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Morning Bulletin – Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

4944099On the day after President Obama's optimistic speech on the economy – where he used the term "glimmers of hope" for the fourth time in three weeks, per CBS News' Mark Knoller – he shifts his focus to taxes on the day when Americans' income taxes are due.

"He will hold a private meeting with [2 or 3] working families who will benefit from the tax relief that has been a core component of the Administration's efforts to date," according to a White House official.

At around Noon ET, "Following the meeting, he will deliver remarks on restoring fairness to the tax code and providing tax relief to working families. He'll point out the tax relief that was included in the economic stimulus plan, specifically "the Recovery Act (making work pay), consumer business lending initiative for small businesses, investment in education, tax credits for first time home buyers, and deficit reduction."

However, former RNC spokesman Alex Conant argues in the Weekly Standard that the president hasn't kept his campaign promises on taxes.

"With Obama in office for fewer than 100 days, it's already clear his tax pledges were largely campaign rhetoric. Some of the tax relief he proposed during the campaign was forgotten soon after he won. For example: His $3,000 per job tax credit to incentivize businesses to hire additional employees has never been heard from again. Other tax cuts that Obama once championed have been deferred until after his term in office.

"Specifically, according to his budget, his plan to eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses is not scheduled to take effect until 2014. Considering the urgency of this proposal on the campaign trail--it remains a cornerstone of his jobs agenda on his transition team's website--it's curious that he now believes those tax credits are not needed for the next 5 years. Even Obama's much-ballyhooed 'Making Work Pay' tax credit is not what it seems. Originally passed in the stimulus bill, the subsequent budget passed by Congress ends the credit in just two years."

Meantime, across the country, "Several Republican lawmakers are expected at 750 Boston Tea Party-styled protests to mark the day federal taxes are due," reports the Hill's Ian Swanson.

"House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is attending a party in Bakersfield, Calif., while House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will join protestors in Madison, Wis. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich is said to be attending an event in New York, and other lawmakers could attend parties from coast to coast, though organizers said they couldn't say how many lawmakers would show up. Don't expect too many Democrats to join them. While the events highlighting government spending and excessive taxation are notionally bipartisan, President Obama and congressional Democrats will come up for plenty of criticism. ...

"The events are inspired in part by a CNBC anchor's diatribe against Obama. Organizers say they've stirred so much interest their servers have crashed."

On this Tax Day, the LA Times' Tom Hamburger and Ralph Vartabedian remind everyone about Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's – and other administration officials' - tax problems and point out that some aren't happy about the slaps on the wrist they received.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
"The Treasury secretary, who oversees the IRS, initially didn't pay all his taxes. Neither did five other top nominees for the Obama administration or their spouses. Now, as tonight's tax deadline looms, some Americans are rhetorically asking: What would have happened to me if I had done the same thing?

"The resentful reaction to such disclosures resonates not just among the anti-tax people organizing protests around the country today, but in low- and high-income neighborhoods of cities like Los Angeles -- and even in the hallways of the Internal Revenue Service. 'Our members are upset and angry,' said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, referring to concern bubbling up inside the IRS over unusually strict rules that can cost IRS agents their jobs if they make a mistake, whereas Geithner and others are treated with relative leniency.

"In addition, the Geithner case is making the work of IRS compliance agents a bit harder, she said. ... Robert Schriebman, a Rolling Hills Estates tax attorney, said his clients were seething over the tough treatment they get from the IRS compared with what happened to some in the president's Cabinet. A small concrete contractor who failed to make timely payments of payroll taxes asked how Geithner got away without paying his taxes for so long when the IRS is on his case every week, Schriebman recalled.

"'Politically powerful people are less likely to get bothered by the IRS,' Schriebman said. 'It is more than a question of fairness. Not only is the IRS looking away from confronting influential people; the IRS is getting a lot tougher and nastier toward the little guy.'"

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Tomorrow, President Obama embarks on a trip to Latin America – first to Mexico for meetings with President Felipe Calderon, then to Trinidad for this weekend's Summit of the Americas, where he's sure to face unhappy leaders over the economy.

"President Obama plans to take his message of partnership to Latin America and the Caribbean this week, but he will face a group of leaders far less forgiving than their European counterparts were about the United States' central role in the global financial crisis," reports the Washington Post's Scott Wilson.

"Over the past five years, the region has posted the fastest economic growth rates in the world, lifting millions of Latin Americans out of poverty. Now, those gains are threatened by a downturn that, as Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno said, 'is the hemisphere's first economic crisis not made in Latin America.'

"At the fifth Summit of the Americas, hosted by Trinidad and Tobago, Obama will encounter several Latin American leaders who have long criticized the economic mix of free trade, privatization and public-debt reduction known as 'the Washington consensus.'

