventually turn over all papers only used by the transition, too, although it will be under no legal obligation to do so.
If you get to the next phase of application, you'll have to provide full financial information, which will be public. But don't worry if you get past that stage, your FBI background check is kept private. Your FBI file, however, is available under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Do you have an FBI file?

Tom Tancredo Retiring

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The AP is reporting that Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO) is done. They are unclear whether he means to retire at the end of the current term or sooner. (Yes, I know, but hope springs eternal.) They indicate that he may either plan to run for Governor of Colorado, or go back to a right wingnut think tank.

Tom has been one of the most vocal anti-immigration voices ever heard in America. He has represented the South Denver suburbs since 1999. He ran for president last year.

I wish to take a moment to repeat my favourite Tancredo quote, which was always a nice mantra on down days earlier this year:

There will never be a President McCain. (2007)

While we are of course aware that he didn't run for relection this year, we just wanted to point out that every additional day with Tancredo not in Congress is like a day with lots of sunshine.

How Much Do You Work?

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Here in the U.S.A. most people work a 5-day work week, 50 weeks a year. (Yes, I know, there's a recession and so those numbers may not be static next year). The House of Representatives, when controlled by the Republicans? Not so much.

Steny Hoyer has released the House schedule for next year, The House will be in session for 11 weeks of 5-day sessions, and 18 weeks of 4-day sessions, for the term that starts in January, and adjourns on 30 October.

The Office of the Clerk of the House has a neat table showing the sessions. The list of "days" indicates the total number of days during the stated session dates, and the far right column lists the dates that the House was not in session. The first official break was in December of 1800. As you go through the list, you'll get a sense of when the House was in session, and when they went home. List is here.

It appears that, under recent Republican control, the House didn't meet all that much. In fact, when the Democrats returned to power in 2007, "actually working" was a goal of the new leadership.

For example, in 2006, the House didn't meet in January, and in February met for three days, plus another three where there were no votes before 6:30 p.m. During those dark Bush years, the number of actual working days fell to below 250 (including those "no votes until 6:30" days, hearkening back to when Harry Truman referred to the 80th Congress as "do-nothing".

There are a number of reasons that Congress meets less now than they used to. First, it used to be a real schlep to get to DC: think horses and carriages. You came, you stayed. Eventually, you sent telegrams in lieu of messengers. Now, there is air travel, trains and cars, so it's easier to come and go. "Going home" is important to raise money, meet with constituents, and attend local meetings and events.

Well, it's important if you need to spend a lot of your time on running for re-election over staying in DC to undertake the job to which you were elected.

There is also this, written about the Republican Congress in 2006:

Then there is the strategy of the majority leadership. Getting bills passed, keeping party discipline and satisfying interest groups means folding legislation into a small number of huge omnibus bills, bringing them up with little notice and less debate, structuring the votes around restrictive rules that limit or forbid amendments, and demanding party fealty on the votes that take place by labeling them "procedural." The less time the members spend in hearings, floor debate and generally poking around the Hill, the easier it is for the leaders to get their way without scrutiny or challenge.

We'll see if that still applies in a Democratic Congress paired with a Democratic administration.

How about you?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Dem Kilroy wins in OH-15

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You lose 2 elections on Saturday, you win one on Sunday:

Now it's official: Mary Jo Kilroy will be going to Washington as the first Democrat to represent any part of Franklin County in Congress in a generation.

Final vote tallies released this evening by the Franklin County Board of Elections show that Kilroy defeated Republican state Sen. Steve Stivers by 2,311 votes out of 304,053, outside of the 0.5 percent margin to trigger a recount. - Columbus Dispatch
This puts the overall Democratic net gain in the House back to 21.

Update: In LA-4, while "early" votes were included in the totals, absentees and provisionals were not. They will be counted on Tuesday. Carmouche has not conceded, and this race isn't done yet.

LA-4: No concession, and recount coming

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The 2008 election just won't die:

John Fleming got just 356 votes more than Caddo District Attorney Paul Carmouche during Saturday night's election to determine who will be the next representative for Louisiana's 4th Congressional District.

However, after all 640 precincts were counted, Carmouche said he planned to ask for a recount of the ballots.
In all, there were 92,558 early and machine votes cast in the election. Provisional ballots had not been counted and are not a part of the total. Carmouche cited the uncounted provisional ballots as one reason he would not concede the race once the results had been announced.

"For me to concede at this point would be foolish. We've spent a lot of money, a lot of effort, a lot of time in this race, and there are provisional ballots that we don't believe have been counted yet because they don't usually count those (immediately after a race). Democrats usually win those by large margins so the fat lady hasn't sung yet in this thing," he said.

Jacques Berry, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office, said the complete but unofficial returns do not include provisional ballots - paper ballots filled out by people who arrived at their precincts, intending to vote, but whose names did not appear on the official registry. Those votes and absentee paper ballots would be included on Tuesday, when all vote totals are added together again and certified.

Louisiana law has no provision for an automatic recount, Berry said, though a losing candidate can request one. - KSLA News

Obama Announces Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs

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Remarks of President-elect Barack Obama--as prepared for delivery
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Announcement
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Chicago, IL

Good afternoon.

Earlier this week, I announced key members of my national security team. They have served in uniform and as diplomats; they have worked as legislators, law enforcement officials, and executives. They share my sense of purpose about American leadership in the world, my pragmatism about the use of power, and my vision for how we can protect our people, defeat our enemies, and meet the challenges of the 21st century.

As we seek a new national security strategy that uses all elements of American power, we must also remember those who run the greatest risks and make the greatest sacrifices to implement that strategy – the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America. Even as I speak, they are serving brilliantly and bravely in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. And we must show them and their families the same devotion that they have shown this country.

We don’t have to do our troops and our veterans a favor, we have a sacred trust to repay one. That starts with recognizing that for many of today’s troops and their families, the war doesn’t end when they come home. Far too many are suffering from the signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. And far too few are receiving the screening and treatment they need. The servicemen and women who embody what’s best about America should get the best care we have to offer, and that is what we will provide when I am President.

And in this struggling economy, we also have to do more to ensure that when our troops come home and leave the service, they can find jobs that pay well, provide good benefits, and help them support their families.

