POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 6/29

Bachmann’s Husband Took Medicaid Funds

While Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) has denounced Medicaid for “swelling the welfare rolls,” NBC News reports the mental health clinic run by her husband “has been collecting annual Medicaid payments totaling over $137,000 for the treatment of patients since 2005.”

The previously unreported payments are on top of the $24,000 in federal and state funds that the clinic received in recent years to train its employees.

The $161,000 in payments “appear to contradict” some of Bachmann’s “public accounts this week when she was first asked about the extent to which her family has benefited from government aid.”

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports Bachmann has also “benefited personally from federal funds and federal farm subsidies.”

Obama Would Beat Palin in Alaska

A new Hays Research poll in Alaska finds President Obama leading Sarah Palin in a hypothetical match up by six points, 42% to 36%.

Obama Will Vacation on Martha’s Vineyard

President Obama will return to Martha’s Vineyard again for vacation this summer, the Martha’s Vineyard Times reports.

It’s the third time the Obama family has vacationed on the island since taking office.

Apparently he’s not listening to Mark Penn’s advice.

Former Aide Rips Bachmann

Ron Carey, a former top aide to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) wrote a scathing op-ed in Des Moines Register, saying his former boss is “so not ready to be president.”

“The Bachmann campaign and congressional offices I inherited were wildly out of control… If she is unable, or unwilling, to handle the basic duties of a campaign or congressional office, how could she possibly manage the magnitude of the presidency?”

 

Another Politician Caught Sending Underwear Photos

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that local city councilman Joe Stagni (R) admitted “that he sent a picture of himself in his underwear to a city employee 18 months ago and that the image ended up on a city computer server.”

Said Stagni: “I asked for God’s mercy and forgiveness. I apologized to my wife and family and asked for their forgiveness as well. My actions and bad judgment had nothing to do with my duties and responsibilities as a public official. They were private acts, but I take full responsibility for my irresponsible behavior. ”

Pawlenty Seeks to Reset Iowa Expectations

Tim Pawlenty told Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson that he didn’t have to win the Ames Straw Poll in August to be a viable presidential candidate, The Hill reports.

Said Pawlenty: “As to the straw poll, I don’t know that we need to win it. I think we need to do well and show some progress.”

The Least Popular Governor in America

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Florida finds Gov. Rick Scott (R) is the least popular governor in the country with 59% of voters disapproving and just 33% saying he’s doing a good job.

Lawmaker Accused of Forcing Staff to Do Campaign Work

An ethics watchdog group says allegations of ethics violations within the office of Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA) are worthy of a criminal investigation, The Hill reports.

Specifically, the FBI has been asked to probe allegations that Richardson habitually threatened her congressional staff with their jobs if they didn’t work on her campaign.

The Man Behind Huntsman’s Rise

The Daily Beast has a must-read piece on Jon Hunstman Sr., who “has been a driving force behind his son’s political career, to an extent not evident in his campaign biography or the accounts of his nascent presidential bid thus far. Interviews with a number of sources close to the Huntsmans reveal a powerful, ambitious father who has played a significant role in his son’s political rise at every turn — leaning on contacts, calling in favors, and, in several cases, lashing out at those he feels have slighted Jon Jr.”

Tom Petty Wants Bachmann to Stop Using His Song

Tom Petty wants Rep. Michele Bachmann to stop using his song, American Girl, at her campaign rallies, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“It’s not even 2012 yet but election season is in full bloom. And with it comes a new political ritual: First, a Republican candidate attempts to score cultural points by choosing a popular song for a political commercial or a rally. Next, a musician complains about such unauthorised use. Finally, politician says ‘Sorry!.'”

Kiss and Tell Republicans

Lisa Baron, author of Life of the Party: A Political Press Tart Bares All, is apparently willing to do anything to promote her book including recording a podcast about a sexual encounter with former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

“Ari and I started kissing and I felt giddy, giddy about the primary race, and high on the inappropriateness of the moment. I was not keen on getting that room a-rocking, as I did not want Ralph or his wife to come a-knocking… Since audible sex was out of the question, I immediately headed south and took care of business.”

Huntsman’s Launch Flopped with Republicans

An interesting finding from Gallup: Although Jon Huntsman received considerable news coverage last week with the formal launch of his presidential bid, his image among Republicans is getting worse, not better.

Key finding: “Huntsman’s Positive Intensity Score is down to 2 from 5 a week ago. Earlier this year it had been as high as 15. Only 5% of Republicans who recognize Huntsman have a strongly favorable opinion of him, while 3% say they have a strongly unfavorable opinion.”

Bachmann Surge Evident in Oregon and Montana

Two new Public Policy Polling surveys find Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) leading the GOP field of presidential candidates in both Oregon and Montana when Sarah Palin is not included.

“That’s just more indication that if Palin ends up not running Bachmann will pretty instantaneously vault to co-front runner status with Mitt Romney, provided she can continue her current momentum.”