"Although Obama will signal the same change in tone and approach from the Bush administration that he delivered to Europe, his audience will be different in its politics and personality. Among the leaders he will meet for the first time is Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, who used the week before the summit to visit China, Iran and Cuba, in part to celebrate what he said was the end of American financial hegemony. Nicaragua's president, Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista leader who battled the U.S.-sponsored contra insurgency through the 1980s, will be there. So will Evo Morales of Bolivia, the only president to have expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration from his country."

ALMOST-SENATOR AL FRANKEN, D-MINN.: The Democratic National Committee is on the air with a radio ad urging Minnesotans to tell Republican Norm Coleman to give up his fight (he has indicated that he will appeal a three-judge panel's ruling that Democrat Al Franken is the winner).

"Enough is enough. America is in an economic crisis - and Minnesota faces unique challenges of its own," the ad says. "Minnesota deserves two Senators and voters deserve to have their verdict stand without delay. Call Norm Coleman ... Tell him that it is time to concede."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune's Kevin Diaz reports, "The national debate over Minnesota's Senate dispute boiled with new energy Tuesday.

Republicans encouraged Norm Coleman to fight on; Democrats pressed him to give up. Revving up for the clash now headed for the Minnesota Supreme Court, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) sent out an appeal for donations calling Monday's court decision 'a fundamentally misguided ruling that disenfranchises over 4,000 Minnesota voters.' ...

"The ruling, by a three-judge panel, swept aside Coleman's legal claims and declared DFLer Al Franken the winner of the race by 312 votes. Democrats, noting that Minnesota has gone 100 days without a second U.S. senator, accused the Republicans of stalling to keep Franken from becoming the party's crucial 59th Senate vote -- one shy of a filibuster-proof supermajority."

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney writes, "Mr. Franken and Mr. Coleman are caught in a political twilight, players in a race that will not end. A three-judge panel declared Mr. Franken the winner on Monday by 312 votes out of roughly 3 million cast, after a seven-week trial, but Mr. Coleman promptly announced that he would appeal to the state's highest court, raising the prospect that Minnesota will not get its second senator until the Congressional recess begins this summer.

"This is not merely another example of the kind of whisker-close political contest that has become a regular part of the American political landscape since the 2000 presidential race. It is a source of frustration to a White House eager to get Mr. Franken's vote in the Senate as it prepares for big battles over health care, taxes, the environment, spending and other issues. He would be the 59th Democrat, putting the party just one shy of what it needs to stop Republicans from blocking bills through procedural means. ...

"It is embarrassing to many Minnesotans who fear the drawn out vote count is turning this proud and proper state into, as an editorial in The Albert Lea Tribune put it last week, a laughing stock.

"... And it is posing a tough political challenge for the state's Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty, who is now considering whether to seek re-election next year and whether to run for president in 2012. Under state law, Mr. Pawlenty has to certify the election result before a senator is seated, and he is facing conflicting pressure from Republicans in Washington to keep Mr. Coleman in the Senate and Minnesotans eager for the race to end."

Politico's Manu Raju asks if the fight is the "new Bush v. Gore": "With its angry charges about voter disenfranchisement, a controversial hand recount and a high-stakes courtroom drama, the battle between Norm Coleman and Al Franken in Minnesota is beginning to look a lot like Bush v. Gore. Or is it?

"Coleman has raised the epic 2000 election fight – and the 5-4 Supreme Court decision that resolved it – in trying to make the argument that Minnesota violated the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause by allowing different counties to use different methods to count absentee ballots. Coleman has even retained a legendary Bush v. Gore figure, Republican lawyer Ben Ginsberg, to help represent him. But in ruling against Coleman Monday night, a three-judge panel made its view perfectly clear: This case is not Bush v. Gore, and Minnesota's electoral process is nothing like Florida's."

BLAGO: Former Gov. Rod Blagovich, D-Illinois, appeared in federal court Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to the charges of racketeering and fraud that could send him to prison.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
"Mr. Blagojevich pleaded not guilty at his arraignment here to 16 federal criminal counts, including racketeering conspiracy in what prosecutors describe as a broad scheme that included efforts to obtain money in exchange for an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama," reports the New York Times' Monica Davey.

"The defendant, a lawyer who has spent most of his career in politics, said little in the courtroom but told a crush of reporters in the lobby of the Dirksen Federal Building that his legal strategy was, simply, 'the truth.' 'Black care never catches a rider whose pace is fast enough,' he said at one point, offering a slight variation on something Theodore Roosevelt once said. 'You got that?'"

If watching this story unfold over the past several months didn't feel like a reality show, it could literally be one very soon. "The indicted pol has agreed to appear on 'I'm a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here,' a survival-style reality show set to air beginning June 1 on NBC, the network confirmed," the Chicago Tribune's Stacy St. Clair writes.