But we don’t just need to better serve veterans of today’s wars. We also need to build a 21st Century VA that will better serve all who have answered our nation’s call. That means cutting red tape and easing transition into civilian life. And it means eliminating shortfalls, fully funding VA health care, and providing the benefits our veterans have earned.

That is the kind of VA that will serve our veterans as well as they have served us. And there is no one more distinguished, more determined, or more qualified to build this VA than the leader I am announcing as our next Secretary of Veterans Affairs – General Eric Shinseki. No one will ever doubt that this former Army Chief of Staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans. No one will ever question whether he will fight hard enough to make sure they have the support they need.

A graduate of West Point, General Shinseki served two combat tours in Vietnam, where he lost part of his foot, and was awarded two Purple Hearts and three Bronze Stars. Throughout his nearly four decades in the U.S. Army, he won the respect and admiration of our men and women in uniform because they have always been his highest priority. He has always stood on principle – because he has always stood with our troops. And he will bring that same sense of duty and commitment to ensuring that we treat our veterans with the care and dignity they deserve.

A decorated soldier who has served at every level in the Army, General Shinseki understands the changing needs of our troops and their families. And he will be a VA Secretary who finally modernizes our VA to meet the challenges of our time.

Nearly seventy years ago today, “a date which will live in infamy,” our harbor was bombed in Hawaii, and our troops went off to war. And after that war was over, after we reclaimed a continent from a madman and beat back danger in the Pacific, those troops came home to a grateful nation – a nation that welcomed them with a GI Bill and a chance to live out in peace the dreams they had fought for, and so many died for, on the battlefield. We owe it to all our veterans to honor them as we honored our Greatest Generation – not just with words, but with deeds.

And with the national security team I announced this week and the extraordinary and courageous Secretary of Veterans Affairs I am announcing today, I am confident that we will never hesitate to defend our security, that we will send our troops into battle only when we must, and that, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, we will truly care for all “who shall have borne the battle.”

Sunday with the Senators: Early December Wrap-Up

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Minnesota: As Matt reported this week, the first part of the Franken-Coleman recount is over. Next up, absentee ballots.

Illinois: We still do not have a replacement for the seat vacated by President-elect Obama. Blagojevich granted an interview this week about his thoughts on the President-elect's Senate seat. Currently at the top of what he said was a long list are Dem Representatives Jan Schakowsky; Danny Davis, and Luis Gutierrez, also former state Senate President Emil Jones, Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth, and Attorney General Lisa Madigan. He has already interviewed Schakowsky, Davis and Gutierrez.

What of Jesse Jackson, Jr's very public lobbying for the position?

"He's got a right to do it," Blagojevich said, "and he obviously believes in himself as a candidate for the United States Senate and his public campaign is, you know, something he obviously believes appropriate and helpful, and all power to him."
Blagojevich has not ruled Jackson in or out, although he did say in the interview that he does not consider the seat an "African American seat." If he does not appoint an Africa-American to fill the seat, there will be none in the Senate.


New York: The latest person to express interest in Hillary Clinton's seat is Caroline Kennedy, who had a conversation with David Paterson about it this week. Why would she want the seat? She's always been a private person, leaning more to foundation work and writing (yes, she's a lawyer, too) than public service. She has never held elective office. She is a long-time resident of New York City.

A thought comes to mind: look at how long there has been a Kennedy in a prominent elected or appointed position: Joe Kennedy, Sr. was the first Chair of the SEC, appointed by FDR in 1934, he later served as Ambassador to the UK. JFK was elected to the House of Representatives in 1947, went on to be Senator and then President. RFK was Senator from NY from 1965 until his death. Uncle Teddy has been Senator from Massachusetts since 1962. Other Kennedys from Caroline's generation have also held elective office, her cousin Pat is now a Representative from Rhode Island, and I haven't heard that he is mulling a Senate run.

It may be that Caroline wants to be in the Senate and work with her uncle. He has stepped down fom his Judiciary post to work on health care. It may be that working on this year's election made her realize she wants to be in the spotlight she has always eschewed.


Florida: Well, Mel Martinez is gone. Jeb Bush has floated that he'd like to run for the seat, and everyone says that he's a shoe-in, but I'm not so sure. When Martinez leaves the Senate, barring changes in other 2010 races (or a replacement for an open seat prior to then) it would leave Bob Menendez (D - NJ) and Ken Salazar (D-CO) as the only Hispanics in the Senate. (And note, they are both Democrats, there would be no Republican Hispanic.)

A generation ago, maybe 10 years ago, people "worked one's way up" through the ranks of row offices to State and Federal elected positions. But we're seeing more and more actors, bankers/financiers, comedians and people with other career paths. So, it may well be that a prominent Hispanic from the business community, or the acting community, or whatever, may begin a grassroots run via the Hispanic community. As for Jeb himself, how many people are really willing to send ANY Bush back to DC in any capacity?

Pennsylvania: The big news is that Chris Matthews might run. There are numbers indicating he'd be competitive, since the Rasmussen topline showed Spector at 46% and Matthews at 43%. But there's more:
For example, the poll shows Matthews actually leading 68 percent-28 percent among voters age 18-29 and 46 percent to 40 percent among those age 30-39, numbers that look a lot like those from the Obama/McCain race.

As a preview, however, of how odd this race could be given Specter’s uneasy relationship with conservatives, Matthews actually leads within this group 51 percent to 43 percent. But Specter is ahead among self-identified liberals, 53 percent to 25 percent.
The poll was small (500 people) and the election is 2 years away. So maybe the numbers are viable, and maybe they're not.

There's no question that Chris has always loved politics, and likely always aspired to holding elective office, but segued over to media. Careers happen...

But to run against Arlen (if indeed Arlen is the Republican nominee) Chris has to convince a lot of people that he is going to run as a viable candidate.

"All politics is local", spoke Tip O'Neill. All "locals" have their own eccentricities and intricacies. Pennsylvania is no different. To win against Arlen, or any Republican, Chris would have to make all sorts of inroads in the areas that Barack Obama carried in the general election, and especially areas Hillary Clinton won in the primary.

