POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 6/28

Greene’s Finances Investigated

South Carolina officials are investigating the finances of U.S. Senate candidate Alvin Greene (D) to determine whether any laws have been broken in the way he has been representing his personal finances, the Columbia State reports.

Greene is facing felony obscenity charges and told a judge late last year that he didn’t have the money to afford a lawyer and was appointed a public defender. Then, several months later, Greene somehow came up with $10,400 in cash to pay the filing fee to run for U.S. Senate.

Kirk Leads Pack in Ducking the Press

Though Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) has been running away from the media lately —literally — the issue of the U.S. Senate candidate avoiding the reporters goes beyond just the latest crisis in his exaggerating his resume.

Chicago Sun Times: “Kirk has been ducking routine press coverage since he jumped into the Senate race. He refuses to release, when asked, his government or his political schedules. He also declines to volunteer where he is going to raise campaign cash and who hosts the events.”

“Kirk has the most stringent and stubborn non-disclosure policy when compared with the three other major Illinois statewide candidates.”

Clarity Coming on Byrd Succession

West Virginia’s Secretary of State’s office tells NBC News that it will be releasing a statement this afternoon to make sense of the state’s very confusing succession law.

Early speculation, however, is that that the election for the seat won’t occur until 2012. An interim senator appointed by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) would serve until then.

The Hotline has a good backgrounder on the succession law which supports this theory.

Is Anyone Paying Attention to Kagan Hearings?

Rick Hasen: “If you were trying to schedule Senate hearings on a Supreme Court nominee to garner the least attention possible, you could not have picked a day better than today. The sad death of Senator Byrd; the Supreme Court decides four major cases, including the gun case; Congress poised to pass a major financial reform bill, with now some uncertainty as to timing given the death of Sen. Byrd; the Afghanistan McCrystal fallout; continued concern over BP’s cleanup operations. It is no wonder that many Americans don’t know who Elena Kagan is.”

Supreme Court Strikes Down Local Gun Bans

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution’s Second Amendment “restrains government’s ability to significantly limit ‘the right to keep and bear arms,’ advancing a recent trend by the John Roberts-led bench to embrace gun rights,” the Washington Post reports.

Writing for the court in a case involving restrictive laws in Chicago and one of its suburbs, Justice Samuel Alito said that the Second Amendment right “applies equally to the federal government and the states.”

Haley Holds Lead in South Carolina

A new Rasmussen survey in South Carolina finds Nikki Haley (R) leading Vincent Sheheen (D) by 12 points in the race for governor, 52% to 40%.

Quote of the Day

“I haven’t closed the door. I think that would be foolish on my part, especially when poll after poll shows that there is strong sentiment out there. I end up leading a lot of the polls. I’m the Republican that clearly, at this point, does better against Obama than any other Republican.”

— Mike Huckabee, in an interview on Fox News Sunday, on running for president in 2012.

Many Still Think Obama Was Born Elsewhere

A new Vanity Fair/60 Minutes poll finds 24% of Americans still think President Obama was born in “another country,” despite the constitutional requirement that presidents be born in U.S. territory.

What Happens to the Wall Street Reform Bill?

The death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) complicates Democratic efforts to push the final agreement on bank reform through the U.S. Senate as they now lack the crucial 60th vote to prevent a Republican filibuster. They had hoped to pass the bill this week.

Democratic leaders essentially have a two options:

1. Delay bringing the final conference report to the Senate floor until West Virginia Gov. Joe Machin (D) appoints an interim replacement for Byrd.

2. Try to convince one of two Democrats opposed to the bill — Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) — to support it now. If necessary, they might need to make additional modifications to the conference report.

Giannoulias Subpoenaed by Blagojevich Lawyers

Illinois U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias (D) said “he was subpoenaed by Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys to appear at the ex-governor’s corruption trial, joining a long list of state and national politicians who might testify,” the Chicago Tribunereports.

“Giannoulias, the single-term state treasurer, was not close to Blagojevich. But Giannoulias said he did act as an intermediary between two people who have played significant roles in the former governor’s trial — labor leader Tom Balanoff and White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.”

