Friday, June 02, 2006
The Situation Online
Hello from New York!
New York lawmakers, including Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, are frustrated at funding cuts from the Department of Homeland Security. Will a postcard protest garner more money for the Empire State?

Say, how much was that hip?
Medical price tags have always been difficult to pin down. Now, Medicare is trying to help patients by going online to publicize the costs of 30 common procedures.

Military misconduct
We take a look at the updated "core warrior values" training that U.S. troops will undergo in the next month. View excerpts (PDF) of the training document for yourself.
Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 6/02/2006 04:08:00 PM ET | Permalink
Ohio poll: Historic lows for Bush, Taft


Bush's approval rating is the lowest for a president in the Ohio Poll's 25-year history.

The approval ratings of President Bush and Gov. Bob Taft among Ohioans have fallen to fresh lows, according to University of Cincinnati's "Ohio Poll," painting a grim picture for the GOP in the battleground state.

Only 35 percent of respondents approved of the way Bush was handling his job, while 63 percent disapproved. Those presidential approval marks are the lowest in the Ohio Poll's 25-year history, surpassing Bill Clinton's 45 percent rating prior to the 1994 mid-term election, and 14 percentage points lower than a similar poll conducted just over a year ago.

"The views of Ohioans tend to match up pretty well with what you're seeing nationally," said Eric Rademacher, co-director of The Ohio Poll.

Sixty-three percent of Republicans approve of Bush's job performance, down from 84 percent in an April 2005 poll.

The numbers are even worse for Taft. Twenty-six percent approved of his job performance -- the lowest gubernatorial rating in this poll's history -- while 65 percent disapproved. Party affiliation doesn't appear to make much difference in Taft's case: Only 29 percent of Republicans (and 22 percent of Democrats) approve of his job performance.

The estimates -- which include all adults sampled -- had a margin of error of 3.4 percent. The poll was conducted statewide between May 9 and May 21.

Neither Bush or Taft are on the 2006 ballot this fall, but some experts feel their unpopularity may drag on Ohio Republicans.

A poll released last week, by the same organization, showed Republican Sen. Mike DeWine leading Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown 52 to 42 percent among registered voters in the U.S. Senate race. Rep. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, leads Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a Republican, 50 to 44 percent in the race to succeed Taft as governor. The margin of error for this respondent pool is +/- 3.7 percent.

Rademacher, however, cautions against reading too much into the most recent numbers.

"You shouldn't use spring results to speculate about the fall," he said. "And it could well be that Ohio voters will look at the candidates and campaigns themselves, and not focus on external factors."
Posted By Greg Botelho, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/02/2006 12:31:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Morning Grind
Democrats lacking unity in California

Heading into the midterm elections the Democratic Party is largely unified -- bonded together by contempt for President Bush and the chance of winning control of the House and Senate as well as several gubernatorial races.

Then there is California.

The two Democrats vying for the party's gubernatorial nomination are spending millions of dollars attacking each other as the primary campaign heads into its final days. The chief beneficiary is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), who just months ago entered the campaign a wounded incumbent, and now will face a battered Democratic nominee in November. The establishment candidate is Phil Angelides, the state Treasurer who made millions in real estate. But Steve Westly, the state Controller and former eBay executive, is digging deep into his own pockets and spending millions for a chance to take on Schwarzenegger.

In television advertising dollars alone, Westly has spent nearly $34.8 million, while Angelides has committed $19.4 million, according to an analysis by TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant on television advertising spending. A pro-Angelides group made up of homebuilders, firefighters and others have spent an additional $6.5 million, the analysis shows.

At the current rate, Westly is spending $1.3 million and Angelides is spending $680,000 on TV advertising a day, said Evan Tracey, TNSMI/CMAG's chief operating officer.

"When all is said and done, the Democratic primary in California will be one of the most expensive in state history, with the top two candidates combining to spend over $60 million and interest groups and unions kicking in an additional $8 million," Tracey said.

Specifically, Westly's TV ads have attacked Angelides on his tax plan, accepting contributions from energy companies, his environmental record as a land developer and other issues. Angelides has responded by accusing Westly on his tax plan and his closeness to Schwarzenegger, among other topics.

Another California race receiving attention is the special election to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-California). Cunningham was recently sent to jail for accepting bribes. The San Diego based seat should have been a lock for the GOP in this heavily Republican district, but Cunningham's problems and President Bush's sagging poll numbers has put it in play.

Democrats hope that Francine Busby can ride the anti-corruption wave to victory on Tuesday, while Republicans are putting their faith in former Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-California) to keep the seat in the GOP column. For Democrats, a win would be a major victory and spark talk of early signs of a wave that could topple Republicans from power in November. Even a strong showing by Busby in this reliably Republican district will be spun by Democrats as a victory. A Bilbray win will give Republicans the opportunity to claim the Democratic campaign theme of "culture of corruption" is not working.

Amy Walter, a senior editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said no matter what happens on Tuesday, the GOP still has problems it must address before the midterm elections.

"Regardless of the outcome, the bottom line remains that the political climate continues to look bleak for Republican candidates," Walter said.

One of Bilbray's main campaign planks is for strict immigration laws, a position that forced Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) to cancel an appearance at a fundraiser on Bilbray's behalf earlier this week. Bilbray opposes McCain's legislative plan to provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. A major campaign theme for Busby is the ongoing corruption scandal on Capitol Hill. She has even called for Rep. William Jefferson (D-Louisiana) to resign his seat. Jefferson is being investigated for accepting bribes.

Overall, TNSMI/CMAG estimates that Busby has spent $2.4 million on television advertising, while Bilbray has put $484,000 worth of campaign ads on the air. The National Republican Congressional Committee has committed $3 million to TV ads on behalf of Bilbray and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent $1.7 million for Busby.

***


At a breakfast earlier this week at the New York State Democratic Convention in Buffalo, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) told a story about a hotel worker who pleaded with her during the 2000 Senate campaign not to forget the economically depressed city. Clinton then pledged to the audience that she will never forget Buffalo -- an interesting line seeing that just about everyone thinks Clinton is running for president. But The New York Democrat is keeping her word. Just 48 hours after accepting the Democratic nomination to run for a second term, she returns to the city for two events today. Clinton attends an 11 a.m. ET ribbon cutting ceremony for a new cancer institute at Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and then visits the St. Adalbert's Response to Love Center at 1:15 p.m. ET.

***


House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) is in Iraq today (see Dayahead for details) and urged the Iraqi people not to listen to al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's instructions for Sunnis to continue to battle the Shiites for control of the country.

"I urge the Iraqi people to look forward not back," Hastert said. "Listen to the voice of reconciliation, not the voice of division. Choose unity, not division."

CNN's Deirdre Walsh reports that, on the plane ride to Iraq yesterday, the Air Force presented Hastert with a cake that read "Congratulations Mr. Speaker" in honor of him reaching the milestone of being the longest serving Republican speaker.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/02/2006 10:52:00 AM ET | Permalink
DAYAHEAD/Events making news today and through the weekend ...
  • President Bush meets with the Senior Minister of Singapore at 10:05 a.m. ET and at 10:40 a.m. ET he takes photos with the American Society of the Italian Legions of Merit. Bush then participates in the 11 a.m. ET swearing-in-ceremony of former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to be the new OMB director. Portman is moving over from his post as the U.S. Trade Representative. Then the President gets to talk football when the Super Bowl Champions Pittsburgh Steelers stop by at 1:45 p.m. ET. Press gaggle was scheduled to begin at 9:15 a.m. ET and at 12:15 p.m. ET White House Press Secretary Tony Snow holds a briefing.

  • House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) is on a fact finding mission to Iraq and Qatar. The specific timing of events was not released, but his office did say Hastert would meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Jawad al Maliki, Speaker Mahoud al Mashhadani and the Cabinet ministers. Also on the schedule is a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. military commanders and U.S. troops from Illinois. Joining him on the trip will be Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Illinois), Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Florida) and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Maryland).

  • The House and Senate are in recess. The House returns on June 6 at 2 p.m. and the Senate returns on June 5 at 2 p.m. Hearings can be scheduled during this time period.

  • First Lady Laura Bush was scheduled to begin speaking at 9 a.m. ET at the U.N. General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in New York.

  • Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman visits the University of Connecticut at 10 a.m. ET to participate in a roundtable with vulnerable Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Connecticut) and business leaders to talk about Bush's Advanced Energy Initiatives, gas prices, hydrogen fuel cells and job growth. As CNN's Steve Redisch points out this is one of some 38 events listed on the White House Economic Team's schedule today as the jobs report was released this morning.

  • Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) heads to the Garden State today to campaign on behalf of Rep. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey). Menendez is battling for his own six year term to the seat he was appointed to earlier this year. Menendez and Obama meet with African American ministers at 3 p.m. ET in Newark's Tabernacle Baptist Church. The senators then attend a "Standing up for New Jersey" rally at East Orange Campus High School at 4:30 p.m. ET. Obama then attends a fundraiser in a private home to benefit Menendez's campaign.

  • Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware), who acknowledges interest in seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, tonight keynotes the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce Dinner in Scranton, Ohio. On Saturday, Biden and Obama speak at an Ohio Democratic Party dinner fundraiser.

  • Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia), a potential 2008 presidential candidate, and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie attend the Republican Party of Virginia's 2006 Commonwealth Gala Saturday night at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.

  • Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) are scheduled to appear at the New Hampshire Democratic Party's Convention at St. Anselm College in Goffstown on Saturday. Feingold headlines the breakfast that begins at 8:30 a.m. ET and Warner gives the lunchtime address at noon. Feingold then heads to neighboring Maine to deliver the keynote address to that state's Democratic Convention at 4 p.m. ET.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/02/2006 10:46:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    IRAN GIVEN INCENTIVES TO STOP NUCLEAR PROGRAM: The United States and five other major world powers agreed Thursday to offer Iran a broad new collection of rewards if it halts its drive to master nuclear technology, but they threatened "further steps in the Security Council" if Iran refuses. The agreement, announced here by British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett following extended talks, brings general unity to the countries' approach to Iran after months of discord, diplomats said. It is intended to sharpen the choice facing Iran, giving it a clear reason to opt for cooperation over confrontation on its nuclear program. Washington Post: Six Powers Reach Accord On Iran Plan

    NEW IRAQI PM SLAMS U.S. TROOPS; CALLS VIOLENCE AGAINST CIVILIANS "A DAILY PHENOMENON": Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki lashed out at the American military on Thursday, denouncing what he characterized as habitual attacks by troops against Iraqi civilians. As outrage over reports that American marines killed 24 Iraqis in the town of Haditha last year continued to shake the new government, the country's senior leaders said that they would demand that American officials turn over their investigative files on the killings and that the Iraqi government would conduct its own inquiry. In his comments, Mr. Maliki said violence against civilians had become a "daily phenomenon" by many troops in the American-led coalition who "do not respect the Iraqi people." "They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion," he said. "This is completely unacceptable." New York Times: Iraqi Accuses U.S. of 'Daily' Attacks Against Civilians

    FRIST'S CAMPAIGN CMTE HIT WITH $11K FINE FOR IMPROPERLY REPORTED LOAN: The Federal Election Commission levied an $11,000 fine on the campaign committee of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) for its failure to properly report a $1.44 million loan taken out more than five years ago. The FEC found that the late 2000 loan - which was part of an elaborate effort to close down Frist's separate 1994 campaign committee and repay himself more than $1.2 million that he had loaned to his maiden political campaign - should have been disclosed for both the '94 committee and the 2000 campaign committee. The finding was agreed to in mid-May but released today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the liberal group that filed the complaint with the FEC when media reports surfaced about the questionable loan last year. Roll Call: FEC Fines Frist Campaign Committee

    BUSH CALLS HOUSE GOP "WRONG AND UNREALISTIC" ON SENDING ALIENS BACK: President Bush yesterday rejected House Republicans' stance that illegal aliens must return home, calling it "wrong and unrealistic" and saying many will have to be allowed to stay. Speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a block from the White House, Mr. Bush also directly challenged businesses to hire only legal workers, and said those that don't should be prepared to face increased fines. In addition, he said both the House and Senate will have to compromise, but said voters expect a bill and he said that bill should tackle both enforcement and a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. "The difficulty of this task is no excuse for avoiding it," he said. Washington Times: Bush shuns Republicans' stand to return illegals

    CBO PREDICTS 20M LEGAL IMMIGRANTS IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS UNDER SENATE PLAN: The nation's population of legal immigrants would increase by nearly 20 million over the next decade if the recently passed Senate immigration bill becomes law, and taxpayers would spend more than $50 billion to operate a new guest-worker program and pay for extra welfare, Social Security and public health-care costs, according to a Congressional Budget Office report. But the cost of absorbing the newcomers would be offset by a boost of $66 billion in federal revenue from income taxes and payroll taxes generated by the temporary guest-worker program, along with fees that immigrants must pay to participate, the report said. Washington Post: Senate Bill Would Add 20 Million Legal Immigrants, Report Says

    DOJ WANTS WEB-SURFING RECORDS FROM NET COMPANIES: The Justice Department is asking Internet companies to keep records on the Web-surfing activities of their customers to aid law enforcement, and may propose legislation to force them to do so. The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales held a meeting in Washington last Friday where they offered a general proposal on record-keeping to a group of senior executives from Internet companies, said Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the department. The meeting included representatives from America Online, Microsoft, Google, Verizon and Comcast... The Justice Department is not asking the Internet companies to give it data about users, but rather to retain information that could be subpoenaed through existing laws and procedures, Mr. Roehrkasse said. New York Times: U.S. Wants Companies to Keep Web Usage Records

    HASTERT SETS A RECORD: Rep. Dennis Hastert, who vaulted out of political obscurity when Newt Gingrich resigned as speaker of the House more than seven years ago, on Thursday became the longest-serving Republican speaker in history. Hastert, 64, surpasses fellow Illinoisan Joseph "Uncle Joe" Cannon, a pugnacious politician who ruled the House from November 1903 until the Democrats regained the majority in March, 1911. "The House has achieved unprecedented success under his leadership," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., noting GOP successes in Medicare, education and tax cut legislation. "It's no wonder Denny has become the longest-serving Republican speaker in history." AP via Yahoo! News: Hastert is longest-serving GOP speaker

    ARNOLD SENDS 1K TROOPS TO BORDER: Despite some misgivings, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday he would send 1,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border as part of President Bush's plan to curb illegal immigration. Schwarzenegger said the mission would begin July 15 and end no later than Dec. 31, 2008 - a deadline, he said, that ensures the Guard won't be locked into an open-ended commitment. Schwarzenegger, speaking at a news conference in the Capitol, also said the Guard would rely on volunteers for the assignment and that troops would be spared the riskiest duty, involving arrest and detention of people crossing the border illegally. About 700 Guard troops have expressed interest thus far, he said. Los Angeles Times: Gov. to Send 1,000 National Guard Troops to the Border

    WESTLY, ANGELIDES "TEARING EACH OTHER APART" BEFORE PRIMARY: Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is wounded and vulnerable, and yet the two Democrats vying to unseat him are tearing each other apart in the very nightmare scenario party leaders had feared. State Treasurer Phil Angelides and Controller Steve Westly are spending millions on attack ads heading into Tuesday's primary, trading accusations of being corrupt, indulging in dirty politics and wanting to raise taxes. "The script couldn't have been written any better by the Schwarzenegger campaign," said GOP consultant Kevin Spillane. "Whichever Democrat wins is going to be a dirty campaigner and a tax increaser." AP via Yahoo! News: Democrats tear each other apart in Calif.

    CHUCK "WOULD PUT A BULLET BETWEEN THE PRESIDENT'S EYES," SAYS NY COMPTROLLER: State Comptroller Alan Hevesi shot himself in the foot yesterday during a Queens College commencement address when he said Sen. Charles Schumer would gun down President Bush if he could. In a clumsy aim for laughs that he later apologized for, Hevesi remarked that the senior Democratic senator "will put a bullet between the president's eyes if he could get away with it." Hevesi made the gaffe after Schumer had left the ceremony following a light speech about how he pulled himself together following a breakup with a college girlfriend. "We really feel bad for poor Chuck, United States senator, the man who, uh, uh, how do I phrase this diplomatically - will put a bullet between the president's eyes if he could get away with it," Hevesi said. The inappropriate comment blew away members in the audience, which collectively gasped. New York Post: Hevesi Misfires in Chuck Boost

    MENENDEZ LAUNCHES SENATE BID; KEAN JR. DROWNED OUT BY MOWERS: Democrat Robert Menendez got a warm hometown welcome in Hudson County yesterday when he returned to his high school to formally launch his campaign for the U.S. Senate, blasting the Bush administration and portraying himself as "an agent of change." A half-hour later, his likely Republican opponent, Tom Kean Jr., received a much ruder Hudson County reception. Kean called a news conference on the county courthouse steps in Jersey City to counter the Menendez rally. Kean castigated Menendez as "unethical" and "intellectually dishonest," saying the Senate race comes down to "a clear choice between an entrenched party boss and a proven reformer." The trouble was, nobody could hear him. As soon as Kean stepped to the podium to speak -- without a public address system -- he was drowned out by catcalls from a dozen union tradesmen and the high-decibel roar of lawn mowers fired up by a crew of Hudson County corrections inmates tending to the same patch of grass they had cut two days before. Newark Star-Ledger: Crowd's cheer vs. mowers' roar

    BAD DAY FOR CO GOV CANDIDATE: Republican Marc Holtzman's campaign bus came to a screeching halt Thursday when the secretary of state notified the gubernatorial candidate that he did not have enough valid signatures to make the Aug. 8 primary ballot. The news came just hours after a judge ruled Holtzman broke campaign finance-laws by appearing in anti-Referendum C ads that were intended to jump-start his run for governor. Holtzman said he was "supremely confident" that he had enough signatures to make the ballot and would continue fighting. "If necessary, we will take this to the Supreme Court of Colorado," he said. "Under absolutely no circumstances will I drop out." Denver Post: Holtzman misses ballot

    DOOLITTLE'S JACK AND DUKE PROBLEM: Representative John Doolittle heads into a primary contest next week burdened by two dubious fund- raising distinctions. The California Republican not only got the biggest campaign check ever written by lobbyist Jack Abramoff; he also leads Congress in donations from a businessman involved in the bribery case of now-imprisoned former Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Doolittle's ties to the Washington scandals have helped attract challengers for his job, both in the June 6 Republican primary and in November's general election. "He seems to be at the intersection of an awful lot of stuff here," said Norman Ornstein of the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute. "If I were Mr. Doolittle, I wouldn't be sleeping very well these days." Bloomberg: Doolittle Faces Election Burdened by Abramoff, Cunningham Ties

    JOE BIDEN'S SON LAUNCHES DE AG BID: Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III officially kicked off his run for attorney general Thursday, promising new approaches to cyber-crimes and offenses against the elderly, and suggesting new steps to bolster community policing efforts. Biden, a Democrat, talked to a noontime crowd of more than 200 at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts as part of the traditional three-county tour candidates make to launch statewide campaigns. This year, the race for attorney general won't feature an incumbent, following M. Jane Brady's retirement last year to take a seat on the Superior Court bench. Wilmington News Journal: Beau Biden kicks off his campaign
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/02/2006 09:27:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Thursday, June 01, 2006
    The Situation Online
    Cyber Senate races
    An extraordinary study examines how well candidates for Senate are utilizing online technology in the 2006 campaigns.