Chris would have to win over the women who were fans of Hillary in the primary, and who were incredibly offended of Chris' sexism (perceived or real). I don't have a source on this, but I know a lot of women who feel this way. Chris would need Ed Rendell to not actively work against him. There is no indication either way of whether or not Fast Eddie will run, and I assume that if he does, Chris would reconsider his options.

Further, while a pale image of what machine politics used to be, the Democratic "machine" is strong in parts of Pennsylvania that Chris would need to win. I'm not convinced he understands that playground, nor the rules.

There is the question of whether he leaves MSNBC's Hardball. If he's serious about a run, he really should leave. (Yes, I know some people would like to see him leave no matter what.) To my knowledge, the last media type who ran for high office was Pat Buchanan, who did take a leave of absence from CNN to run for President. It may be that media ties help Chris in that we now have candidates with Facebook pages, who make the rounds of the late night talk shows and comedy shows, as well as the news shows. That ability to be on so many venues may help getting his name out to the vast number of Pennsylvanians who have no idea who he is. Back in August, Quinnipiac found that number to be greater than 50%.

"A Day Which Will Live In Infamy"

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On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. FDR requested that Congress issue a Declaration of War. The next day, the president went on the air (at that time radio) and made his infamous speech.

You can view an image of his original speech, as typed and corrected, here.

Many Americans heeded the call to patriotism. They joined the ranks of the military, they flooded the factories to gear up, they planted victory gardens, bought war bonds, and they lived with hardships and rationing.

Had they not done these things, and had many other good people around the world not stood up to the Axis war machine through fighting and resistance, the world would be a very different place now.

To my uncle who reads this blog, and who was a little too young to join the military, but did anyway. To my uncle who has passed and went with his kid brother to the enlistment line. To all of my friends whose parents, uncles and aunts did the same, and to all of the people I don't know who also stood up:

Thank You.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

William Jefferson loses in LA-2

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In a major upset, Democratic Congressman William Jefferson has lost his seat in LA-2, according to the AP.

This is the 5th Democratic seat the Republicans picked up this year, and puts the overall House net gain back at 20 seats.

Democrats can still pick up 1 more seat, in OH-15. (This assumes Democrat Tom Perriello stays ahead in the recount in VA-5).

Update on OH-15:

At noon, about 40 workers at the Franklin County Board of Elections began cutting open the envelopes holding nearly 24,000 provisional ballots that will decide the outcome of the country's closest congressional race.

Results are expected to be made public Sunday night, elections officials said.

LA House Results

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LA 2

William Jefferson (D) 47% 31,296
Anh "Joseph" Cao (R) 50% 33,122
Malik Rahim (G) 3% 1,880
492 of 492 precincts reporting

LA 4

Paul J. Carmouche (D) 49% 44,141
John Fleming (R) 47% 44,497
640 of 640 precincts reporting

(These are postponed elections, not runoffs - minor candidates not shown)

11:49 - LA-2 is final. Cao by 1,826. The Green Party candidate got 1,880 votes.
11:44 - LA-2 results haven't changed in 30 minutes. Still no call in LA-4. Lt looks like just provisionals still to be counted, and voting is by machine so recount won't change things. Absentees are all included in the current totals.
11:14 - AP and CNN both call LA-2 for Cao. No call yet on LA-4.
11:08 - Jefferson down by 5,000 with 79% in
11:02 - Jefferson down by 4,500.
11:02 - 100% in, Fleming by 350. Absentees, provisionals? Recount?
10:50 - Carmouche by 1800, 94% in- (Caddo is all in, Bossier 38 of 75 in).
10:43 - Carmouche by 2200, 92% in- (Caddo 134 of 158 in, Bossier 38 of 75 in).
10:37 - Carmouche by 1900, 90% in - (Caddo 134 of 158 in). Fleming's stronghold of Bossier parrish is 38 of 75 in.
Jefferson closes the gap a bit, with half the precincts in.
10:30 - Carmouche by 2000, 89% in - (Caddo 131 of 158 in). Still holding on.
10:22 - Carmouche by 2300 - (Caddo 131 of 158 in).
10:19 - Carmouche by 1000 - (Caddo 67 of 158 in). Jefferson surprisingly behind, but still very early.
10:05 - Carmouche back up by 1700 - (Caddo 67 of 158 in)
10:01 - Fleming back up by 200 - (Caddo 22 of 158 in)
9:55 - Carmouche by 1100, (Caddo 22 of 158 in)
9:52 - Carmouche by 2200, (Caddo 22 of 158 in) - this is starting to look promising
9:48 - Carmouche up by 1800, (Caddo 22 of 158 in)
9:46 - Obama only won 1 parrish here, Caddo, and only 4 of 158 precincts in so far in Caddo
9:45 - Fleming back up
9:44 - Carmouch by 300, 19% in
9:41 - Carmouche up by 600
9:31 - Carmouche takes a 17 vote lead
9:25PM EST - Carmouche closing an early small Fleming lead

LA Secretary of State

Gen. Shinseki to be Sec of Veterans Affairs

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Retired Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki will be introduced tomorrow as President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, a Democratic official familiar with the announcement said today.

Obama confirmed the nomination in an exclusive interview with NBC News, taped for broadcast on "Meet the Press." Obama called Shinseki "exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home."

Shinseki, a 38-year veteran, is best known for his four years as Army chief of staff, and in particular his response to congressional questioning in February 2003 about troop levels necessary to protect a presumed military victory in Iraq.

Shinseki told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" could be necessary, an assessment that was at odds with the announced determination of Pentagon leaders. - Washington Post
Obama announcing it on Meet the Press:

What's next in Minnesota

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  • Dec. 8-18: Local election officials sort rejected absentee ballots, separating those rejected for reasons not specified in state law, or in error.
  • Friday, Dec. 12: The state Canvassing Board meets to consider the issue of including certain rejected absentee ballots in the recount.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 16: The Canvassing Board meets to receive the results of the recount and begin the process of resolving ballots the Franken and Coleman campaigns have challenged. - StarTribune.
and ongoing:
Officials continued to search for 133 Minneapolis ballots that apparently are missing. And until those ballots are found or judged impossible to locate, the recount won't be over, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said Friday.

