Marco Rubio Under Federal Investigation

From the St. Petersburg Times:

Federal law enforcement agencies have launched a criminal investigation into the use of American Express cards issued by the Republican Party of Florida to elected officials and staff, according to sources familiar with the inquiry.

[...]

Meanwhile, in a separate inquiry, the IRS is also looking at the tax records of at least three former party credit card holders — former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, ex-state party chairman Jim Greer and ex-party executive director Delmar Johnson — to determine whether they misused their party credit cards for personal expenses, according to a source familiar with the preliminary inquiry.

Political parties, which are tax exempt, are allowed to spend money only on political activities, such as fundraising, running campaigns and registering voters. While it's commonplace for party officials and politicians to wine and dine donors, the Florida party allowed credit card holders to rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges with little oversight.

The IRS opened the so-called "primary'' investigation into Rubio, the leading Republican candidate for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat, and the two former state GOP officials to see if there's enough evidence to support a full-fledged criminal inquiry, according to a source familiar with the IRS examination.

Although the Senate campaign of the state's Republican Governor Charlie Crist has pulled its ads ahead of an expected announcement of a switch from the GOP to Independent status -- a switch I have been writing about for five and a half months -- you have to imagine that this story won't be absent from Crist's ads, or for that matter those put up by Democrat Kendrick Meek, in a general election campaign. Which is all to say, anyone who thinks this election is in the bag for Marco Rubio is off their rocker.

Money and the 2010 Midterms

A bit of cold water for those who think the outcome of the 2010 midterms has already been decided, with the Republicans set to retake one or both Houses of the Congress.

The top 3 Dem campaign committees have outraised their GOP rivals, adding to a financial gap that some on the GOP side believe could rob them of opportunities come Nov.

The DSCC will report having raised $6M in March, barely higher than the NRSC's $5.14M raised. The DSCC also has a narrow cash on hand advantage, with $17M in the bank versus the NRSC's $15M.

Also this month, the DNC outraised the RNC by a $13M to $11M margin. Earlier today, the DCCC announced it would file reports showing it had outraised the NRCC, $9.77M to $8M.

Both the DCCC and the DSCC have paid off all their debt. The DNC still had $3.7M in obligations at the end of last month, though they have yet to report a debt figure this month. None of the GOP committees have showed a debt for months.

Looking deeper into the numbers, specifically into those relating to the House of Representatives, which is viewed as more tenuously in the hands of the Democrats than the Senate, the party in power now holds a $26 million to $10 million cash-on-hand advantage over the challenging Republicans. What does this mean? The national Democrats now have the capability to play in 2 1/2 times more seats than the national Republicans. While this financial disparity isn't assured to remain through November, the fact that the Democrats continue to raise more than their Republican counterparts suggests that all of the talk of the House already having been all but lost for the Democrats might be a bit overblown.

Schumer Gets Airlines to Promise No Carry-On Fees

A small-bore measure -- but sometimes small-bore measures matter.

Senator Charles E. Schumer said Sunday that he had commitments from five airlines that they would not charge passengers a fee for carry-on baggage.

Mr. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said he had received the promises in personal calls from top airline executives.

The carriers are American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines and US Airways.

This is the type of retail politics that makes Chuck Schumer, the number three Democrat in the Senate, one of the most effective politicians in America. While voters no doubt care more about major issues like the economy and healthcare than others, one cannot overstate the importance of efforts like these.

Don't believe me that actions like these matter? Think back four years ago to when Schumer got out ahead of the country, and his fellow politicians, by pressing the Bush administration not to allow the government of the United Arab Emirates to purchase control of major United States ports through Dubai Ports World. While this skirmish -- which Schumer won -- wasn't the proximate cause of the Democrats victory in the midterm elections occurring nine months later in November 2006, it did help cement the case that the Republicans and the Bush administration were out of touch. Indeed, the polling on the issue not long after Schumer exposed the deal ran strongly in opposition to the Bush administration's move, with just 17 percent supporting the DPW sale and 69 percent opposing.