    Gauging gay rights
    We take a critical look at a new interactive site from liberal activists that attempts to rank states in terms of gay rights and abortion rights.

    DOJ says don't
    The U.S. Justice Dept. is meeting with major Internet companies, requesting they hold on to certain users' information in the event the government needs the information as part of an investigation into specific crimes including child pornography.

    Mistaken identity
    A family reveals online how they learned the tragic truth about a car crash involving their daughter.

    NASA spacewalk
    Get a first-hand look at two International space station crew members as they complete several tasks on their six-hour long spacewalk, starting at 6:40pm ET.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 6/01/2006 04:33:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Morning Grind
    'Stand with me' Clinton asks New York Democrats

    BUFFALO, New York (CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) received the Democratic nomination to run for a second term here Wednesday, and she used her acceptance speech to sharply criticize Republican-led Washington on just about every domestic issue as well as President Bush's "short sighted foreign policies."

    The speech was an official kick off for her Senate campaign, but with nominal opposition in November it is being viewed as the beginning of a campaign for the White House in 2008. Remove the references to New York strategically placed throughout her remarks, and the speech would have been just as well received by Democratic audiences in Iowa and New Hampshire as it was in Buffalo. She accused Republicans of willfully disregarding facts, being politically polarizing and failing the nation on major issues including the government's response to the Gulf Coast following last year's devastating hurricanes.

    "I believe that we need a fundamentally new direction and we need to work towards solutions that help us meet our 21st century challenges of expanding our economy, defending our security and preserving our values," she said. Clinton accentuated her speech asking the New York delegates several times to "stand with me" as she battled the Republican controlled Congress and White House on these issues. She never once mentioned 2008, but rather predicted Democratic victories in November.

    New York Democrats gathered in Buffalo to select a slate of statewide candidates for November including the party's gubernatorial nominee, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. While Spitzer is the Democrats' best hope of reclaiming the governorship lost to them since the mid 90's, the question about Clinton's political future overshadowed the convention. Approximately 250 journalists trekked to the city to hear her speak, and even prominent elected officials were talking about a potential presidential run.

    "I think she's definitely ready to be president of this country and she'll pull the same surprise that she pulled here in New York, nationally," State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) said in an interview with CNN's Mary Snow.

    And even as Spitzer sought to keep all political talk to the November elections, he told the Grind that "I think everybody is of the same view we would love to see her think about it."

    "We are all obviously huge fans of her," he said in an interview following a breakfast honoring Clinton. "This year we are focusing on getting her re-elected to the Senate, which I think we all are positive not only will happen but will happen with overwhelming numbers."

    But Republicans questioned whether Clinton will now neglect New York in pursuit of the White House.

    "Given her obvious ambitions, let's hope Hillary Clinton focuses her Senate campaign on the future of New York rather than her own political future," said Tracey Schmitt, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

    Hours after her speech, Clinton held a conference call with political supporters and took questions primarily on policy issues.

    If you can judge a presidential campaign by the music a candidate chooses, then it appears as though the New York senator is ready to give it a go. As the balloons started to drop following her speech, Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, joined her on stage as hundreds of delegates clapped their hands and danced in the aisles. To what song you ask? Maxine Nightingale's 1970's hit "Right Back Where We Started From." A subtle reference to the Clinton's previous eight years in the White House?

    ***

    BUSH SET TO MEET WITH FMA SUPPORTERS. As the Senate prepares to vote next week on a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage, Bush plans to meet with proponents of the idea Monday in the White House, CNN's Dana Bash reports. Following the meeting, Bush is expected to make a statement expressing his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment. Social conservatives have been disappointed with Bush, charging that he has taken their support for granted. The Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the measure, but it will fall well short of the 67 votes it needs for passage. While these conservatives acknowledge that they will lose the vote, they say it is necessary to put lawmakers on the record on this particular issue prior to the midterm elections.

    ***

    KERRY WADES INTO CA-50. Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) will call on his Southern California supporters today to volunteer for Democratic candidate Francine Busby, who is squaring off against former Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-California) next week in a special election to fill the unexpired term of ex-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-California).

    "We need volunteers every day between now and election day on June 6th to cover the phones, walk the precincts, help with visibility, and organize to get people to the polls," he writes. "We need people to talk with voters one-on-one, combat the Republicans' campaign of misinformation, and communicate Francine's positive message for change."

    Meanwhile, on the heels of Sen. John McCain's (R-Arizona) decision to skip a fundraiser for Bilbray, Busby begins airing a new radio ad highlighting the differences between the two men on immigration reform. The special election is scheduled for Tuesday.

    ***

    GLOBAL WARMING IN THE HOUSE? Is the FBI's raid on Rep. William Jefferson's (D-Louisiana) office helping to thaw the icy cold relations that exist between House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California)? The two lawmakers have joined together in condemning the FBI for its actions -- not because they support Jefferson -- but rather they believe federal agents overstepped their authority. Now Pelosi is praising Hastert, no not just praising him, she is downright effusive in her comments about the Illinois lawmaker making history today as he becomes the longest serving speaker in the history of the House.

    "I salute Speaker Hastert for reaching this milestone," Pelosi said in a statement released yesterday by her office. "It is a testament to his leadership within the Republican Conference and the halls of Congress."

    But wait, she didn't stop with just one favorable remark. "In Congress, we all hold the title 'honorable' by virtue of our office," Pelosi said. "Dennis Hastert holds it by virtue of his character. I salute him for his service to our nation and look forward to many future opportunities to work together."

    Kind words from the same Minority Leader who is predicting Democrats will sweep Republicans and Hastert from power in November.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/01/2006 11:10:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Political and other events making news today...
  • President Bush visited the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this morning and delivered a speech on "Comprehensive Immigration Reform." Bush's remarks began at 8:50 a.m. ET and at 10:15 a.m. ET he is scheduled to meet with members of his Cabinet. The President then participates in a 1:05 p.m. ET swearing-in-ceremony of Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Vienna for meetings to discuss Iran's nuclear program.

  • Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff speaks on the "State of Homeland Security" at a Brookings Institution discussion that begins at 2 p.m. ET.

  • The House and Senate are in recess. The House returns on June 6 at 2 p.m. and the Senate returns on June 5 at 2 p.m. Hearings can be scheduled during this time period.

  • The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life holds a 12:30 p.m. ET discussion on "Defining Ourselves as Catholic Democrats" at the Phoenix Park Hotel. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) is the guest speaker with E.J. Dionne, Jr. of the Brookings Institution and Michael Cromartie of the Ethics & Public Policy Center serving as moderators.

  • Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), who is considering a run for the White House, heads to Pennsylvania to campaign for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania). Santorum is battling for his political life in one of the most closely watched races this election cycle. Frist and Santorum will talk about the "Medical Liability Crisis" in Pennsylvania. The first event was in Pittsburgh at the Allegheny County Medical Society at 9:15 a.m. ET followed by a similar event in Dunmore at Advanced Imaging Specialists at 1:45 p.m. ET.

  • Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), a potential presidential candidate, speaks at 3:30 p.m. ET to the Pacific Council on International Policy at the Park Hyatt in Los Angeles. Kerry will talk about his plan for Iraq and other national security issues.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/01/2006 11:08:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    IRAN PREPARED TO HOLD DIALOGUE; WON'T GIVE UP "NATURAL NUCLEAR RIGHTS": The Bush administration offered for the first time yesterday to join European talks with Iran over its nuclear program, but only if the Iranian government suspends efforts to enrich uranium and reprocess spent nuclear fuel, which the administration calls part of a covert attempt to make bombs. Iran this morning issued a wary but apparently less than final reply to the Bush administration's offer. "Iran welcomes dialogue under just conditions but won't give up our rights," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, in remarks quoted by Iranian state television. "We won't negotiate about the Iranian nation's natural nuclear rights but we are prepared, within a defined, just framework and without any discrimination, to hold dialogue about common concerns." Washington Post: Iran Welcomes Talks, Rebuffs U.S. Terms

    SECURITY FUNDS SLASHED FOR DC, NYC; $$$ GIVEN TO OMAHA, LOUISVILLE: After vowing to steer a greater share of antiterrorism money to the highest-risk communities, Department of Homeland Security officials on Wednesday announced 2006 grants that slashed money for New York and Washington 40 percent, while other cities including Omaha and Louisville, Ky., got a surge of new dollars. The release of the 2006 urban area grants, which total $711 million, was immediately condemned by leaders in Washington and New York. "When you stop a terrorist, they have a map of New York City in their pocket," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York said. "They don't have a map of any of the other 46 or 45 places." New York Times: Security Cuts for New York and Washington