Fox: Emil Jones to get Obama's Senate seat

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Not yet confirmed by anyone but Fox:

Illinois Senate President Emil Jones will replace President-elect Barack Obama in the United States Senate, a source told Fox News.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs to be announced on Sunday

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A source in the Obama transition reveals President-elect Barack Obama will announce his choice for Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sunday at a news conference scheduled on Pearl Harbor Day and intended to highlight the service of veterans and current service members. - CNN
Potential candidates include Max Cleland, Tammy Duckworth, Anthony Brown. This is one of the few choices that hasn't leaked ahead of the announcement, but it seems as if Duckworth is the most widely mentioned candidate.

Update: Other possibilities: Rick Noriega, Marshall Carter

Hypocrisy Redux

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You would think that someone who is the the regional director of Homeland Security, Customs, and Border Protection, and the Boston Area Port Director, would know better than to hire illegal immigrants to clean her house.

If you thought that, you were mistaken.

Meet Lorraine Henderson. She was arrested on Friday for harbouring an illegal immigrant, and if convicted could get up to 10 years in prison.

The charge involves employing an illegal housekeeper from Brazil (and paying far less than the going rate for legal cleaning services). She then employed two other illegal immigrants. People she worked with warned her that what she was doing was a crime.

She should have known better:

As part of her duties as port director, Henderson is responsible for stopping illegal immigrants from entering the country through all air and sea international ports in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. She also commands 190 armed and uniformed border protection officers.
At least she had a source...

Obama Weekly Radio Address

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Audio here.

Remarks of President-elect Barack Obama
Radio Address
Saturday, December 6, 2008

Good morning.

Yesterday, we received another painful reminder of the serious economic challenge our country is facing when we learned that 533,000 jobs were lost in November alone, the single worst month of job loss in over three decades. That puts the total number of jobs lost in this recession at nearly 2 million.

But this isn’t about numbers. It’s about each of the families those numbers represent. It’s about the rising unease and frustration that so many of you are feeling during this holiday season. Will you be able to put your kids through college? Will you be able to afford health care? Will you be able to retire with dignity and security? Will your job or your husband’s job or your daughter’s job be the next one cut?

These are the questions that keep so many Americans awake at night. But it is not the first time these questions have been asked. We have faced difficult times before, times when our economic destiny seemed to be slipping out of our hands. And at each moment, we have risen to meet the challenge, as one people united by a sense of common purpose. And I know that Americans can rise to the moment once again.

But we need action – and action now. That is why I have asked my economic team to develop an economic recovery plan for both Wall Street and Main Street that will help save or create at least two and a half million jobs, while rebuilding our infrastructure, improving our schools, reducing our dependence on oil, and saving billions of dollars.

We won’t do it the old Washington way. We won’t just throw money at the problem. We’ll measure progress by the reforms we make and the results we achieve – by the jobs we create, by the energy we save, by whether America is more competitive in the world.

Today, I am announcing a few key parts of my plan. First, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won’t just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.

Second, we will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. We’ll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we’ll set a simple rule – use it or lose it. If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money.

Third, my economic recovery plan will launch the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen. We will repair broken schools, make them energy-efficient, and put new computers in our classrooms. Because to help our children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st century schools.

As we renew our schools and highways, we’ll also renew our information superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they’ll get that chance when I’m President – because that’s how we’ll strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world.

In addition to connecting our libraries and schools to the internet, we must also ensure that our hospitals are connected to each other through the internet. That is why the economic recovery plan I’m proposing will help modernize our health care system – and that won’t just save jobs, it will save lives. We will make sure that every doctor’s office and hospital in this country is using cutting edge technology and electronic medical records so that we can cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes, and help save billions of dollars each year.

These are a few parts of the economic recovery plan that I will be rolling out in the coming weeks. When Congress reconvenes in January, I look forward to working with them to pass a plan immediately. We need to act with the urgency this moment demands to save or create at least two and a half million jobs so that the nearly two million Americans who’ve lost them know that they have a future. And that’s exactly what I intend to do as President of the United States.

Thanks for listening.

A Free Room for the Inauguration

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Yes, there's a catch, and no, you probably can't apply.

If you receive catalogues and junk mail from travel sites, or some high-end retailers, you've seen the offers. The biggest suites, complete with food, drink and amenities. This deal was offered by the JW Marriot in downtown DC on the parade route:

January 18, 19, and 20: 300 rooms, 4 suites, $200,000 of food and drink, and an incredible view of the parade. Attendees will watch from a heated tent on the Marriott roof. Price tag: $1,000,000. The person who bought added to the package a prayer breakfast and luncheon on the 19th (to celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday) and two balls (one adult, one youth) on the 20th. He will also be providing gowns, tuxedos and hairstylists for the Balls.

What's he charging the attendees? Nothing.

Earl Stafford of Fairfax County decided to make this "The People's Inaugural". While he owns a military-related company in Centerville, he is funding this through his foundation.

He said:

"We wanted to . . . bless those who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to be a part of the great celebration, the inauguration and the festivities," he said in an interview yesterday. "Our objective is to bring in a cross-section of society -- those who are distressed, those who are terminally ill, those who are socially and economically disadvantaged, those veterans who are wounded and served our country."

Friday, December 05, 2008


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  • Elections tomorrow in LA. We'll have results here tomorrow evening.
  • The Franken campaign says they're up by 4 votes. Those 133 ballots are still MIA. (Although 12 other ballots were found).
  • They're finally going to start counting those 26,000 (but not 27,000) provisional ballots this weekend in OH-15. When it's done, Democratic candidate Mary Jo Kilroy is likely to be certified the winner, but, yes, a recount is sure to follow.
  • Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich had better name Obama's replacement soon. Otherwise, he might have to call it in from a courthouse or from jail.
  • The Fix still thinks Andrew Cuomo, not Carolyn Kennedy, is the favorite to get the NY Senate nod.
  • While we're there, The Fix also thinks Geithner is most likely to sail through confirmation, Holder, not so much.
  • Obama may name his Interior, Energy, and EPA heads next week.
  • Some Clinton supporters are not happy about a potential Chris Matthews' Senate run.
  • We depended heavily on Denver newspapers for our convention coverage, and now, unfortunately, one of them, The Rocky Mountain News, may be closing.
  • Obama is taping an interview for Meet the Press tomorrow, and will holding a press conference on Sunday, on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, where he will be speaking about "the contributions of those that have served our nation".
  • Mark Blumenthal looks at why the polls all converged in November.
  • Ted Kennedy is leaving the Judiciary Committee
  • Obama is filling spots faster than any previous president:
Mr. Obama is moving more quickly to fill his administration’s top ranks than any newly elected president in modern times. He has named virtually the entire top echelon of his White House staff and nearly half of his cabinet. Just a month after his election, Mr. Obama has announced his selections for 13 of the 24 most important positions in a new administration. - NY Times

President-Elect Obama Announces More Key White House Staff

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WASHINGTON – Today, President-elect Barack Obama announced that Christina M. Tchen will serve as White House Director of Public Liaison and Michael Strautmanis will serve as Chief of Staff to the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison.