Will Schumer's move, getting the leading American airlines to pledge not to charge for carry-on bags, have the same effect of his move to stop the sale of American ports to DPW? It is yet unclear. But at a time when Americans are particularly distrustful of the efficacy of government action, it can't be a bad thing for one of the leading Democrats in Congress to deliver tangible results on an issue a great many Americans care about.

The One Agency We Trust More Today than in the 90s

A lot of interesting and ominous data from the latest Pew poll worth sorting through tonight. But one point that stood out to me as particularly surprising is the comparison of sentiments towards various government agencies today versus in 1997.

Over the past decade, Americans views towards a majority of the federal government agencies polled by Pew have declined significantly. Only a small handful of agencies, like the FBI and the Veterans Administration, have seen their favorability ratings hold firm.

The one agency to see its numbers increase significantly in the past 13 years? You wouldn't guess it, but the Internal Revenue Service. That's right, us Americans like the IRS more than we did in the 1990s -- a lot more. While just three-in-eight Americans viewed the IRS favorably a dozen years ago, that number has grown to nearly half (47 percent) at last tally. While this still makes the IRS one of the lesser liked federal agencies, it does suggest that anti-tax sentiments might not be quite as virulent as some might have us believe.

Haley Barbour 2012!

It has been almost 10 months since the last round of speculation surrounding a potential Presidential bid by former RNC Chairman and lobbyist turned Mississippi Governor, so apparently the powers at be inside the establishment media think it's time for another round.

POLITICO has learned that Barbour is weighing the prospect of a 2012 White House bid and convened a private meeting April 8 with a group of some of his oldest and closest advisers, some of whom flew in from the East Coast to Jackson, Miss. The gathering stretched for six hours, during which time the topic of a presidential run was discussed.

There is no mention in this long-ish article from Jonathan Martin that as of the most recent polling, in the field this past fall, that nearly two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) told Gallup that they would not seriously consider voting for Barbour for President in 2012 -- an even greater share than said the same of Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin (both of whom were ruled out by 63 percent of the public). There is also no mention of the even more recent polling, from just a few days ago, showing Barbour earning the support of just 1 percent of Republicans.

Nevertheless, with the press, and apparently some DC Republicans, taking Barbour 2012 seriously, I am reminded of a great post from Atrios back in November:

Politicians Are All From The South

This was true for so many years that the politician archetype in pop culture was always some middle aged white dude with at least a modest southern accent.

For some reason, that period just seems so outdated -- which is odd considering that 2008 was the first Presidential election since 1972 in which neither party's ticket featured at least one Southerner (and since 1944, if you count Maryland's Spiro Agnew as a Southerner, which isn't such a stretch considering the kind of role played and rhetoric used by the candidate in the 1968 and 1972 Nixon campaigns). Yet at the same time, one doesn't get the sense that the American people are itching for a return to Southern dominance of Presidential politics. Which is all to say, Barbour may be an anachronism.

GOP Runs Against HCR -- And Loses Badly

The Republicans made their case against healthcare reform to voters in the days and weeks leading up to yesterday's special congressional election in Florida -- and lost badly.

Republican backlash over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul had little effect in the nation's first U.S. House race of 2010.

 

Florida Democratic state Sen. Ted Deutch handily won Tuesday's special election to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler after his underdog GOP opponent attempted to make the contest a referendum on the massive health care bill.

The district, Florida's 19th, leans strongly towards the Democrats, so the overall 62 percent to 35 percent spread in favor of the Democrats means less than the numbers underlying it. Here's First Read's take:

Yet perhaps the biggest news here has to do with seniors, who heavily populate that Broward/West Palm Beach district. That seniors -- the demographic group Obama has struggled with -- overwhelmingly stuck with the Democrat is pretty significant.

If the Republicans think that they have the House locked up in November, they may want to think again. Don't get me wrong, yesterday's election doesn't mean that the Democrats are ensured of victory in the upcoming midterms -- but that also doesn't mean that all the naysaying about the Democrats' chances isn't all a bit hasty.