    TRYING TO REASON WITH HURRICANE SEASON: After months of hand-wringing and calendar counting, the long-dreaded first post-Katrina hurricane season officially begins today. But if this year is anything like every year since 1855, don't expect to see many hurricanes in the Gulf for the next month or so. In more than 150 years, not a single hurricane has come near New Orleans in June. During the same period, only four tropical storms have hit the city in summer's first weeks. As for July, only three of 28 hurricanes have hit the New Orleans area in that month, with the only serious storm being a Category 3 that hit land in 1916. While the hurricane season officially lasts six months -- ending Nov. 30 -- those given to panic likely won't need to run for the hills until about mid-August, when the Gulf Coast storm season starts to peak. New Orleans Times-Picayune: Hurricane season starts today

    NO MORE FREE TIX FOR HARRY: Pssst. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas after all. A day after The Associated Press reported Reid accepted free ringside seats to boxing matches from a Nevada agency trying to influence him on federal boxing legislation, the senator offered his own ethics justification to a home state audience in Las Vegas. But Reid's comments Tuesday quickly reached Washington, where several ethics experts concluded the Senate leader had misstated the Senate rules to his constituents. Within hours of being questioned by AP about the ethics experts' assertions, Reid's office abruptly reversed course and acknowledged Wednesday night he had misspoken about the ethics rules. The Senate leader also has decided not to take free boxing seats in the future even though he still believes it was ethical to do so in 2004 and 2005, Reid's office said. AP via Yahoo! News: Reid says he won't accept free tickets

    OH COIN DEALER PLEADS GUILTY TO ILLEGAL BUSH DONATIONS: Thomas W. Noe admitted yesterday that he broke federal laws to get credit for raising money for President Bush's re-election campaign. During a hearing before U.S. District Judge David A. Katz, Noe changed his not-guilty pleas to three federal felony charges related to illegally giving $45,400 to 24 friends, politicians and associates to donate to Bush in their names. Katz delayed sentencing Noe until a pre-sentence report is completed. But according to suggested sentencing guidelines, Noe could face 2 1/2 years in prison plus fines and probation, authorities said. Federal prosecutors said they also plan to seek additional penalties because of the potential loss of public confidence in the presidential-election process. Columbus Dispatch: Noe pleads guilty to federal charges

    ASHCROFT WOULDN'T HAVE AUTHORIZED CHRON SUBPOENAS: Subpoenas issued last month to reporters for The San Francisco Chronicle were criticized yesterday by a former chief spokesman for Attorney General John Ashcroft as a "reckless abuse of power." The former spokesman, Mark Corallo, made similar statements in an affidavit filed in federal court yesterday. He said Mr. Ashcroft's successor, Alberto R. Gonzales, had acted improperly in issuing the subpoenas. "This is the most reckless abuse of power I have seen in years," Mr. Corallo said in an interview. "They really should be ashamed of themselves." The subpoenas, part of an effort to identify The Chronicle's sources for its coverage of steroid use in baseball, would not have been authorized by Mr. Ashcroft, Mr. Corallo said. "You just don't ride roughshod over the rights of reporters to gather information from confidential sources," he added. New York Times: Justice Dept. Is Criticized by Ex-Official on Subpoenas

    GIVING REFORMED FELONS THE VOTE: Andres Idarraga is a sophomore at Brown University in Providence studying comparative literature and economics. He dreams of putting his Ivy League education to good use and one day casting a ballot. But he will be 58 before he can legally vote in his home state for the first time. That's because Idarraga, 28, spent about six years in prison for drug and gun possession. Under current Rhode Island law, convicted felons can't vote until they have completed parole and probation, a date 30 years away for Idarraga. So he is speaking out to support a state ballot initiative in November that would allow felons to vote after they leave prison. Its passage would "send a message that we're willing to embrace you, to afford second chances, instead of every step along the way putting up roadblocks," he says. Rhode Island is one of several states where lawmakers and advocacy groups are working to change laws that deny many felons the right to vote. USA Today: R.I. to revisit felons' voting rights

    CANDIDATES "MUST ACCEPT THE PRESIDENT'S SHAKY PUBLIC STANDING": Staring down politically difficult moments in his presidency, President Bush often turns to self-deprecating humor. This month's fundraising dinner for Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) -- to which Bush brought an unsavory 29 percent approval rating -- was no exception. Davis "really wanted Laura" to appear at his side before the shaken party faithful and the unforgiving media, Bush quipped. "Unfortunately, she was tied up. But she’s a believer." The audience laughed, but the gravity of Bush’s joke lingers. House Republicans walking an electoral tightrope as the midterms approach must accept the president's shaky public standing to benefit from the White House's still-muscular fundraising power. The Hill: They 'really wanted Laura'

    EHRLICH WELCOMES BUSH IN B-MORE: Despite President Bush's record-low approval ratings in Maryland, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. welcomed him to a Baltimore-area fundraiser yesterday that Republican officials say brought in $1 million for the Maryland GOP. "Mr. President, it's a big deal to have you here," the Republican governor told a crowd of about 200 gathered in a ballroom at the BWI Airport Marriott. "We thank you for supporting us, the citizens of Maryland." Though Ehrlich, who faces re-election this fall in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one, said he was pleased to stand with Bush, his partner in the State House -- Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a candidate for U.S. Senate -- was absent. Baltimore Sun: Bush backs Ehrlich's campaign at benefit

    BYRD SET TO BREAK RECORD: Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), unofficial historian of the Senate and widely acclaimed master of its rules and folkways, will become the chamber's longest-serving member June 12, surpassing the mark set by South Carolina's Strom Thurmond (R). On that day, Byrd will have served 17,327 days in the upper chamber. The adopted son of a coal miner, Byrd rose to majority leader -- and higher, in his estimation, to the Appropriations Committee chairmanship -- during a Senate career that began in 1959. He has been held up as a paragon of the cultural conservatism that his party long ago discarded and as a hero to liberals who oppose the Iraq war. The Hill: Byrd poised to break Thurmond's record

    COUNTDOWN TO CA DEM PRIMARY: In its closing days, the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination has evolved into two parallel contests. There is the tawdry one seen by millions of Californians in TV commercials: a brawl between rivals Phil Angelides and Steve Westly over corruption and environmental misdeeds. And there is the other one, more civil but less visible: the two men traveling the state, saying where they stand on schools, taxes, healthcare, immigration -- areas where a governor can make a difference in voters' day-to-day lives. With Tuesday's election five days away, Angelides and Westly have opened new lines of attack this week in the TV ad fight, a clash that has often misled or, by some accounts, deceived viewers. Los Angeles Times: Rivals for Gov. Run Parallel Races

    WILL KY LG TAKE ON FLETCHER NEXT YEAR? Lt. Gov. Steve Pence left open the possibility yesterday that he could run for governor in 2007 against Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Pence, 52, said he told Fletcher he was dropping off the governor's 2007 ticket and had "no plans" to run for a statewide office that year. "But I have to tell you this: When I became a candidate in 2003 for lieutenant governor, the month before that I had not planned on becoming lieutenant governor," Pence said at a news conference at the Capitol. He thanked Fletcher and described him as honest and smart, but he declined to endorse his re-election bid. Louisville Courier-Journal: Pence could run against Fletcher

    HILLARY GETS NOD AT NY DEM CONVENTION: Sen. Hillary Clinton triumphantly accepted the unanimous renomination of her party yesterday with a video and speech that did absolutely nothing to slow speculation about a 2008 presidential bid. If you didn't pay very close attention, you'd have thought she was already running for President -- against George W. Bush. She didn't even acknowledge having any Senate race opponents, but did a fair amount of Bush bashing and gleefully opened her campaign video with a shot of the President predicting she would lose in 2000. New York Daily News: Dems pick Hil for Senate

    KT TAPS BEAUTY QUEEN AS PRESS SECY: Senate candidate KT McFarland's new press secretary once had a little-known title in a past life -- Miss Florida Citrus. Morgan Ortagus, the willowy brunette who joined McFarland's campaign in recent weeks, doesn't like to talk about it, but she was a beauty queen in the Sunshine State four years ago. "I needed scholarships to get through school," she explained, saying it gave her access to college tuition. "It's not something I advertise," the 23-year-old said, adding, "I don't think I'm that interesting." New York Post: Cutie KT Flack Has Juicy Past

    KASS: DALEY TAKES ON BALD PEOPLE: "I never thought I'd see the day when Mayor Richard Daley would publicly reveal himself as a baldophobe. But he did, in front of reporters and TV news cameras on Wednesday when, rather than answer questions about the City Hall corruption trial in federal court, he ridiculed a bald fellow. That bald man is the Swede, the reporter who helps me with the column. He avoided the Swede's questions this way: "It's silly. Baldheaded!" Daley shouted at the Swede. "HA HA HA HA. He's baldheaded! Is that silly. No. C'mon!... That is the silliest thing I've ever heard. Next question."... Clearly, Daley has committed a political blunder of gargantuan proportions, because many American men are either bald or balding, according to various bald-guy support groups. Later, the wife of the founder of Bald-Headed Men of America called on Daley to recant his baldophobia and publicly apologize to the Swede." Chicago Tribune: Dealing with Daley gets a little hairy
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/01/2006 09:18:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Wednesday, May 31, 2006
    The Situation Online
    Vets sue Veterans Affairs
    Several personnel changes in response to the major data security breach involving the personal information for some 26 million veterans. Plus, we explore a new class lawsuit (PDF) filed against the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of veterans potentially affected by the breach. Among the plaintiffs: veteran and former Congressional Democratic contender Paul Hackett. Concerned veterans should visit this special government resource.

