McDonnell Meets with Romney Finance Chief

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) “remains mum about his political future” but the Virginian-Pilot reports he recently huddled with Spencer Zwick, the finance chair for Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential bids.

Russian Lawmaker Found in Barrel of Cement

The body of Mikhail Pakhomov, a missing Moscow legislator and construction tycoon, “has been found in a private basement garage on the city’s outskirts, inside a rusted metal barrel filled with cement,” the New York Times reports.

Police said “he had been tortured and killed over an outstanding $80 million loan.”

“The killing recalled the brutal violence that routinely emerged from business disputes in the 1990s. Mr. Pakhomov, who was reported missing last Tuesday, was a promising young star in United Russia, the ruling party founded by President Vladimir V. Putin, and had served as head of a construction company that was reported to have won large contracts to develop utilities and infrastructure in several cities.”

Lawmaker ‘Likes’ Racy, Violent Facebook Pages

New Jersey Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D) “is in hot water again over his Facebook page, with constituents wondering if it’s appropriate for one of their state legislators to have ‘liked’ Facebook pages such as Big Bootie Freaks and another page that posts videos of physical assaults,” the Jersey Journal reports.

Mainor said “he planned to un-like the page as soon as his daughter showed him how.”

Johanns Won’t Seek Another Term

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) “is expected to rock the Nebraska political scene this afternoon, announcing that he will retire after his term ends in 2014,” the Omaha World-Heraldreports.

“Johanns, who is heading back to Nebraska this morning, began to make telephone calls to key supporters, letting them know of his decision, several sources said.”

Roll Call: “Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) is term-limited from seeking re-election in 2014 and is considered a likely candidate in the race to replace Johanns. The governor has the right of first refusal, and if he runs he would be the ‘400-pound gorilla’ in the race… Most other Republicans would likely defer to him.”

Sink Says Another Bid for Florida Governor Unlikely

After the death of her husband, Alex Sink (D) tells the AP it’s unlikely she’ll make another bid for Florida governor.

Said Sink: “Without a husband, without the person that I relied on the most to shore me up and give me good advice. That’s changed. That’s changed everything. Right this minute, if you’re asking me, it’s off the table. I’m not prepared to say, ‘No I’m not,’ but I’m much further away from a run today than I was three months ago.”

Movie Inspires Mississippi to Finally Ratify 13th Amendment

The Clarion Ledger looks at how Mississippi finally officially ratified the 13th Amendment banning slavery this month, after a University of Mississippi professor saw the movie “Lincoln” and started digging into the history of the legislation’s ratification.

A Less Marginal Tea Party Spokesman

Hendrick Hertzberg: “This is the third year that the Republicans’ Tea Party faction has elbowed its way into the post-SOTU spotlight. Its previous spokespersons, Representative Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, the pizza mini-mogul, were marginal cranks. Rand Paul, though a crank, is not so marginal: like Rubio, he is a member of the United States Senate, nominally subject to the disciplines of that august body’s Republican caucus.”

Rubio Heads to Israel

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), “an emerging leader in the Republican Party who is considered one of the likely candidates for the 2016 US presidential race, is scheduled to meet on Wednesday in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu,” the Jerusalem Postreports.

Why Republicans Won’t Pass Obama’s Immigration Plan

Newt Gingrich admitted on ABC News that Republicans are likely to oppose any immigration reform backed by President Obama because they just don’t like him.

Said Gingrich: “I think that negotiated with a Senate immigration bill that has to have bipartisan support could actually get to the president’s desk. But an Obama plan led and driven by Obama in this atmosphere with the level of hostility towards the president and the way he goads the hostility I think is very hard to imagine that bill, that his bill is going to pass the House.”

Hillary Clinton Signs with Speaking Agency

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “will hit the paid speaking circuit this spring (likely April or May) and has selected the Harry Walker Agency, which represents President Clinton, as her agent. Industry officials expect that she will be one of the highest paid speakers in the history of the circuit, with fees well into the six figures in the United States and abroad,” Mike Allen reports.

Obama Seeks to Map the Human Brain

The Obama administration “is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics,” the New York Timesreports.

“The project, which the administration has been looking to unveil as early as March, will include federal agencies, private foundations and teams of neuroscientists and nanoscientists in a concerted effort to advance the knowledge of the brain’s billions of neurons and gain greater insights into perception, actions and, ultimately, consciousness.

No Easy Answers in GOP Civil War

Stu Rothenberg: “Republicans continue to argue about whether the party needs to take steps to prevent the next Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Todd Akin and Ken Buck, as well as how it might do so… The truth is that while most insiders agree about the problem, nobody has come up with an easy solution. And that’s because there isn’t a quick fix.”

“It is both true and obvious that not all uncompromising conservatives lose general elections and not all pragmatic conservatives win them. But in competitive contests and during years without a huge pro-Republican wave, the quality of candidates definitely matters. And ideological positioning is only one part of what makes a ‘quality’ nominee.”

Why Democrats Think They Can Retake the House

National Journal obtained a memo from DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (D-NY) to House Democrats which argues that the caucus “is in a stronger political position to start the 2014 campaign than in either of the last two cycles — an argument aimed at rebutting the hardening belief in Washington that House Republicans have a near-lock on their majority.”

The memo “boiled down to one theme: Republicans and their tea party allies are deeply unpopular with the public, which means that Democrats — with President Obama’s help — should be able to overcome a congressional map that leans red. Democrats, who won a net of eight seats last year, need to win another 17 more to retake the majority.”

Writes Israel: “Redistricting has empowered the worst elements of the Republican Party, amplifying the extremist echo chamber and making the tea party Republican congress toxic to voters. Republicans redrew already-safe members into even more Republican districts, driving control of their party more to their base, forcing more primaries, and making it less likely that they can put forward a party agenda that appeals to Independents.”

Foreign Governments Sponsor Travel for Staffers

According to a Washington Post examination, “more and more foreign governments are sponsoring all-expenses-paid trips to countries for lawmakers and their staffs, though an overhaul of ethics rules adopted by Congress five years ago banned them from going on most other types of free trips.”

“This overseas travel is often arranged by lobbyists for foreign governments, though lobbyists were barred from organizing other types of congressional trips out of concern that the trips could be used to buy favor. The overseas travel is covered by an exemption Congress granted itself for trips deemed to be cultural exchanges.”

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