President-elect Obama said, "I am pleased to announce that these two distinguished individuals will be joining my administration, as we seek to meet the big challenges of our time. They not only bring impressive resumes but also a deep commitment to public service -- and I know the American people will be served well by them."

The White House Staff Announcements are below:

Christina M. Tchen, Director of Public Liaison
Tchen has broad litigation experience at all levels of the state and federal courts. She has represented companies, officers and directors in shareholder class and derivative actions, and she has also handled a wide range of commercial, intellectual property and employment-related litigation. Tchen also has represented public agencies in state and federal class actions, including the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Illinois Department of Public Aid and the Chicago Housing Authority. She serves on the board of the Chicago Bar Foundation; she is also Chair of the Board of Field Foundation of Illinois and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Public Library and the Board of the Chinese American Service League. She has served on the Judicial Nominations Commission for the Northern District of Illinois and she has been appointed to several leadership positions with the American Bar Association Section of Litigation.

Tchen is the recipient of many awards, including the Leadership Award from the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (1999); “Women of Achievement” award from the Anti-Defamation League (1996); and Chicago Lawyer “Person of the Year” (1994). She was selected for inclusion in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business 2008 and The Best Lawyers in America 2009. She also was selected as one of the top three women business lawyers in Illinois by the Leading Lawyers Network 2007.

Michael Strautmanis, Chief of Staff to the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison
A native of Chicago, Strautmanis first came to know the Obamas when he worked as a paralegal at the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin for Mrs. Michelle Obama. After law school, Strautmanis practiced complex litigation and employment law in Chicago, before joining the Clinton Administration at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Strautmanis also served as Legislative Director and Counsel to then Rep. Rod Blagojevich, aiding Governor Blagojevich in his successful 2002 Illinois gubernatorial campaign, and serving as Counsel for Legislation for the American Association of Justice.

Strautmanis served as Chief Counsel and Deputy Chief of Staff to Obama in the United States Senate. He then served as Senior Counsel for Obama for America where he played a leading role in political outreach as a member of the Congressional Relations team. Strautmanis received a B.S. from the University of Illinois, and a J.D. from the University Of Illinois College Of Law. He and his wife Damona are the proud parents of three.

What If Hillary Clinton Cannot Be Secretary of State?

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There is a question of whether of not Hillary Clinton can legally serve as Secretary of State. Not surprisingly, it's a Constitutional question, and involves the Three Branches of Government.

Here's the Clif Notes Version: Article 1, Section 6:

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.
A case can be made that Hillary Clinton cannot be appointed as Secretary of State because while she was a Senator, the Senate passed legislation this term which raised the salary of Cabinet Officers.

This has happened twice before: Nixon appointed William Saxbe as Attorney General. The solution was called the "Saxbe Fix", where they just lowered the salary back down. It didn't please all the Democrats at the time:
In the Saxbe case, 10 senators, all Democrats, voted against the ploy on constitutional grounds. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), the only one of them who remains in the Senate, said at the time that the Constitution was explicit and "we should not delude the American people into thinking a way can be found around the constitutional obstacle."
The second time, it involved appointing Lloyd Bentsen as Secretary of the Treasury.

So, there may be a fix. HOWEVER, these are not the 1960's nor the 1990's. Now, we have an internet and a lot more transparency. Therefore, whatever happens will occur in full view of the people. There is no possibility of "burying" the item in a newspaper.

Ambinder wrote (prior to the nomination):
The question is whether this would be an issue at confirmation - if Clinton is nominated to the post - and who would raise it. Senators traditionally grant their colleagues some deference and it could be considered politics at its worst if Republicans try to block her nomination with this argument. But senators may be loathe to vote for something scholars tell them is unconstitutional.
There are two questions here: the legal and the political, separated as much as may be practicable.

The legal issue is something that will need to be debated, and could conceivably end up in front of SCOTUS, left to thread the needle between the other two branches.

On the political side, it's even more convoluted. To wit:

If the salary is reduced, and therefore the only person making less of a salary than that of Cabinet peers is a woman, how well does that play? Especially in a year given to cries of "sexism". This could be raised since the two other people to circumvent the provision were both men.

If it is legally deemed that she cannot occupy the office of Secretary of State, and that the prior appointments were invalid, what does that do to the relationship of Hillary Clinton's support base and the Democratic Party?

What of Robert Byrd? Will he back off his Constitutional objections of 30 years ago? It may not matter since this may likely be his last term, and therefore could avoid any constituent wrath. (His term is up in 2013, and he'd be running for re-election at the age of 94. His health is not good.)

One of the battle cries over the last eight years has been the evisceration of the U.S. Constitution by the Bush administration. What sort of political message would be sent by working around part of Article 1?

If Hillary Clinton does not become Secretary of State, and ergo cannot hold any other appointed position, does she go back to the Senate? Go back to the Senate and launch a run for the Governorship of New York? Leave elective office to work with her husband?

Vice President-elect Biden Announces Chief Economist And Economic Policy Advisor

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WASHINGTON, DC – Given the critical nature of the economic challenges facing America, Vice President-elect Joe Biden announced today the creation of a new position in the Office of the Vice President: Chief Economist and Economic Policy Advisor to the Vice President. The Vice President-elect has selected nationally-prominent economist Jared Bernstein for the post.

