Burris Wants to Create Legal Defense Fund

Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) has asked the Senate Ethics Committee to let him raise money to help deal with the cost of inquiries about his appointment by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, reports CQ Politics.

Legal defense funds allow senators to raise up raise money — up to $10,000 from each contributor — apart from their campaign accounts. The funds file quarterly reports about fundraising and spending.

No Change in Americans’ Religiosity

Despite the economic turmoil, a review of Gallup Polls done since early 2008 shows no increase in either the average of 65% of Americans who say religion is important in their daily lives, or the 42% who report regularly attending church.

Gilibrand Would Face Tough Race Against Pataki

A new Siena Research Institute poll shows Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) handily defeating Rep. Peter King (R-NY) in a possible U.S. Senate match up, 47% to 23%.

However, Gillibrand would face a tough challenge if former New York Gov. George Pataki (R) ran against her as the two are currently tied at 41% support.

Poll Tracker has more on the numbers.

Poll Shows Paterson Sinking Further

A new Siena Research Institute poll in New York finds Gov. David Paterson (D) behind in both primary and general-election matchups and with record low job approval ratings.

In the Democratic primary, Andrew Cuomo (D) blows away Paterson 67% to 17%. As recently as January, Cuomo and Paterson were deadlocked.

In the general election, Rudy Giuliani (R) crushes Paterson 56 to 33%. However, Cuomo would beat Giuliani, 51% to 41%.

Just 19% of New Yorkers say Paterson is doing an excellent or good job.

Exchange of the Day

CNBC’s Erin Burnett: Final question, your house, it’s up for sale. We know that. That’s part of the public record. We’re in a housing crisis. You haven’t been able to sell it, so you’ve got to do this commute. Is that — is that an indicator we can all look at, when Tim Geithner can sell his house, things are going to be OK?

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: We’re planning to move my family down in the fall. Can’t wait to see them, can’t wait to get them here. Don’t like commuting very much. And I look forward to having them live in the same city with me as quickly as possible. But it’s not going to happen till the summer because of the school year.

Burnett: Because of the school year. OK. Secretary Geithner, thanks very much.

Clinton Pushes Digital Diplomacy

The AP dubs Secretary of State Hillary Clinton an “e-diplomat” because she has “embarked on a digital diplomacy drive aimed at spreading the word about American foreign policy and restoring Washington’s image.”

“Part of a broader Internet outreach by President Barack Obama’s administration, Clinton’s Web efforts already have outpaced those of her predecessors.”

Obama Heads to Capitol Hill

It’s budget week, so President Obama will attend a lunch with Senate Democrats tomorrow to continue selling his budget plan, reports Manu Raju.

The Politics Might Be Harder Than the Economics

John Heilemann notes a “vexing dilemma” for President Obama: “Saving the banks is the sine qua non for the country’s emergence from its ever-deepening miasma, but in doing so, Obama risks incurring a tsunami of bailout rage. If, on the other hand, he appeals too much to populism, he risks driving elites away. Either outcome could deny him the support he needs for the rest of his agenda. Getting the economics right may be devilishly difficult — but the politics are even trickier, and just as crucial.”

Make or Break Week for Budget

After a weekend of the DNC urging grassroots support for President Obama’s budget, The Hill says the administration “is having the most trouble with perhaps its most needed constituency: Washington lawmakers.”

“That counter-pressure from Obama’s grassroots supporters could help drive through his budget plan in Congress, as lawmakers might find themselves on the opposite side of their voters.”

Bailout Money Turning Into Campaign Contributions

“There was plenty of outrage on Capitol Hill last week over the executive bonuses paid out by AIG after getting federal bailout money. But another money trail could make voters just as angry: the campaign dollars to members of Congress from banks and firms that have received billions via the Troubled Asset Relief Program,”Newsweek reports.

“While a few big firms, such as Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase, have curtailed their campaign giving, others are quietly doling out cash to select members of Congress, particularly those who serve on committees that oversee TARP.”

Matthews Signs Four Year Deal

“Chris Matthews, the usually garrulous host of Hardball on MSNBC, has quietly signed a new long-term contract to remain with the cable network through the next election, signaling that he had quit entertaining any plans to run for a Senate seat,” the New York Times reports.

Geithner’s Plan, Take Two

In advance of his second attempt to roll out a plan to buy up so-called “toxic assets” from banks, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner pens a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he says “the private sector will set prices” and “the taxpayers will share in any upside.”

“This program to address legacy loans and securities is part of an overall strategy to resolve the crisis as quickly and effectively as possible at least cost to the taxpayer. The Public-Private Investment Program is better for the taxpayer than having the government alone directly purchase the assets from banks that are still operating and assume a larger share of the losses. Our approach shares risk with the private sector, efficiently leverages taxpayer dollars, and deploys private-sector competition to determine market prices for currently illiquid assets. Simply hoping for banks to work these assets off over time risks prolonging the crisis in a repeat of the Japanese experience.”

Geithner will also meet with the press privately before the public rollout to answer questions.

However, Paul Krugman calls the plan “cash for trash” and says the latest effort “is more than disappointing. In fact, it fills me with a sense of despair.”

Obama Pulls Back on Bonus Tax

President Obama “is no fan of bonuses paid at a financial institutions being kept afloat by taxpayer dollars but also says he would not ‘govern out of anger’ despite Americans’ frustration with such perks,” the AP reports.

“As he seeks lawmakers’ support for his first budget, he took a political risk in signaling discomfort with a separate plan that slaps a punitive, 90 percent tax on bonuses paid to American International Group employees.”

The Washington Post quotes Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s chief economic adviser: “The president would be concerned that this bill may have some problems in going too far — the House bill — may go too far in terms of some legal issues, constitutional validity, using the tax code to surgically punish a small group of people.”

Meanwhile, Politico reports a Senate bill to be considered this week “is less punitive, but could affect more companies receiving bailout funds. It would impose a 35 percent excise tax on the companies that paid bonuses and a 35 percent tax on the employees receiving them.”

David Nather looks at the politics of the president not signing a bill.

Economy Board Meeting in Private

Six weeks after President Obama “appointed a blue-ribbon panel to help him dig America out of its economic crisis, the board has yet to hold an official public meeting,” Politico reports.

“Comments from board members and Obama himself indicate that some members of the panel are meeting, in smaller gatherings that have not been announced or opened to the public. And that raises the question of whether an administration that prides itself on openness and transparency is in fact finding it more convenient to conduct public business in private.”

Obama Does 60 Minutes

In his longest interview since being sworn in, President Obama sat down with 60 Minutes in the Oval Office for a fascinating conversation about the AIG bonuses, the economy, and how he’s dealing with the world’s most difficult job.


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