    Bucking the ban on abortion
    Tens of thousands of South Dakota residents petition the Secretary of State for a chance to veto the new state law prohibiting almost all abortions. Supporters would like to see the abortion ban go into effect on July 1, 2006.

    The coming storms
    We make sense of the latest hurricane predictions from the two leading sources.

    The ultimate sport
    Today kicks off the largest Spelling Bee championship in U.S. history, featuring the top spellers from around the globe. Can you spell these words (PDF)?

    Assessing the AIDS epidemic
    The United Nations releases the most comprehensive report every completed on the AIDS epidemic.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/31/2006 04:25:00 PM ET | Permalink
    DHS grants announced; NY, DC officials upset

    The cities of New York and Washington are getting less money in this year's allocation of grants from the Homeland Security Department.

    The department Wednesday announced the recipients of $1.7 billion distributed through various programs to help states and cities help prepare for terror attacks and natural disasters.

    DHS officials have changed the criteria used to award money under their programs, saying that instead of looking at population, they are trying to focus more on where there are risks and are taking into account how well municipalities have used past grants.

    The department said there is risk throughout the nation and preparedness dollars therefore need to be spread out.

    One of the more controversial programs is DHS' Urban Areas Security Initiative, aimed at cities, for which $757 million is being distributed. Both New York and Washington are getting less under that program this year. New York, for example, will receive nearly $125 million, a reduction of about $83 million.

    DHS officials point out, however, that New York is still the largest recipient in the program.

    Officials from New York and Washington criticized the actions of the Homeland Security Department.

    "We're disappointed that the Department of Homeland Security has reduced funding to the region, to the National Capital Region," Washington Mayor Anthony Williams told reporters Wednesday.

    "We're going to be getting $46 million as down from $77 million last year. Among other large cities with a reduction is New York, which is facing a substantial, huge cut in homeland security funds. They're as much a target as we are. I think it's shortsighted for the federal government to cut funds in this way."

    In a written statement, Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said the "decision to cut funding to New York by more than 40 percent is absolutely indefensible and disgraceful."

    "As far as I'm concerned, DHS and the administration have declared war on New York City, and I am going to fight this as hard as I possibly can," he said. "This raises very serious questions about the quality and sincerity of management at every level of the department."

    In a conference call with reporters, a Homeland Security official defended the allocation to New York.

    "It does not mean the risk in New York is different ... or lower," DHS Assistant Secretary Tracy Henke said.

    "It means we have additional information, additional clarity" about how to best allocate resources.

    She said one problem the department faced in making its decisions is that Congress allocated less money for all of the grant programs this year. She added that the department has much better information this year, which helped in the evaluation of where the money should go.

    To help federal officials make the allocation decisions, homeland security officials from throughout the nation participated in panels that reviewed various applications for grants and then made recommendations. The final decision, though, was left to DHS.
    Posted By Kevin Bohn and Kelli Arena, CNN America Bureau: 5/31/2006 03:51:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Morning Grind
    Clinton to accept nomination for a second term; Is a White House bid on the horizon?

    BUFFALO, New York (CNN) -- Joyce Brady is not shy about sharing her thoughts on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. The 69-year-old retiree from Seneca Falls wants the New York Democrat to run for president and Brady said she is prepared to defend Clinton at every turn.

    "I can't tolerate anyone manufacturing untrue statements about her," Brady said yesterday during a break at the New York State Democratic Committee 2006 Convention. "I don't want anyone to hurt her, by lying or scare tactics or speaking ill about her daughter or husband."

    "I think the world would be better if she were our president," Brady added. She repeated the phrase word-for-word a second time for emphasis.

    The question of whether Clinton will actually run for president won't be answered this morning when she takes the stage to accept the Democratic nomination for the Senate. But with nominal opposition in November, a $20 million war chest and a team of experienced political advisers on board, all signs point to a 2008 White House campaign.

    While Rep. Joe Crowley (D-New York) said today's speech is about Clinton's re-election to the Senate, he acknowledged that this might be the time for Clinton to make a run for the White House.

    "I think she is a tremendous elected official, intelligent, caring and genuinely concerned," Crowley said in an interview outside the convention ballroom. "And I think that one thing that New York has shown and I think can help teach the nation is that there is more to this woman than at least the media has led us to believe."

    "I would support her wholeheartedly," Crowley added. "I would work morning, noon and night for her."

    But not all New Yorkers agree with Brady and Crowley. A WNBC/Marist poll released earlier this month showed that 49 percent of registered New York voters would like to see her run for president, while 44 percent were against it. One of those people is Joe Cassidy, a 62-year-old Democrat from the small town of Alabama, New York.

    "Personally, I think there are probably some better candidates," he said during a break in the convention proceedings. "I don't like her stance on the war and she is a little bit too chummy with people like Newt Gingrich."

    Clinton has been criticized for her position on the Iraq war, and there is a chance opponents of it will make their voices heard this morning both inside and outside the convention hall. A Clinton adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged that this speech is very important and noted the campaign has gone to great lengths to maximize its effectiveness including having a video produced for it.

    "Obviously, you don't want any mistakes to happen," the adviser said. "You can't control the uncontrollable. You can't control someone from the audience shouting, 'What about the war.' But you can control the things that are in your command. You can control the speech, your delegates, the message, obviously the accessory items such as the film. What you really want is a smooth operation and good stories."

    Clinton is expected to take the stage around 11 a.m. ET, but beforehand the New York senator will host a breakfast and later tonight she will participate in a teleconference "House Party" being organized by her campaign.

    Dan Ronayne, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said it is no surprise that Clinton is getting the Democratic nomination as she seeks a second term. But he added, "What will be interesting to see is if Hillary's speech is more about the future of New York or if it's more about the political future of Hillary Clinton."

    If Clinton does decide to run for the White House, some people believe that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will be one of her greatest assets.

    "I think with her education and with Bill Clinton behind her, I think she could give it a shot," said Cathleen Rogers, a 39-year-old from Hamilton.

    ***

    DEMOCRATS PICK SPITZER AND CUOMO. New York Democrats kicked off the convention yesterday by choosing state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to be the gubernatorial nominee and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo as their candidate to replace Spitzer. During his acceptance speech that ended with a balloon drop, Spitzer referenced his history of taking on Wall Street and he vowed to use the same vigor to help revitalize the Empire State's economy.

    "In this campaign, we are fighting for the very soul of government, the very future of New York," he said. "The crowd in charge in Albany is out of touch, out of ideas, and come January 1, they'll be out of time."

    Cuomo, son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo (D), mentioned his own failed bid for governor four years ago in his acceptance speech and noted that he has learned a lot since then. State Sen. David Paterson was chosen as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. While Spitzer and Cuomo got the party's nod they still could face primaries in September if their respective opponents are able to collect enough signatures to be listed on the ballot. Meanwhile, New York Republicans meet this week to nominate their candidates. Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and former state Assembly Leader John Fasso are battling for the GOP gubernatorial nod, while Jeanine Pirro is expected to be the nominee for attorney general. Former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer and Kathleen Troia McFarland are competing for the Republican Senate nomination.

    ***

    EXPERTS CONTEND FBI WAS WRONG TO RAID JEFFERSON'S OFFICE. Experts told the House Judiciary Committee yesterday that the FBI overstepped its bounds by conducting a weekend raid on Rep. William Jefferson's (D-Louisiana) Capitol Hill office. The federal agents were looking for additional evidence in an investigation to determine if Jefferson accepted bribes.

    "This raid had all the elements of unconstitutional executive intimidation," said Charles Tiefer, a constitutional scholar at the University of Baltimore. Tiefer said the overnight search of Jefferson's office last weekend violated "a previously sacrosanct constitutional tradition" that protects the papers of lawmakers.

    Bruce Fein, a constitutional scholar and a principal at The Lichfield Group, a Washington consulting firm, said agents had other ways to prove wrongdoing by a member of Congress without "rummaging through their files."

    "I underscore 'files,'" Fein said, "because that's what's protected by the 'speech or debate' clause -- not cash, not evidence and instrumentality of crime, drugs, a handgun, a corpse."

    Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) said he wants to call Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller as witnesses in future hearings on the matter. "The materials taken very likely include communications created in the course of legitimate legislative process and have nothing to do whatsoever with criminal inquiry into Rep. Jefferson's activities," Sensenbrenner said.

    Meanwhile, House General Counsel Geraldine Gennet sent a letter to Gonzales Tuesday afternoon, proposing talks "as early as next week" to hammer out guidelines for searching congressional offices. Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department looks forward "to working to address the concerns of some members of the Congress."

    ***

    IT ALL DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU MEAN BY THE DEFINITION OF DECEIVE. When President Bush was asked at a May 25 news conference if Treasury Secretary John Snow had indicated he would leave his job soon, Bush said no. "He has not talked to me about resignation," Bush said. "I think he's doing a fine job."

    But CNN's Ed Henry reports that by the White House's own account the Treasury Secretary position had been offered to Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson five days before and that Paulson accepted the job on the 21st. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow told reporters yesterday that the President simply answered that Secretary Snow had not spoken to him about resigning, but never said there were not other discussions happening.

    "I mean, it was artfully worded," White House spokesman Snow said. "But on the other hand, the one thing you do not want to do in a situation like this is to start speculating about changes before the changes are ready to be made. Those do have impacts on markets, and you have to be responsible and cautious in the way you deal with them. Again, at that point, Hank Paulson, you've got to make sure that you've got all the clearances taken care of."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 5/31/2006 07:51:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today...
  • President Bush meets with Rwandan President Paul Kagame at 10:50 a.m. ET. He then attends a 1:50 p.m. ET swearing-in ceremony for Gen. Michael Hayden at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Hayden officially took the reins of the CIA yesterday. At 6:05 p.m. ET, Bush attends the Maryland Victory 2006 reception at the BWI Airport in Baltimore.