"The opportunity could prove a bonanza for the financially pressed former governor, given the show would pay him $80,000 a week, a source said. Before he can ink the deal, however, Blagojevich would need permission from the federal judge presiding over his corruption trial to fly to Costa Rica, where the show will be filmed. Blagojevich's attorney told the judge Tuesday that the ex-governor soon would be making a request to loosen travel restrictions placed on him as part of his bail."

CIA MEMOS: The Obama administration is leaning toward keeping secret some graphic details of tactics allowed in Central Intelligence Agency interrogations, despite a push by some top officials to make the information public, according to people familiar with the discussions," reports the Wall Street Journal's Evan Perez and Siobhan Gorman.

"These people cautioned that President Barack Obama is still reviewing internal arguments over the release of Justice Department memorandums related to CIA interrogations, and how much information will be made public is in flux. Among the details in the still-classified memos is approval for a technique in which a prisoner's head could be struck against a wall as long as the head was being held and the force of the blow was controlled by the interrogator, according to people familiar with the memos. Another approved tactic was waterboarding, or simulated drowning.

"A decision to keep secret key parts of the three 2005 memos outlining legal guidance on CIA interrogations would anger some Obama supporters who have pushed him to unveil now-abandoned Bush-era tactics. It would also go against the views of Attorney General Eric Holder and White House Counsel Greg Craig, people familiar with the matter said. Top CIA officials have spoken out strongly against a full release, saying it would undermine the agency's credibility with foreign intelligence services and hurt the agency's work force, people involved in the discussions said. However, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair favors releasing the information, current and former senior administration officials said."


NY Times' David E. Sanger and Eric Dash, "U.S. Planning to Reveal Data on Health of Top Banks": "The Obama administration is drawing up plans to disclose the conditions of the 19 biggest banks in the country, according to senior administration officials, as it tries to restore confidence in the financial system without unnerving investors. The administration has decided to reveal some sensitive details of the stress tests now being completed after concluding that keeping many of the findings secret could send investors fleeing from financial institutions rumored to be weakest.

"While all of the banks are expected to pass the tests, some are expected to be graded more highly than others. Officials have deliberately left murky just how much they intend to reveal — or to encourage the banks to reveal — about how well they would weather difficult economic conditions over the next two years. As a result, indicating which banks are most vulnerable still runs some risk of doing what officials hope to avoid."

Washington Post's David Cho and Binyamin Applebaum, "Ahead of Stress Test Results, Banks Balk at More Federal Aid"

NY Times' Louise Story, "U.S. Program Lends a Hand to Banks, Quietly"

Wall Street Journal's John Hilsenrath, "Bernanke's PR Push Rewrites Fed Script"

NY Times' Stephen Labaton, "Candidate for Bailout Post Faces Possible Delay"


Associated Press' Eileen Sullivan, "Source: Napolitano to name a 'border czar'"

LA Times' Richard Marosi and Josh Meyer, "Border czar will try to repeat his success"


Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown, "Sebelius revises donations filing"

Reuters' Alyce Hinton, "U.S. blacks try to turn pride over Obama into gains"


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand weighs in on the fight over her old House seat in Huffington Post, "Let My Vote and Every Vote Be Counted"

Albany Times Union, "Gillibrand ballot makes GOP hit list": "Poll watchers for Republican congressional candidate Jim Tedisco challenged Gillibrand's absentee ballot when it showed up in the queue during counting in Columbia County. The campaign worker argued the senator who splits her time between Greenport and Washington, D.C. was in the county on Election Day and should have voted in person."'s Jimmy Vielkind, "A Recount Slows, Then Turns a Little Ugly"


2010 CA Governor: Associated Press' Beth Fouhy, "Eyeing governor's chair, Brown goes back to future"

2010 TX Governor: Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Anna M. Tinsley, "Friedman forms committee to explore running for governor as a Democrat"

2010 FL Governor: Quinnipiac University Poll, "The lousy economy is having no impact on Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's sky-high job approval, which remains 66 - 23 percent positive, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Republican Crist's 66 - 20 percent approval among Democrats and 68 - 23 percent approval with independent voters is as good as his 68 - 25 percent score among Republicans."

2010 FL Senate: St. Petersburg Times' Adam C. Smith, "In shift, Marco Rubio is willing to battle Charlie Crist for Senate"

2010 PA Senate: Philadelphia Inquirer's Tom Fitzgerald, "Toomey announces GOP Senate bid"

2012 President: Associated Press' Shannon McCaffrey, "Gingrich eyes possible White House run in 2012"

2012 President: U.S. News and World Report's Paul Bedard, "Is the GOP Waving Bye-Bye to Sarah Palin?"