Testimony last week focused on an alleged scheme by Blagojevich to trade an appointment of Jarrett to the Senate for a position with the Obama administration.

Manchin Expected to Run for Byrd’s Seat

Salon notes that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D), who has the power to appoint an interim replacement for the late Sen. Robert Byrd, wants the seat for himself — but has also ruled out appointing himself to it.

The timing of Byrd’s death was important. Had the seat been vacant after July 3, state law would have allowed an appointee to remain through the 2012 election, when the full six-year term would be up. Instead, a temporary successor will be named and a special election held in November to serve out the final two years of the term.

“Even though this fall figures to be rough for Democrats, it’s probably a better time for Manchin to run. He’s plenty popular now and, thanks to his cultural conservatism and staunch defense of the state’s coal industry, he’s separated himself enough from Barack Obama and the national Democratic label that he’d probably be fine. And his presence in a special election this fall would probably scare off the strongest potential Republican, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.”

UpdatePolitico notes “the law is silent on when, exactly, a vacancy occurs — at the time of death, when the Senate informs the state or when the governor declares it? — and the law for calling a special election is written in a way that suggests that it couldn’t be held until the date of the next regularly scheduled election in 2012.”

In addition, a Manchin adviser tells First Read that he doubts there will be a special election in November.

Political Wire on the Rachel Maddow Show

Many thanks to Rachel Maddow for turning my post about President Obama’shistoric and transformative year into a very eloquent five minute segment on her show.

See more…

Brown Outpolls Obama, Kerry in Massachusetts

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), “who only months ago was a little-known figure even within the tiny band of Republicans in the state Senate, not only catapulted to national stature with his upset US Senate victory, but is today the most popular officeholder in Massachusetts,” according to a Boston Globe poll.

Brown outpolls such Democratic stalwarts as President Obama and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in popularity and “gets high marks not only from Republicans, but even a plurality of Democrats views him favorably.”

Byrd Dies at 92

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), “the longest-serving member of Congress in United States history, who spent much of his career as a conservative Democrat and ended it by fiercely opposing the war in Iraq and questioning the state’s powerful coal industry, died Monday,” the Charleston Gazette reports. He was 92.

“Byrd ran for state and national office 15 times and never lost. Once elected to the U.S. Senate in 1958, he steadily advanced through the ranks. He was named majority whip in 1971 and majority leader in 1975. Democrats became the minority party in the Senate in 1981, but Byrd remained their leader until they regained control of the Senate in 1987. In 1989, he was elected president pro tempore of the Senate — a largely ceremonial post — and named chairman of the Appropriations Committee. It was there that he began funneling federal projects and money to West Virginia in earnest.”

Politico: “Anyone who has driven the scenic byways of West Virginia, visited the state’s national parks or stopped by the federal courthouse in Charleston, W.Va., has borne witness to his power — Byrd’s name is everywhere.”

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) has the power to appoint an interim replacement to fill Byrd’s seat. A special election would be held in November to fill the remaining two years in Byrd’s term.

The Third Depression

Paul Krugman: “Recessions are common; depressions are rare. As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as ‘depressions’ at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.”

“Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.”

“We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.”

Republicans Struggle to Find Ways to Attack Kagan

“For weeks leading up to the start of Elena Kagan’s Senate confirmation hearings Monday, Republicans have struggled to find a compelling line of attack to take against the Supreme Court nominee,” the Washington Post notes. “But their efforts to wield an effective cudgel against President Obama’s second nomination to the country’s highest court have largely failed.”

“In part, participants say, that is precisely because it has been overshadowed by a flood of other events that have consumed Congress and kept Republicans from mounting a more muscular front against her. But it is also a measure of how skilled operatives have become at managing the process — and choosing nominees who are notable in part for their political blandness.”

Corruption Suspected in Airlift of Billions in Cash

“More than $3 billion in cash has been openly flown out of Kabul International Airport in the past three years, a sum so large that U.S. investigators believe top Afghan officials and their associates are sending billions of diverted U.S. aid and logistics dollars and drug money to financial safe havens abroad,” the Wall Street Journalreports.