  • The House and Senate are in recess. The House returns on June 6 at 2 p.m. and the Senate returns on June 5 at 2 p.m. Hearings can be scheduled during this time period.

  • First Lady Laura Bush delivers 12:30 p.m. ET remarks to the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference held at Tulane University in New Orleans. At 1:25 p.m. ET she tours the Historic New Orleans Collection at 533 Royal Street in New Orleans.

  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), a potential 2008 presidential candidate, hosts an 8 a.m. ET breakfast at the Buffalo Convention Center. At 11 a.m. ET, Clinton accepts the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate at the Hyatt Regency in Buffalo. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton attend a campaign "House Party" at 6:30 p.m. ET in Purchase, New York. She then hosts a 7 p.m. conference call with supporters having similar campaign parties.

  • Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina), who is considering another run for the White House, attends a joint fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. ET in Miami, Florida, for state Sen. Walter 'Skip' Campbell and Alex Sink. Campbell is running for Florida attorney general and Sink is a candidate for the state's chief financial officer.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 5/31/2006 07:48:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    BUSH TAPS WALL STREETER FOR TREASURY: President Bush named Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chairman Henry M. Paulson Jr. as Treasury secretary yesterday, turning to a prominent Wall Street insider to lead his economic team and become the chief promoter of the administration's fiscal policies. The nomination, announced in a brief Rose Garden ceremony, marked the first time Bush has chosen a chieftain from the world of finance to head the Treasury after the Cabinet post was occupied by two industrial-sector executives who struggled to hold sway with Bush's inner circle. Although Bush has shown mistrust of financiers, he hailed Paulson's service as head of "one of the most respected firms on Wall Street" who has "an intimate knowledge of financial markets and an ability to explain economic issues in clear terms." Washington Post: Financier Chosen To Head Treasury

    PAULSON CALLED AN "ARDENT ENVIRONMENTALIST": As a three-decade Wall Street veteran and chairman of one of the nation's premiere investment banks, Henry M. Paulson Jr. makes a living watching markets. But it's his hobby of watching birds that is already causing problems for his nomination as the nation's next Treasury secretary. An ardent environmentalist, Paulson is expected to be questioned during confirmation hearings about his role as chairman of the Nature Conservancy, and whether he adequately cleaned up the organization's land sale and tax break practices. Another potential sticky issue: a decision by Goldman Sachs, the investment house Paulson heads as chairman and chief executive, to donate 680,000 acres of land in a remote section of Chile to an environmental group with ties to his son. Los Angeles Times: The Bird-Watching Businessman

    NEW IRAQI AMBASSADOR SHOWCASED AT WH: Iraq's ambassador to the United States presented his credentials to President Bush yesterday and said the president was right in saying terrorists cannot stop Iraq from forming a free and democratic country. Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie told Mr. Bush that Iraqis want to "remove the scourge of terrorism from our land and help others remove it from theirs." His appointment from Iraq's newly formed government represents good news for Mr. Bush, which is why the White House turned what is usually a low-key ceremonial event into a showcase photo opportunity. "Although there's been some very difficult times for the Iraqi people, I am impressed by the courage of the leadership, impressed by the determination of the people, and want to assure you, sir, that the United States stands ready to help the Iraqi democracy succeed," Mr. Bush told Mr. Sumaidaie as he received the ambassador in the Oval Office. Washington Times: President welcomes new Iraqi diplomat

    NEY-ABRAMOFF LINK DETAILED AT SAFAVIAN TRIAL: Neil Volz, the former Ney aide who became a lobbyist, was in U.S. District Court as a chief witness for the prosecution in the trial of David Safavian, a former top Bush administration official in the General Services Administration who is charged with lying to federal investigators about his relationship with Abramoff... Prosecutors spent much of their time focusing on an expensive golf trip to Scotland in 2002 that included Abramoff, Ney, Safavian and Volz, who got free travel by private jet, $100 rounds of drinks, $400 rounds of golf and rooms at expensive hotels... Prosecutors asked Volz whom he had admitted conspiring with to commit so-called honest services fraud. Abramoff, Volz and other former Abramoff associates say that Ney received gifts such as free meals and the trip to Scotland in exchange for legislative favors. Columbus Dispatch: Ex-aide calls Ney advocate for Abramoff

    VOLZ FALSIFIED COST OF SCOTLAND TRIP ON FORM: [Volz said] he had talked with the lawmaker, Representative Bob Ney of Ohio, before providing Mr. Ney's office with a copy of the statement, which he said falsely listed the cost of Mr. Ney's trip that summer as $3,200. Before joining Mr. Abramoff's lobbying firm, Mr. Volz had been Mr. Ney's chief of staff. Appearing as a government witness at the trial of David H. Safavian, a former White House aide accused of lying about his ties to Mr. Abramoff, Mr. Volz said he knew the $3,200 figure was too low, especially given the use of a chartered Gulfstream jet and $500-a-night hotel rooms. But he said he provided the number to Mr. Ney because it was modest enough not to attract the attention of reporters and others who might see the disclosure form. New York Times: Ex-Aide Tells of Understating Cost of Trip

    CHERTOFF TALKS EVACUATION ON EVE OF HURRICANE SEASON: An armada of airplanes, trains and buses may be used to get as many people as possible out of the New Orleans area in the days before a major hurricane strikes, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Tuesday in a news conference. In reviewing the evacuation plans for the 2006 hurricane season, federal officials - who said they are working as partners with city and state officials - also offered specifics on how things will work based on the lessons of Katrina. Waves of buses - about 3,000 - will pick up potential evacuees from staging areas around the city, he said, and negotiations are under way with Amtrak, the federal railroad agency, to provide extra cars. New Orleans Times-Picayune: Planes, trains and buses could play a role in future evacuations

    GONZALES WILL BE CALLED TO TESTIFY ABOUT HOUSE RAID: The House intends to summon Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, before the Judiciary Committee to justify its search of a Congressional office, the panel chairman said Tuesday. The chairman, Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Republican of Wisconsin, called the search "profoundly disturbing." Mr. Sensenbrenner also said he planned a legislative response to the search on May 20 of the office of Representative William J. Jefferson, Democrat of Louisiana. The bill would be patterned on a law limiting searches of news media offices. New York Times: House Plans to Call Gonzales to Justify Search of Office

    JEFFERSON TRIED SLIGHT-OF-HAND WITH NOLA DOCS: The Justice Department yesterday vigorously defended the recent weekend raid of Rep. William J. Jefferson's Capitol Hill office as part of a bribery investigation, asserting that the Democratic lawmaker attempted to hide documents from FBI agents while they were searching his New Orleans home last August... According to the government filing, an FBI agent caught Jefferson slipping documents into a blue bag in the living room of his New Orleans home during a search. "It is my belief that when Congressman Jefferson placed documents into the blue bag, he was attempting to conceal documents that were relevant to the investigation," FBI agent Stacey E. Kent of New Orleans stated in an affidavit that was part of the government's court submission. Washington Post: Congressman Tried to Hide Papers, Justice Dept. Says

    FBI ENDS HOFFA SEARCH: The FBI came up empty-handed in its latest search for Jimmy Hoffa, but a 75-year-old convict whose tip sent agents to a Milford Township horse farm probably won't. As the FBI officially abandoned its search on the Hidden Dreams Farm for the former Teamsters leader on Tuesday, people familiar with the case said federal prosecutors likely would propose a sentence reduction for Donovan Wells, a convicted drug smuggler who told investigators that Hoffa was buried on the 89-acre farm... At a news conference at the farm on Tuesday, FBI Agent Judy Chilen said she believed Hoffa's body had been buried on the farm, but agents couldn't find it... "After a thorough and comprehensive search, no remains of Mr. Hoffa have been located," Chilen said. "And absent any additional new information, our work here has concluded." Detroit Free Press: FBI Calls Off Milford Search

    SD VOTERS MAY "VETO" ABORTION BAN: Opponents of the 2006 Legislature's ban on abortion in South Dakota delivered to the secretary of state Tuesday about 38,000 signatures on a petition to give voters a chance to veto the proposed law. If Secretary of State Chris Nelson determines that at least 16,728 of the names are registered voters in the state, voters will decide Nov. 7 whether the Legislature was right or wrong in passing a law that makes it a felony in almost all cases for a doctor to perform an abortion. The abortion ban is scheduled to take effect July 1, as most laws do in South Dakota. If Nelson certifies the issue to the ballot, the ban will be held in check until after the November election. If voters approve the ban, it takes effect the day after the official canvass, although a court challenge almost certainly would be filed against it in federal court. Sioux Falls Argus-Leader: Abortion petitions in; two issues rejected

    "THE CAMPAIGN THAT ISN'T": Six years ago, when she was still trying to prove herself as a viable political figure in her own right, Hillary Rodham Clinton ran a $41 million campaign that included a catchy "listening tour" and flooded the airwaves in a race that dominated the New York political scene for more than a year. This time around, many of the political trappings have fallen away. Her campaign office in Manhattan is mostly a formality. She has no zippy slogans. Senator Clinton does not even have a campaign manager in New York, a logical vacancy stemming from her lack of any serious opponent. It is, in essence, the campaign that isn't. New York Times: For Clinton, More of a Cakewalk Than a Run for Re-election to the Senate