Meanwhile, Gallup finds Bachmann has 69% name recognition and the highest “intensity score” of any of the GOP candidates running for president.

Democrats Lead in Race to Replace Bingaman

A new Public Policy Polling survey finds Democrats with the edge in the race to replace Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) leads former Rep. Heather Wilson (R) 47% to 42% and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez 45% to 39%. State Auditor Hector Balderas (D) leads Wilson 45% to 39% and Sanchez 39% to 35%.

Breakthrough Reached on Stalled Trade Pacts

Congressional negotiators broke a weeks-long stalemate on trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, likely clearing the way for summer votes on the long-stalled deals, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Washington Post: “The trade deals, which were originally negotiated during the Bush administration, had been held up for years because of concerns among Democrats over Panama’s labor and tax-haven laws and anti-union violence in Colombia.”

Do House Democrats Care About the Debt Ceiling Vote?

Jonathan Chait: “Think through what happens if the government defaults on its debt. You have an economic crisis. People get mad at House Republicans, which helps Obama, but the economy also teeters, which ultimately hurts Obama but does not hurt House Democrats very much. Indeed, a default crisis would seem to increase the chances of the 2012 elections producing a Republican president and a Democratic House. I suspect Pelosi knows that.”

How Long Will Blagojevich Spend in Prison?

The Chicago Tribune notes that on paper at least, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich “could be sentenced to as much as 300 years in prison following his conviction Monday on 17 counts of corruption. But how much does he really face?”

“Seasoned criminal-defense attorneys and former prosecutors consulted by the Tribune estimate Blagojevich could be looking at about 10 years, based on recent public corruption sentences here. The sentence could take months to formulate.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I think clearly what this demonstrates is that the president of the United States is afraid of my candidacy. He fears me.”

— Rep. Michele Bachmann, in an interview on Fox News, suggesting the Obama campaign’s attack against her campaign launch is evidence of their trepidation.

Has Wall Street Really Snubbed Obama?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: “The conventional wisdom, of course, is that Wall Street has turned its back on Mr. Obama out of frustration with his so-called antibusiness rhetoric and ‘fat cat’ comments about bankers. But Wall Street’s absence may be more about optics — the way things appear — than reality. Behind the scenes, it seems that many bankers are not running away from the president as quickly as some might suspect.”

Cartoon of the Day

6-29-11.jpg

 

Romney’s Under-the-Radar Campaign

Howard Kurtz says Mitt Romney “is working hard at being boring — and it’s paying off.”

“The man almost universally described as a weak front-runner is avoiding the press, raising money, and staying out of the spotlight — all of which provides no compelling storyline other than the recycled ones about Romney’s varied vulnerabilities and past flip-flops. And that suits his strategists just fine. They want to keep him out of the rough and tumble of the daily news cycle and focused on just one issue: fixing the economy. They firmly believe that nothing else will matter in 2012 — not Romney’s personality, not his Massachusetts health-care plan, not whether he is ill at ease with working-class voters.”

Lawmaker Blasted on Vote to Legalize Same Sex Marriage

“Three days after his historic vote to legalize same-sex marriage in New York,” state Sen. Mark Grisanti (R) defended his action “while absorbing a series of political body blows from furious Republican and Conservative leaders,” the Buffalo News reports.

“The Buffalo Republican, whose underdog victory last November swung control of the Senate to the GOP, also would not rule out running as a Democrat when he faces the voters again in 2012, backing off on a blanket rejection of such a move that he made after the Friday vote.”

Said Grisanti: “I’m not saying I will rule it out but I do not see that — jumping over to the Democratic side.”

Obama Approval on the Economy Hits New Low

A new McClatchy-Marist poll finds just 37% of registered voters approve of President Obama’s handling of the economy, his lowest rating ever.

“Another ominous sign for Obama: By nearly 2-1, voters disapprove of how he’s handling the federal budget deficit, expected to hit a record $1.5 trillion this fiscal year.”

Said pollster Lee Miringoff: “It’s a real caution sign… the four-year lease on the White House is very much dependent on how people end up looking at the economy.”

Bachmann Keeps Her Own View of History

Instead of conceding to ABC News that she made a mistake calling John Quincy Adams a “Founding Father” of the United States, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) insisted she was right and claimed the future American president was a “young boy but he was actively involved” in the American Revolution.

Steve Benen: “I hate to be a stickler for reality, but when the Declaration of Independence was signed, John Quincy Adams was a nine-year-old boy. To say he was ‘actively involved’ in the Revolutionary War era is awfully silly. Wouldn’t Bachmann be better off simply acknowledging she misspoke?”

Iowa Matters

First Read: “So who, exactly, is still saying that Iowa doesn’t matter? After Michele Bachmann’s formal announcement yesterday in the state (in Waterloo), Sarah Palin tonight attends the premiere of that pro-Palin documentary, The Undefeated (in Pella). And the president of the United States also is in Iowa today, delivering a 1:05 pm ET speech on manufacturing (in Bettendorf). Memo to the Mitt Romneys and Jon Huntsmans who aren’t making Iowa a priority right now: Obama is in the Hawkeye State today because it’s a swing state.”