“Jared Bernstein is an acclaimed economist, and a proven, passionate advocate for raising the incomes of middle class families. His expertise and background in a wide range of domestic and international economic policies will be an invaluable asset to the Obama-Biden Administration,” said Vice President-elect Joe Biden. “It’s an honor to have him on my team and I look forward to his advice and counsel.”

Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist and Economic Policy Advisor to the Vice President
Jared Bernstein is an expert in the areas of federal, state and international economic policies, specifically the middle-class squeeze, income inequality and mobility, trends in employment and earnings, low-wage labor markets, poverty and international comparisons. Bernstein has been an economist at the Economic Policy Institute since 1992 and is a renowned author of several books and academic treatises on the economy and the middle class. From 1995-1996, he served as Deputy Chief Economist for the Department of Labor under Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Bernstein is on the Congressional Budget Office’s advisory committee and has been a contributor to the financial news station CNBC. He has also taught at Howard University, Columbia University and New York University. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts from the Manhattan School of Music; a Masters Degree in Social Work from the Hunter School of Social Work; a Masters Degree in Philosophy and Ph.D. in Social Welfare from Columbia University.

Lunchtime Crime

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Yesterday, I posted on Charlie Rangel's legal and ethical problems. Now, it turns out that there may be some dispersal of campaign funds to his son. Legal, but ethically dicey, to give $80,000 to your kid for his internet company. Especially:

[P]aying lavishly for a pair of political Web sites so poorly designed an expert estimated one should have cost no more than $100 to create.
In general, the crimes of elected officials fall into two categories: first, financial issues as related to Rangel, Jefferson, Dan Rostenkowski, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Edwin Edwards (still in jail but seeking clemency from a Bush pardon since he's 81), Ted Stevens, (who Mark Begich believes should be spared jail time), Curt Weldon (not yet indicted), Don Young (not yet indicted), and the hit parade continues.

Then, there are the "morals" issues charged against people like David Vitter, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Foley. Sometimes these are legal crimes (as in "can get you a jail term") and sometimes, it's not really a crime, but the electorate gets up in arms anyway, like as regards Wilbur Mills and Bill Clinton.

You don't generally find elected officials undertaking crimes-against-people like home invasion, knocking over banks or convenience stores, street mugging, etc.

Sometimes just as accusation will cause an elected official to grovel on the chamber floor and cry and leave, generally blaming drugs and alcohol (Foley). Sometimes the people protest their innocence (Jefferson). And then, sometimes they cry on the chamber floor but initially refuse to leave (VITO!).

A lot of the time, however, these folks get re-elected. In fact, I wrote a while back that my favourite political bumper sticker of all time was "Vote for the Crook, It's Important". That was when Edwin Edwards ran against David Duke, of KKK fame.

So the question is: how do you personally feel about the crimes, the ethics charges, and does the issue affect whether or not you will vote for a candidate?

My own opinion is that I view elected officials as OUR employees. Their salaries are paid with our tax dollars, their campaign coffers are filled with our checks. I don't want my tax dollars spent procuring hookers, funding an offspring's company, buying the official a Caribbean retreat, or doing anything that benefits the official directly. As an aside, it's not the "hooker" thing that bothers me, it's the spending of tax dollars on it.

But what's your opinion?

$110k for Palin's Stylists

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Move over wardrobe! In a move to add a little economic stimulus to the styling and cosmetics industry, the McCain campaign also spent more than six figures on Sarah Palin's makeup during the final months of the election cycle. That's about 10 grand a week.

Amy Strozzi (pictured at left), the McCain campaign's Czar for Style and Fashion, also serves as the make-up artist for the TV show "Dancing with the Stars." Which means she works in Hollywood. Which means she's from California. do you think she voted on Prop. 8?

Statement of President-elect Obama on Job Loss

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"The 533,000 jobs lost last month, the worst job loss in 34 years, is more than a dramatic reflection of the growing economic crisis we face. Each of those lost jobs represents a personal crisis for a family somewhere in America. Our economy has already lost nearly 2 million jobs during this recession, which is why we need an Economic Recovery Plan that will save or create at least 2.5 million more jobs over two years while we act decisively to maintain the flows of credit on which so many American families and American businesses depend.

"There are no quick or easy fixes to this crisis, which has been many years in the making, and it's likely to get worse before it gets better. But now is the time to respond with urgent resolve to put people back to work and get our economy moving again. At the same time, this painful crisis also provides us with an opportunity to transform our economy to improve the lives of ordinary people by rebuilding roads and modernizing schools for our children, investing in clean energy solutions to break our dependence on imported oil, and making an early down payment on the long-term reforms that will grow and strengthen our economy for all Americans for years to come," said President-elect Obama.

How Do You Feel About Campaign Finance Reform?

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Just FYI:

The Federal Election Commission is announcing a public hearing on the policies and procedures of the Federal Election Commission including but not limited to, policy statements, advisory opinions, and public information, as well as various elements of the compliance and enforcement processes such as audits, matters under review, report analysis, administrative fines, and alternative dispute resolution. The Commission also seeks comment from the public on the procedures contained in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended, 2 U.S.C. 431 et. seq. (“FECA” or “the Act”), as well as the Commission’s implementing regulations.
Full info here, if you want to comment or attend.

Full legislation here.

We have a spate of elections coming up in 2010, and they will all need to be funded. This year, SCOTUS weakened the McCain-Feingold Act (incorporated into the FEC regs). Republicans will look for ways to exploit the new loopholes.

While we vote, and campaign, and give money, the system that campaign finance operates under will greatly affect who can run in the future, how money will be raised, and how much money will be necessary for races at various levels.

We learned this year with Barack Obama's implementation of Howard Dean's 50 state program how well things work when we properly fund campaigns and Democratic organizations. While the FEC operates in large part under McCain-Feingold, how they interpret the law is fluid in certain ways. If you want more transparency, more frequent reporting, stronger adherence to rules already in place, here is your opportunity.


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Yes, today the Supreme Court will consider whether or not to hear a case questioning whether Barack Obama is allowed to serve as President, given the citizenship of his father.

You know that.

What you may not know is that the background process is that ONE justice had to refer the case to a conference. That justice, wait for it, is that bastion of legal knowledge, Clarence Thomas, of coke can fame.

The case considered is different from the spate of them saying that President-elect Obama was not physically born in Hawaii and that the birth certificate was a fraud. This has to do with the British citizenship of his father. So it's a slight twist.