    SPITZER TAKES CAMPAIGN ON THE ROAD: With the Democratic Party designation in hand and a fresh television ad on the air, Eliot Spitzer is taking his campaign for governor on the road. Spitzer planned to depart Wednesday on an 800-mile Buffalo-to-Long Island bus tour, a day after winning his party's nomination. He must win the September primary to become the Democratic candidate for the general election. Spitzer, a two-term attorney general, promised to reform Albany's ethics, cronyism, high taxes and uncontrolled spending "beginning Day One." "We cannot afford to be cautious because you don't change the world by whispering," he said. AP via Yahoo! News: Spitzer hits road with governor's campaign

    TOM RIDGE CAMPAIGNS FOR SWANN: Former Gov. Tom Ridge urged Republicans to put aside their misgivings about Lynn Swann and unite behind him in his bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell. Ridge, who served as Pennsylvania governor from 1995 until President Bush appointed him to lead the Department of Homeland Security in 2001, joined Swann's campaign as honorary chairman. The pair, along with Swann's running mate, Jim Matthews, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, traveled to five cities Tuesday, beginning in Philadelphia and ending up in Ridge's hometown of Erie. Ridge yesterday sought to rebut criticism that Swann lacks experience and hasn't been specific about what he'd do if elected. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Ridge urges GOP to unite behind Swann
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/31/2006 07:34:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Tuesday, May 30, 2006
    The Situation Online


    Goldman Sachs chief Henry Paulson

    Paulson's money trail
    Treasury Secretary nominee Henry Paulson has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to political candidates, including Senators on the committee responsible for confirming him to office.

    Minding Karl Zinsmeister
    What prompted Bush's new domestic policy adviser to alter a newspaper profile of himself, and then post the new version online?

    Collegiate identity theft
    Sacred Heart University is the latest school to be hit by a security breach traced to hackers. Has your alma mater been hit, and could you be vulnerable to identity theft?

    9/11 video archive
    What will be the ultimate fate of this extensive September 11th video archive collection?

    Blowing off steam
    After an earthquake struck a mile away, Mount St. Helens in Washington shot a steam and ash plume at least 16,000 feet into the air. The volcano has been active since Fall 2004. Could eruptions intensify even more?
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/30/2006 05:40:00 PM ET | Permalink
    New CIA Director sworn in
    Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte swore in Gen. Michael Hayden as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency Tuesday, according to the DNI's office.

    A CIA spokeswoman said Hayden then went over to the agency, where he first met with senior leadership and then delivered a speech to employees.

    According to the spokeswoman, the nearly hour-long appearance by Hayden included questions from the staff, and was made available worldwide through the CIA's internal television system.

    During his speech, Hayden spoke of the importance of the agency, citing
    some of his testimony from his Senate confirmation hearings, the spokeswoman
    said. She said most of the speech focused on how Hayden plans to lead the CIA.

    "We must make sure we're competent. We must make sure we're cooperative.
    We must make sure we're central," she quoted him as saying.

    After lunch with staff and employees in the CIA cafeteria, Hayden went back to the DNI's office where he was expected to have farewell comments for the staff there. Hayden had served as Negroponte's deputy prior to being chosen by President Bush to head the CIA.

    The CIA's previous director, Porter Goss, resigned abruptly earlier this month.

    Bush will take part in the ceremonial swearing-in of the four-star Air Force general at the CIA Wednesday.
    Posted By Pam Benson, CNN America Bureau: 5/30/2006 04:23:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Justice ask Internet companies to keep data longer
    During a meeting last week with some of the nation's leading Internet companies, the attorney general and the FBI director asked that they keep a variety of customer information and other data for two years, much longer than they do currently, the Justice Department confirmed Tuesday.

    Currently, companies have varying policies regarding what information is
    kept and for how long.

    One thing the Justice Department is interested in being able to obtain is some type of subscriber information, such as the Internet address assigned to a person when logging onto a service provider, two sources familiar with the meeting told CNN.

    Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said government and private industry officials are continuing to discuss the issues involved and some of the concerns raised by the companies at the meeting held Friday at the Justice Department.

    The meeting, first reported by CNET News.com, included representatives from Verizon, Comcast, AOL (which is owned by Time Warner, as is CNN), Microsoft, Google and the U.S. Internet Service Provider Association, the sources told CNN. Because of the sensitivity of the discussions, companies involved in the discussions refused to comment on the meeting.

    The original request for the record retention came as part of the Justice Department's efforts to fight child pornography. During a speech last month,
    Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he would be reaching out to the CEOs of
    Internet service providers about the records retention issue.

    During the meeting, though, the FBI "made clear they wanted it for other reasons as well. ... Terrorism was mentioned," one of the sources said regarding potential uses for the information.

    The industry is expected to strongly oppose any request to retain these types of records because of privacy concerns for their customers. "It is a slippery slope," one of the sources said of the government's interest in the information. "It becomes a fishing expedition."

    The Internet companies have said there are other ways to get the information without them having to hand it over and believe requests like this are burden to the industry, the sources said.

    Another meeting of government and industry representatives is scheduled for Friday, according to an official of the Internet Service Provider Association.
    Posted By Kevin Bohn and Kelli Arena, CNN America Bureau: 5/30/2006 03:46:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Morning Grind

    CAMPAIGNS SPENDING MILLIONS ON ENERGY ADS

    Even before the first vote was cast last week to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to gas and oil exploration, its fate was all but sealed. The House approved the measure, but it will likely be stopped dead cold in the Senate.

    For another election cycle, ANWR will become campaign fodder and this year rising energy costs is expected to heavily influence voters in the midterm elections.

    After the vote, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) chided Democrats for failing to offer real solutions. "If Democrats spent as much time voting for solutions to our energy problems as they do giving lip service to the American people, we'd already enjoy lower gas prices," he charged.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) countered by accusing President Bush of cozying up to big oil and trying to sacrifice "one of America's last truly wild places, for the sake of a small amount of oil."

    It is not clear who voters will believe in November, but a recent CNN poll showed that 70 percent of Americans said gas prices would be "extremely important" or "very important" when they voted for Congress in November.

    "Everyone is talking about energy," Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, told the Grind. "It is one of the top issues in the cycle along with Iraq."

    Not only are Democrats and Republicans talking about it in Congress, but it is becoming a major theme in the television campaign commercials beamed into their constituents' homes. So far this year, $23.3 million has been spent on campaign advertisements that discuss energy policy, according to TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant on television advertising spending. Of that, Democrats have accounted for $4.7 million since April 1, while Republicans have spent about $90,000. In comparison, during this same two month time period, candidates have spent $2.1 million on anti-lobbyist television ads and another $2.9 million on anti-prescription drug TV ads.

    "Going back to the early 90's, industries started to became focal points of campaign advertising from tobacco companies in the 90's, followed by HMO's, followed by the pharmaceutical industry and it now appears as though energy is claiming that mantle," said Evan Tracey, TNSMI/CMAG's chief operating officer.

    As we move closer to November expect to see more politicians, such as Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tennessee), using gas stations as backdrops in their television ads. Ford, who is running for Senate, recently aired a commercial that showed him standing outside an Exxon gas station complaining that it cost $45 to fill up the tank of his vehicle.

    ***

    PROTECTING ITS TURF

    While Democrats from a dozen states are lobbying the Democratic National Committee for the right to be an early caucus or primary state in 2008, South Carolina Republicans will make a move today to protect the Palmetto State's position as the first GOP presidential primary in Dixie. State Republican leaders will hold a news conference (see time and location below in the Dayahead section) announcing the creation of a presidential primary task force charged with doing just that.

    "We will outline why it is important to our economy, tourism and the presidential candidates coming to South Carolina early," Scott Malyerck, executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, told the Grind. Malyerck said visits by candidates are particularly important to the state party because these presidential aspirants help to raise money for the county parties, who then spend it on grassroots organizing efforts. State GOP Chairman Katon Dawson will head the task force that will also include State House Speaker Bobby Harrell, State Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, Republican National Committee members Buddy Witherspoon and Cindy Costa, and other GOP and business leaders.

    As of now, the State Republican Party is not working with the State Democratic Party on scheduling their presidential primaries on the same day. The South Carolina Democratic Party is one of the 12 states asking the DNC for the privilege of being an early presidential proving ground. "If they move it up, it is good for the economy down here," Malyerck said of the Democratic efforts. "But we are going to do it when we think it is best. If it happens on the same day -- great."

    ***

    THE DIFFICULTY OF RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT AS MAJORITY LEADER

    Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) made headlines and angered some fellow Republicans when he said on Fox News Sunday that he didn't think the FBI acted improperly by raiding the Capitol Hill office of Rep. William Jefferson (D-Louisiana). Just days earlier, Frist joined other Congressional leaders such as Hastert and Pelosi in voicing concern that the raid violated the separation of powers as outlined in the Constitution. Jefferson is being investigated for his involvement in a bribery scheme. Some Republicans suggested that Frist flip-flopped because he is running for president and thought it was politically foolish to defend Jefferson. A source close to Frist vehemently denies it.

    "The Leader did express concerns during the week and those concerns were put to rest," said the Frist confidante.

    And a Frist spokesperson said the Majority Leader "understands and appreciates the House leaderships' concerns" and noted that he remains "a strong supporter of separation of powers and will continue a dialogue to make sure that any future incidents are handled with deference to Congress' rights."