“And by not aggressively playing in Iowa, are they downplaying their Iowa chances in the general? Consider: It’s very difficult THIS CYCLE to imagine how a Republican nominee gets to 270 electoral votes without winning two of the three states of Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The road to the White House for a Republican goes through the Midwest — or it doesn’t happen.”

 

Weiner Seeks Hand in Picking His Successor

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) “is trying to insert himself back into politics — calling power brokers and would-be candidates for his old seat, hoping they’ll let him play a role in choosing his own successor,” the New York Post reports.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has yet to select a date for the special election, but a report last week suggested it would take place at the same time as the state’s September primary election.

Romney Pushing Earlier Utah Primary

Mitt Romney’s advisers are working to try to get Utah’s Republican presidential primary “moved up, from late June to earlier in the spring where it might play a bigger role in the nomination process,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

“If the Romney camp is successful, it could set up an early showdown between Romney, chief of the 2002 Olympics in Utah, and former Gov. Jon Huntsman in Huntsman’s old backyard — and it is a contest that, according to recent statewide polls, Romney would likely win.”

Palin Has Made a Decision

Bristol Palin told Fox News that her mother had made up her mind already about whether to run for president in 2012.

Said Palin: “She definitely knows.”

The younger Palin said previously that she wants her mother to run.

Woolsey Will Not Seek Another Term

Ten-term incumbent Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), “who has been one of the strongest antiwar voices in Congress, announced Monday that she will retire at the end of her term, setting up a battle to represent the liberal district in 2012,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Woolsey’s district will probably be reshaped after California’s political boundaries are redrawn during the state’s once-a-decade redistricting, but it likely will remain Democratic.

Member vs. Member Battles

Roll Call notes that during the last redistricting cycle 10 years ago, 16 members of Congress were forced to face off against a colleague: Eight each in primaries and general elections.

With nine Congressional maps already signed into law this year, the 2012 cycle is on track to showcase even more Members facing each other than a decade ago.

Quote of the Day

“I sure hope that no one breaks into my office this time.”

— Former Sen. George McGovern (D-SD), quoted by the Washington Post, on his law firm moving to the Watergate.

Majority of New Yorkers Support New Law

A new Quinnipiac pol in New York finds that 54% of the state’s voters back the new law allowing same sex marriage, including 70% of voters under 35.

Obama Steps Into Debt Ceiling Negotiations

With the state of discussions on raising the national debt ceiling appearing to be in disarray, Morning Score notes that President Obama is “stepping up his direct involvement in debt-ceiling negotiations, meeting separately with both parties’ leaders in the Senate.”

The Hill: “It appears negotiators will miss the July 1 deadline they set for themselves to reach an agreement after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) abruptly withdrew from the talks last Thursday… Until now, the debt-ceiling talks have been a summit of seconds-in-command — Vice President Joe Biden, Cantor and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) — with principals Obama, Reid and Boehner monitoring the talks from a distance.”

The Reverse Revolving Door

While much attention is paid to the vast sums of money made by government employees who move to lobbying and consulting firms in the private sector, a new analysis by The Hill reveals the extent to which lobbyists who come to work on Capitol Hill take steep pay cuts to do so.

“The ex-lobbyists who went to work in the House earned, on average, more than $238,000 per year while working on K Street. Those same lobbyists are on pace to make more than $144,000 per year, on average, in the House, which equals an average pay cut of about $94,000. Ex-lobbyists who went to work in the Senate last year were earning more than $309,000, on average, in their old jobs, according to financial disclosure forms. They are on pace to take in an average of more than $160,000 as a staffer, for an average pay cut of more than $149,000.”

Will Mark Kelly Run?

The Fix takes a deeper look at rumors that Mark Kelly, the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), might run for office in Arizona and examines the different options available to the Gulf War veteran and retired astronaut.

State legislature: “If Kelly wanted to run for state legislature…he would need to prove Arizona residency for the past three years. Kelly and Giffords are currently living near Houston, Texas, where the congresswoman is going through rehabilitation therapy.”

Giffords’ seat: “That seat could change under redistricting — an independent commission draws the lines, so anything could happen. But the commission did not do much to hurt incumbents last time around, so Giffords has a good chance of keeping her district relatively intact. That district is very competitive, with Giffords winning reelection by less than one percent in 2010. But the couple’s inspiring story, along with Kelly’s non-political background, could only help in 2012.”

U.S. Senate: “Giffords was considered the favorite in that open-seat contest before the shooting that put her in the hospital for five months; in her absence, no new contender has stepped up… That race would be more difficult for a political neophyte. The likely GOP nominee is well-known Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who announced his candidacy back in February and has been fundraising ever since. As of April, he had $1.5 million on hand.”

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