My guess is that the Court will not agree to hear the case for two reasons:

1. They're still smarting over Bush v Gore in 2000.

2. That US Constitution document. The 14th Amendment grants full citizenship to anyone born on U.S. property. (Including, for example, John McCain who was born in Panama when the canal zone was owned by the U.S.)

The amendment was constructed in 1868 for the purposes of granting citizenship to ex-slaves. This "born on U.S. soil" is a different approach from many other countries, wherein citizenship is dictated by the citizenship of the parents. But here, any child born on our soil is "American" irrespective of maternity and paternity.

That of all people, Clarence would choose to send this to conference is offensive and appalling on all levels. It is highly likely that his fellow justices will realize the folly of his decision.

The Morning Poll: Short Answer Version

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This Sunday, President-elect Obama will sit down with Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press.

If you were Tom Brokaw, what questions would you ask him?

And on the topic of Meet the Press, the rumour mill says that Tom Brokaw will be replaced by David Gregory. Who would you like to see as moderator?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

MN-SEN: Recount extended to find missing envelope of ballots

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The missing 133 ballots are all in one envelope:

A missing envelope containing about 130 ballots has stalled the recount in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken.
Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, left, has a slim lead over Democrat Al Franken in Minnesota's Senate race.
The state canvassing board appeared likely to postpone its unofficial Friday deadline to finish the recount because of the missing ballots from the city of Minneapolis.

Because of the "extraordinary circumstances," said Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann, the city has until December 16 to locate the votes. The canvassing board is set to meet that day and take further action in the recount process. - CNN
To clarify, the deadline for the completion of the recount has been extended in this one precinct alone to 12/16.

There were 5 envelopes from this precinct:
One of five sealed envelopes containing ballots is nowhere to be found, Minneapolis Elections Director Cindy Reichert said at a City Hall news conference Thursday. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak stood by.

“We’re still hopeful we’re going to find it in some odd place,” Reichert said, adding that the missing envelope is thinner than a typical one, which holds about 500 instead of just 133.
The envelopes at the warehouse are numbered two-of-five, three-of-five, four-of-five and five-of-five, which Reichert said indicates that the missing ballots are likely still together in a sealed envelope, marked one-of-five. - MNDaily
So if you see envelope 1/5, please let your local authorities know.

Just Because It's INCREDIBLY Funny

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Senate 2010: Louisiana

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Normally, I'd save this for "Sunday with the Senators" and frame the race, and give you all the background, but y'all know about David Vitter already.

Caught in the DC Madam prostitution imbroglio. A conservative, evangelical, Republican, cavorting with hookers, and not only in DC. His Louisiana hooker gave some, um, information in video form. But hey, he apologized.

It should be a good time to retire in 2010. But no, he's running.

It's hard to say more...although I will once we figure out who will run against him.

Entire National Mall will be open to the public on Inauguration Day

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From an e-mail:

As the Executive Director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, I can tell you that we're already hard at work making sure this Inauguration will be the most open and accessible in history in keeping with President-elect Obama's and Vice President-elect Biden's commitment to change business as usual in Washington.

And because you took the time to sign up for updates on our website, I wanted you to be among the first to hear about an announcement we made just a couple of hours ago.

For the first time in history, the entire length of the National Mall -- from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial -- will be open to the public on Inauguration Day. We believe that as many Americans as possible should be able to come together in celebration of our common values, shared aspirations, and the hope and optimism that brought us to this moment of change.

This will be an Inauguration for all Americans. And in the weeks to come, we'll announce further information about events that allow for Americans just like you -- in Washington, DC and across the country -- to participate like never before.

Thank you,


Emmett Beliveau
Executive Director
Presidential Inaugural Committee 2009
You can read more from the Presidential Inauguration Committee and sign up for their e-mail list on their website.

(Rumored) Secretary of Health & Human Services Nominee Tom Daschle on Health Care

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Since we opened up our discussion on health care a week ago, thousands of people have shared their stories, experiences, and ideas -- best of all, people have responded to one another, taking the conversation in new and interesting directions.

It's exactly the kind of participation we were hoping for, and that we're counting on. It's what the Transition is all about.

The interest in the subject is clearly intense, so we sat in on a meeting of the Transition's Health Policy Team to introduce you to some of the team's members and give you a feel for how they make decisions.

Senator Tom Daschle, the leader of the Health Policy Team, sat down to tell us how he plans to tackle health care and his future plans for opening up the process further.
Note that Jennifer Backus, who is seen in the video, was the Obama Campaign's senior adviser for the convention in Denver.

Guess Who Might Be Moving To The White House?

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Of course, you know that would be the Obama family and a dog to be named at a later date.

But there is a possibility that Marian Robinson will be joining them. She is definitely moving to DC to help with the care of her granddaughters, but it is as of yet unclear whether she will be moving to the White House or to a residence of her own.

If she does take up residence at the White House, she will not be the first mother-in-law-in-residence. (Trivia question: name her!)

Harry Truman's mother in law briefly lived in the White House, but hated it, and went back to Missouri. Rumour has it that she really disliked her son-in-law, and believed Dewey was going to beat him in '48.

While a father-in-law is not a possibility for the Obama family, if it were, it wouldn't be a first. Benjamin Harrison's father-in-law moved to the White House in 1889.

House Seats 2008: Not Over Yet

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There is going to be an election this Saturday: 2 house seats are up in Louisiana. What's that? You thought the election was in November? Well, yes, but...remember Gustav? Hurricane Gustav? That weather event changed the primary, and therefore general dates, for the 2nd and 4th districts.

The primaries were held on November 4th, since damage precluded them being held in September as they were supposed to be.

The 4th is along the Texas and Arkansas borders, in the northwest part of the state. Long-term Rep Jim McCrery (R) retired, so this weekend's players are:

  • Paul Carmouche (D)
  • John Fleming, Jr. (R)
  • Chester "Catfish" Kelley (No Party)
  • Gerard Bowen, Jr (No Party)

President-elect Obama recorded a radio ad for Carmouche. Fleming was helped by Dick Cheney (fundraising) and Bobby Jindal (TV ad).