Some Facts on Supreme Court Nominations

I have a whole lot of notes on Supreme Court nominations right now for my law school writing requirement, which is somewhat timely considering that it is on the topic of (you guessed it) Supreme Court nominations, so I thought I might pass on a few quick tidbits before putting together something more comprehensive.

  • More than a third of Supreme Court Justices in American history have (38) come to the high court without any prior judicial experience.
  • Well over half of all Justices -- 60 out of 111 (.pdf), or 54 percent -- have come to the Court with prior experience in elective office. That is to say, a majority of Supreme Court Justices over time have run for and won public office in the past, from city councils all the way up to the Presidency.

So if you hear a pundit intone that someone on President Obama's shortlist to replace Justice John Paul Stevens is unacceptable because they would come to the Court without prior Judicial experience, or that they are not suited for the Court because they had previously worked in politics, do note that these assumptions aren't really grounded in the history of the Court (even if they have come to be accepted in recent years).

John Paul Stevens Announces Forthcoming Retirement

Not a complete surprise, but somehow a bit surprising nonetheless. Here's The Times:

Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, the leader of the liberals on the Supreme Court, announced on Friday that he will retire at the end of this term, setting up a confirmation battle over his replacement that could dominate the political scene this summer.

In a brief letter to President Obama, whom he addressed as “my dear Mr. President,” Justice Stevens said he was announcing his retirement now because he had “concluded that it would be in the best interests of the Court to have my successor appointed and confirmed well in advance of the commencement of the Court’s next term” in October.

I would assume that Barack Obama has already made his selection for this seat -- or he's close to a final decision -- having more than a year to contemplate the possibility of a Stevens retirement. Also despite the fact that the Republicans hold a sufficiently sizable minority in the Senate to block an Obama nominee should they choose to filibuster, it is exceedingly difficult to imagine this level of obstruction, particularly given the bloc of Lugar/Snowe/Collins/Voinovich/Gregg/Hatch/Bond who tend to be deferential to Presidents -- even ones hailing from the Democratic Party -- on Supreme Court nominations. This isn't to say that there isn't going to be a fight, because the Republicans fight everything these days. But I would expect a fairly uneventful confirmation process, one with minor blowups that are treated like major ones, but one that finds a nominee being confirmed relatively quickly and easily.

The National Review Online Thinks I'm a "Stalinist"

Alternative title to this post: Why I haven't been posting as much lately on MyDD.

The past few weeks, I have been typing away fast at ConfirmGoodwin.com, the blog I set up supporting the nomination of my Berkeley Law professor Goodwin Liu to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

My writings seem to have rattled National Review Online blogger Ed Whelan, who this afternoon wrote the following: "Jonathan Singer at ConfirmGoodwinLiu.com continues to display his Stalinist intellectual temperament." All of this, apparently, for coming to the same conclusion as former Associate White House Counsel for Ethics under George W. Bush Richard Painter, who wrote that Liu's "original answers to the questions [put forward by the Senate Judiciary Committee] were a careful and good faith effort to supply the Senate with the information it needed to assess his nomination" and that Liu "provided a lot more information than many nominees do in response to these questions."

You know they've run out of genuine arguments when they start calling names...

DNC Outraised RNC $13m to $11.4m in March

If the $11.4 million raised by the Republican National Committee in March indicates that the GOP base is becoming more motivated in the wake of the passage of healthcare reform, I wonder what it means that the Democratic National Committee raised even more money.

*** DNC outraises RNC in March: While the RNC says it raised $11.4 million in March, the DNC is going to report that it raised more than $13 million for the month, a party source tells First Read. “Since the last days of fundraising were done around passage of health care reform, it's clear supporters of reform were more generous than opponents,” the source says.

Considering further that there are now allegations that the RNC under Michael Steele may have been shifting around numbers in an effort to make it appear as though they have raised more money than they actually have, one wonders even further how the Beltway spinmeisters will be able to come up with the logic as to how this is all good news for Republicans...

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