    Frist is learning that every legislative move he makes will be scrutinized to see if it is intended to help a potential 2008 presidential bid. Should Frist decide to run, history shows that he faces long odds at winning the presidency, CNN's Keating Holland notes. Holland said his research shows that 28 men, who either held major Senate or House leadership posts or previously served in a major leadership position, have made White House bids.

    Only two, James Polk and Lyndon Johnson, were elected. A third, Gerald Ford, became president without being elected. But Ford was defeated when he ran for the office in his first and only presidential campaign.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 5/30/2006 07:57:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today...
  • President Bush attends the 11:05 a.m. ET credentialing ceremony for the Ambassador of Iraq to the United States. Press Secretary Tony Snow holds a gaggle at 9:30 a.m. ET and a press conference at 12:30 p.m. ET.

  • The House and Senate are in recess. The House returns on June 6 at 2 p.m. and the Senate returns on June 5 at 2 p.m. Hearings can be scheduled during this time period.

  • House Judiciary Committee holds a 9:30 a.m. ET hearing on the FBI raid of Rep. William Jefferson's (D-Louisiana) Capitol Hill office. Witnesses scheduled to testify include: Bruce Fein, principal of the Lichfield Group, University of Baltimore Law School Professor Charles Tiefer, George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley and former Rep. Robert Walker (R-Pennsylvania).

  • The South Carolina Republican Party announces the formation of a presidential primary task force at 1:15 p.m. ET in the South Carolina State House in Columbia.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 5/30/2006 07:52:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    REID TOOK RINGSIDE TIX: Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, who has criticized Republican ethics, accepted free ringside tickets to three professional boxing matches from Nevada officials who were trying to influence his federal legislation regulating the sport. Reid, D-Nev., took the free seats for Las Vegas fights between 2003 and 2005 from the Nevada Athletic Commission as he pressed legislation to increase federal oversight of boxing, including the creation of a government commission. Reid defended the gifts, saying they would never influence his position on the boxing bill and that he was simply trying to learn how his legislation might affect an important home state industry. "Anyone from Nevada would say I'm glad he is there taking care of the state's No. 1 businesses," he told The Associated Press. AP via Yahoo News: Senate Leader Took Free Boxing Tickets

    "DELIGHT" AT THE PROSPECT OF "SPEAKER PELOSI": Hoping to win a Congressional majority in November, some optimistic Democratic lawmakers have taken to referring to Representative Nancy Pelosi as "speaker," as in speaker of the House. So have some optimistic Republicans... Ms. Pelosi, the California Democrat and House minority leader, lends herself to easy caricature by Republicans. She is an unapologetic liberal, with a voting record to match (the Republican National Committee chairman, Ken Mehlman, said she was neither a "New Democrat" nor an "Old Democrat" but a "prehistoric Democrat"). She is wealthy (married to an investment banker, she has assets listed at more than $16 million). She represents San Francisco, which Republicans love to invoke as a hotbed of counterculture decadence and extremism. New York Times: Talk of Pelosi as Speaker Delights Both Parties

    "FORMIDABLE ODDS AGAINST A DEMOCRATIC TAKEOVER": The only thing that can be said with any certainty about the 2006 midterm elections is that none of the top campaign forecasters is flatly predicting Republicans will lose the House or Senate -- yet. President Bush's job approval polls are the lowest in his presidency; the Democrats are leading Republicans in the generic congressional election polls by an average of 13 percent; and voter surveys suggest a strong anti-incumbent tide is building. But leading analysts still think at this point that Republicans will hold on to majority control of both chambers, though with reduced numbers. "The 2006 midterm elections are a political analyst's nightmare. The national climate seems to portend big changes, yet race-by-race analyses reveal formidable odds against a Democratic takeover of either the House or the Senate," veteran elections tracker Charlie Cook says in his latest National Journal election preview. Washington Times: Takeover of House, Senate not likely

    HASTERT TWO DAYS AWAY FROM HISTORY: With Republicans angrily splintered and facing a perilous fall election, House Speaker Dennis Hastert will make a little history Thursday as he becomes the longest-serving Republican speaker. Hastert, with nearly 7 1/2 years in the leadership post, will oust another Illinoisan from the record books: former Rep. Joseph Cannon, whose 7-year, 5-month tenure ended in 1911. Democrat Sam Rayburn of Texas was the longest-serving speaker of the House with a 17-year run over three periods from 1940 to 1961. But while Cannon, for whom one of the three primary House office buildings is named, was known for his profanity and a dictatorial style, Hastert has endured as the head of his party thanks to an affable, low-key manner and a concern for his GOP colleagues' views. Chicago Tribune: Hastert nears moment in history

    SPEAKER HEARS "GRUMBLING" FROM GOP OVER RAID REACTION: In making his stance against the FBI raid, [Dennis] Hastert has been stuck between his two roles - that of the constitutional officer in charge of the House, and that of the leader of House Republicans. While his actions make sense to many Members in the context of that first role, some lawmakers and aides outside of his office have questioned whether he has served the Conference well in the second role by taking a stand that likely will not resonate well with the public. Even within the Republican leadership, the issue has become a point of debate at Member- and staff-level strategy meetings, according to several sources, with some staffers arguing that Hastert and his aides should not have made their fight so high-profile and public. Roll Call: Hastert Hears Grumbling

    FRIST "OKAY" WITH RAID: After a week of bipartisan outrage over an FBI raid on a congressman's office, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist weighed in [Sunday], saying that he was "okay" with the search and saw no constitutional problems with it. "No House member, no senator, nobody in government should be above the law of the land, period," Frist said of the search of the office of William J. Jefferson (D-La.), who has been accused of bribery. Frist (R-Tenn.) said on "Fox News Sunday" that he had studied the provision in the Constitution regarding the separation of powers, and consulted with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. He concluded that the FBI acted appropriately when it used a warrant to search the office of a sitting lawmaker for the first time in history. Washington Post: Senate Leaders Profess Less Outrage on FBI Raid

    WILL SAFAVIAN TRIAL BRING BAD NEWS FOR REP. #1? Testimony in the trial of a former White House budget aide accused of lying about his contacts with the lobbyist Jack Abramoff is expected to result in new scrutiny of Representative Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican caught up in the influence-peddling scandal centered on Mr. Abramoff. Mr. Ney's former chief of staff, Neil G. Volz, who has pleaded guilty to conspiring with Mr. Abramoff to give illegal gifts to Mr. Ney, has been called to testify this week at the trial of David H. Safavian, the White House aide. Mr. Volz is expected to describe how Mr. Abramoff organized a $130,000 golf trip to Scotland by private jet in August 2002 for a group that included Mr. Ney and three House aides. New York Times: Trial Is Expected to Bring New Scrutiny of Lawmaker

    KNOWLES TO SEEK THIRD TERM IN AK: Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles said Monday he will run for a new term, challenging the nation's oldest governor for a chance to return to office. If he defeats 73-year-old Gov. Frank Murkowski, Knowles would become the state's second three-term governor. In Alaska, a person can serve a third term as governor if it does not immediately follow the previous two. Murkowski is seen as an unpopular governor who could be vulnerable in a Republican primary. He has been widely criticized for program cuts early in his administration and for appointing his daughter, Lisa, to take his former Senate seat. Knowles challenged her and lost in 2004. AP via Yahoo! News: Ex-Alaska governor to seek new term

    MOMENTUM FOR D.C. HOUSE VOTE: The District of Columbia is making historic and startling progress in its effort to gain full voting rights in the House of Representatives, as a compromise between Democrats and Republicans to permanently increase the size of the House to 437 members gains momentum. A Republican, Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, is brokering a deal that would give the district's delegate full representative status , a change that would give the overwhelmingly Democratic district a vote in the House. In exchange, another seat would be awarded to Utah, a heavily Republican state expected to gain a new seat in Congress after reapportionment following the 2010 Census. The size of the House has been fixed at 435 since 1911, except for 1959-1963, when it was increased to 437 to give new states Hawaii and Alaska a vote each. The House returned to 435 members after districts were redrawn based on 1960 Census data. Boston Globe: D.C. closer to gaining a full voice in House

    FOR SUCH A "POLARIZING" FIGURE, HER POLITICS ARE UNCLEAR: Hillary Rodham Clinton has fashioned a political persona that generates intense passions but defies easy characterization. She is viewed as a hawk on Iraq and national security, stamped as a big-government Democrat for her work on health care in the 1990s, and depicted as seeking the middle ground on abortion. After three decades in public life, New York's junior senator is one of the most recognized women in the world, her every move and utterance interpreted amid the assumption in Democratic circles and her own circle that her reelection campaign this fall will pivot into a run for president in 2008. Yet for all her fame, there are missing pieces to the Clinton puzzle: What does she stand for? And where would she try to take the country if elected? Washington Post: Clinton Is A Politician Not Easily Defined

    "BACKLASH" FROM MANHATTAN LIBERALS: Some Manhattan Democratic clubs are launching a backlash against Sen. Hillary Clinton amid some of her recent shifts toward the right. Once a liberal favorite, Clinton is being shunned in her reelection bid by four local Democratic groups furious over her vote in favor of the Iraq war and her newly cozy relationship with conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch. The defections among the activist left of the city's Democratic Party - long considered a loyal chunk of Clinton's political base - suggest that her recent rush to the political middle ground and beyond may exact a price... Other established political clubs in Manhattan - including the upper West Side's Three Parks Independent Democrats and downtown's Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats - chose in recent weeks to endorse no one for Senate rather than support Clinton. New York Daily News: Hillary pays a price
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/30/2006 07:28:00 AM ET | Permalink
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