Carmouche (who is white) beat Willie Banks (who is black) in the Democratic primary. To win the election, he'll need African-American support.
"If Carmouche doesn't get good support from black voters, you can stick a fork in him," said Bernie Pinsonat, a Baton Rouge-based pollster.
Then again:
But the GOP also had a fractious runoff campaign, with candidate Chris Gorman flogging Fleming over his support for a plan to document and transport foreigners into the country as temporary laborers. Gorman also attacked Fleming's support of the so-called Fair Tax plan, which would eliminate the income tax and impose a new, 23 percent sales tax.
So, we'll see. The Republicans would REALLY like to hold on to this seat.

And then we have the 2nd. Here's the list of candidates:

  • William Jefferson (D)
  • Anh "Joseph" Cao (R)
  • Malik Rahim (G)
  • Gregory "Rhumbline" Kahn (L)
  • Jerry Jacobs (No Party)

If the name "William Jefferson" sounds familiar, think "cash in the freezer." That would be $90,000 in cold hard cash. The FBI found the money in 2006. Jefferson was re-elected. He was indicted last year. It's been low key, and will depend on turnout, which is expected to be in the low 20% range. There's a GOP poll out showing Cao winning 50% to Jefferson's 35%. But if Jefferson can rally his base, he could be headed back for a 10th term. And no, his trial date hasn't been set yet.

Malik Rahim, as an aside, is a former member of the Black Panthers, and has the support of Cynthia McKinney. She ran this year for President on the Green Party ticket, but you may remember her from the 2006 incident where she had an altercation with the Capitol police, who did not recognize her as a member of Congress, which she was at the time.

Afternoon News Summary: Over 1200 challenges withdrawn in MN

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  • Both Franken and Coleman withdraw over 600 challenges, and are considering withdrawing more. - StarTribune
  • Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison filed papers today establishing an exploratory committee to run for Texas governor in 2010 against fellow Republican Gov. Rick Perry. - Dallas Morning News
  • Specter 46%, Matthews 43% - Rasmussen
  • Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, one of the top Republicans looking to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2010, has been indicted on four felony counts. - Politico

Today's History Lesson: 44 Presidents in 4 Minutes

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I found this on Crooks & Liars...

You have to love that last morph.

Matthews thinking about quitting MSNBC

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Chris Matthews is dead serious about running for the Senate in Pennsylvania — and is shopping for a house in the state and privately discussing quitting MSNBC as proof of his intense interest, according to NBC colleagues, political operatives and friends.
As speculation surrounding his potential candidacy heats up, Matthews has also been asking advisers whether to step down from his MSNBC post well before his contract expires in June. At one recent meeting, he was advised that if he truly intends to run, he should resign from the network as soon as possible. - Politico

Waiting for The Call

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I can't tell you who I am. Like you, I'm hoping to get a political appointment in the Obama administration. I'm trying to project the aloof and elite appearance of a soon-to-be-announced Schedule C.
I too have the dreams featuring, in no apparent order, Vice President Elect Joe Biden, Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton and, yes, even the man himself, President-Elect Obama.

Sometimes in these dreams they offer me a job, and sometimes they say they can't offer me a job because they can't find my resume amidst the other 300,000 on I wake in a cold sweat.

Like you, I keep a secret "A list" of positions I would kill for, including all manner of ambassador slots, sub-secretary -ships and senior director positions.

I have my secret "B list" of fall back positions I would also kill for, including senior advisor, special assistant, and even the Deputy Assistant Secretary-ship. Of course, I tell almost no one about these lists.
Why aren't we getting the call? Why did I do all of that volunteer work on the campaign? What did I do wrong? How can they treat me this way? Most importantly, don't they know who I am? (Literally?)
And while some of our transition angst is driven by ego, the overriding impulse is a desire to serve our country at a time of great challenges . . . . oh wait, that's my phone. Gotta run. - The Washington Note

Charlie Rangel (D-NY)

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If you follow the House of Representatives, you know Charlie Rangel.

But first: Congressman Rangel is a decorated war hero, having been awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart while serving in Korea. He was in the service from 1948 - 1952.

From his official biography:

Congressman Charles B. Rangel is serving his 19th term as the Representative from the 15th Congressional District, comprising East and Central Harlem, the Upper West Side, and Washington Heights/Inwood. He is is the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, Chairman of the Board of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Dean of the New York State Congressional Delegation.
He was elected to Congress in 1970, and as an aside, the 15th CD is the smallest CD, in terms of geography, in the country. He currently heads the House Ways and Means Committee, and is the first African-American to do so. He originally made a play for the seat by running against Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., who he defeated in the primary.

Charlie Rangel is a powerful, accomplished Congressman.

It's possible that Charlie Rangel may also be a crook. Maybe not, but he's certainly under scrutiny. We'll come back to this.

Something that has interested me about Mr. Rangel for some time is his idea of bringing back the draft. It's not that he is a hawk, he certainly isn't. He's generally a left-wing ideologue (with a touch of pragmatism). His feeling is that there would be fewer wars if the people on the ground fighting them were not disproportionately poor and non-white. Trivia question: which ethnic group has the highest percentage of their population in the American military? Answer here.

So here's what the Congressman is up against right now:

1. Did Charlie Rangel trade a $1 million dollar contribution for allowing the continuation of a tax loophole which benefitted the benefactor? He says no, the NY Times says yes. The Times seems to be winning on proof.

2. His CD congressional office is in a converted rent-controlled apartment. That's not a legit use of a rent-controlled apartment. The Congressman admitted that, and said he would move out. And then he didn't.

3. Legal and ethics problems related to a failure to pay his taxes related to money he made renting out a condo he owns in the Caribbean (since paid), the rent-controlled apartments (yes, there is more than one), and the possibility that he improperly used Congressional stationary to undertake fundraising for an educational endeavor to be named after him.

4. And then there's the gym:

The tiny office space holds everything a busy chairman needs to shed a few pounds in comfort - a flat-screen television, an exercise machine, a mirror, a small refrigerator and a telephone.

The room is just steps away from Rangel's well-appointed suite of offices, and staffers have observed the powerful Ways and Means chairman and his staff using the office multiple times over the last two months.

The House is considering an ethics investigation, and Rangel basically said "Bring it on."