“The cash — packed into suitcases, piled onto pallets and loaded into airplanes — is declared and legal to move. But U.S. and Afghan officials say they are targeting the flows in major anticorruption and drug trafficking investigations because of their size relative to Afghanistan’s small economy and the murkiness of their origins.”

Lessons from the McChrystal Sacking

Frank Rich notes that “before we get carried away with relief and elation” that President Obama did the right thing in firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal last week, “let’s not forget what we saw in the tense 36 hours” after word spread of Rolling Stone‘s blockbuster article:

1. “Much of the Beltway establishment was blindsided by Michael Hastings’s scoop, an impressive feat of journalism by a Washington outsider who seemed to know more about what was going on in Washington than most insiders did.”

2. “Obama’s failure to fire McChrystal months ago for both his arrogance and incompetence was a grievous mistake that illuminates a wider management shortfall at the White House.”

3. “The present strategy has produced no progress in this nearly nine-year-old war, even as the monthly coalition body count has just reached a new high.”

Elizabeth Edwards Hits Back

After several tell-all books and interviews this year that called into question Elizabeth Edwards’ character, the wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards is responding this week with an interview in People magazine and Wednesday appearances on the Today Show and Larry King Live.

The publicity blitz coincides with the paperback release of her book, Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities, which is expected to have a new chapter on the dramatic fallout from her husband’s infidelity.

Daughter Cate Edwards has also decided to go public with her thoughts in aforthcoming People magazine essay.

Cahill Fades in Massachusetts

A new Boston Globe poll in Massachusetts finds Gov. Deval Patrick (D) leading the three-way race for governor with 38%, followed by Charles Baker (R) at 31% and Timothy Cahill (I) way behind at 9%.

The findings suggest that Republican attempts to marginalize Cahill through negative ads have helped reshape the race into a two-person contest, at least for now. Cahill actually led Baker in a January Globe poll, has seen his support collapse after television and radio spots attacking his ethics and record as treasurer.

Said pollster Andrew Smith: “The Republican strategy to make this a race between Baker and Patrick seems to be working.”

Burr Ahead in North Carolina

A new SurveyUSA poll in North Carolina shows Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) leading challenger Elaine Marshall (D) by ten points, 50% to 40%.

Key finding: Republicans are aligned behind Burr more solidly than Democrats are aligned behind Marshall. Independents break for Burr.

Rasmussen poll last week had Burr up by just one point. A Public Policy Polling survey of the race is expected this week.

Lautenberg Says Cancer is in Remission

According to Blue Jersey, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) announced last night that his cancer diagnosed earlier this year was now in remission.

Political Dynasties Not Faring Well This Year

“While the proliferation of legacy candidates is a familiar and recurring theme in American politics, this year’s version of it isn’t — in a break with custom and in a nod to the current anti-establishment climate, the dynasty candidates aren’t faring so well,” Politico reports.

Convention Fight Shows Iowa GOP Rift

An effort to force Terry Branstad (R) to choose a former primary rival Bob Vander Plaats (R) as his gubernatorial running mate failed but exposed a rift in the Iowa GOP that could potentially help Democrats in November, CNN reports.

Interestingly, the Des Moines Register reports Vander Plaats would not rule out an independent run for governor if he failed to win the lieutenant governor’s nomination.

Obama Ditches Press Corps Again

Meeting with seven other world leaders in Canada, President Obama gave the White House press corps the slip last night.

Wall Street Journal: “It is highly unusual for the president to shun his permanent media detail that way, particularly at a high-profile event in a remote location. One White House aide speculated that it was due to scarce accommodations in Muskoka — which is a resort area. But Mr. Obama, who’s been quite vocal in his disdain for the press at times, has blown off his press corps in the past. The White House Correspondents’ Association complained to press secretary Robert Gibbs recently when the president left the White House on a Saturday, avoided the waiting press corps, and attended his daughter’s soccer game in Northwest D.C. This is a far more significant offense than that one, and is likely to draw another complaint.”

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