POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - MAY 11, 2010

05/11/2010 05:59 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bernie Sanders' Fed audit amendment finally passed. Top market officials appeared before Financial Services to discuss last Thursday's market fluctuation. Executives from BP, Halliburton and Transocean attacked each others' reliability. Market journos will tag out to SCOTUS watchers who will closely follow Elena Kagan's tour of the Hill tomorrow. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, May 11th, 2010:

BREAKING

JUST IN - FIRST KAGAN POLL: "A Gallup immediate-reaction poll to President Barack Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court finds 40% of Americans rating the choice as 'excellent' or 'good,' and 14% rating it as 'poor.' Overall, Kagan's ratings are similar to those for Samuel Alito and Harriet Miers, but not as positive as those for Sonia Sotomayor and John Roberts." http://bit.ly/aL9ntO

EXCLUSIVE: MAJOR DONORS PUSH FOR CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM America's rich are uniting, hoping to cast off the chains of nagging phone calls from politicians soliciting contributions. A powerful group of 25 major donors has signed a pledge to withhold cash from any politician who doesn't sign on to the Larson-Jones FAIR Elections Now Act, which would usher in real public campaign financing. Public financing would result in diminished influence for special interests and, in fact, the donors themselves. Steve Kirsch, who kicked in $10 million to try to elect Al Gore in 2000, told HuffPost Hill he's willing to accept the reduced access - since that access rarely translates into results. "It is a trade off, because there are a lot of good things you can talk to them about, but most of the time they don't do anything about it anyway. Given the choice, I'd rather have campaign finance reform than access," he said. The 25 donors plan to lobby other rich folks to sign on, with a plan of passing the FAIR Act, which has some 140 cosponsors, this year. The campaign's being run by Change Congress, co-founded by Lawrence Lessig and Joe Trippi, along with Common Cause and the Public Campaign Action Fund. More on the donor strike, and the full list of the donors, in HuffPost tomorrow.

MERKLEY-KLOBUCHAR WALL STREET AMENDMENT TOMORROW MORNING The amendment would ban "steering payments" -- incentives for mortgage brokers to steer borrowers into bad loans. It would also require borrowers prove they can actually pay the loan back. It'll be a side-by-side with a Corker amendment.

KAGAN ON THE HILL - The SCOTUS nominee will meet with Harry Reid at 10, Mitch McConnell at 11, Pat Leahy at noon, Jeff Sessions at 12:45 and Dick Durbin at 2:30.

Complaints over diversity of Kagan's hires still bubbling under the radar. White House pushback to WaPo: "Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler added that as solicitor general Kagan's 'hiring record reflects a strong commitment to hiring qualified candidates of all races and genders.' According to the department, Kagan's hires since March 2009 have included one white man, three white women, one Asian man and one Indian man."

The most aggressive Elena Kagan research shop in operation -- at Media Matters for America -- posted a long essay this PM titled "Rumors," criticizing writers like Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan and Slate's Jack Shafer, who knocked the White House for not giving a clear answer on Kagan's sexuality. That's FALSE, Media Matters says -- the White House has made very clear that Kagan is not gay.

WHODUNIT? MAYBE NOT FAT FINGER - SEC chief Mary Schapiro told House Financial Services that investigators have yet to pinpoint a single reason for Thursday's stock plunge. Ditto CFTC chair Gary Gensler, who said there is no evidence of someone's chubby fingers inciting the chaos but that it couldn't be ruled out, either. NASDAQ's head of transaction services said new mechanisms are needed to halt trading when the S&P falls too quickly in a given period. http://bit.ly/dlOd8d

ALSO, a stat of the day: 3 of America's 6 largest banks -- Goldman, JPMorgan, and BofA -- had 100% PERFECT trading quarters, turning profits on every single one of the 63 trading days from January though March, according to SEC filings dug through by HuffPost's Shahien Nasiripour. http://huff.to/bTDzez

SCOOP: CLIMATE BILL PREVIEW - From The Hill: "The Senate climate change bill will call for greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by 17 percent by 2020... '[W]e institute important new protections for coastal states by allowing them to opt out of drilling up to 75 miles from their shores. In addition, directly impacted states can veto drilling plans...' The long-awaited bill, to be released in full on Wednesday, also includes a 37.5 percent state royalty share to help protect coastlines and coastal ecosystems. That could upset drilling opponents who see the royalties as an inducement for expanded offshore drilling." http://bit.ly/a79Ds7 Full discussion draft: http://bit.ly/a8oFNz Dave Roberts weighs in: http://bit.ly/9U2xq0

Tomorrow in HuffPost: A climate bill curtain raiser from Sen. John Kerry explaining where things stand.

Ken Salazar to CNN's Wolf Blitzer about when the oil spill ends: "Worst case is you're looking at August..."

DAVID CAMERON IS NEW PRIME MINISTER - The Guardian's lede: "David Cameron has entered 10 Downing Street as prime minister, returning the Conservative party to power after 13 years. Cameron accepted the Queen's invitation to form a new government shortly before 8.30pm and minutes later spoke to the country outside Downing Street alongside his wife, Samantha, and announced he will establish a 'proper and full' coalition with the Liberal Democrats - the first in British politics since 1945. It follows four days of intense negotiations between all three main political parties sparked by last week's election which delivered a hung parliament." http://bit.ly/a99g22

The fallout: "We still know very little about the nature of the coalition deal. But if the Lib Dems are happy with it, it's safe to assume that many of the Tory manifesto promises favoured by the right will have been ditched. The inheritance tax increase is likely to be a goner. The marriage tax break may not survive in any meaningful form. The Cameroons may be quite happy about this. The inheritance tax cut proposal became a liability during the election campaign. But there are already suggestions that the right, and the rightwing press, are unhappy." http://bit.ly/9LL8EC

Downing Street dispatch about President Obama's call: "The prime minister, David Cameron, took a call from President Obama shortly after arriving in Downing Street. The US President offered his congratulations to Mr Cameron on his appointment as prime minister. He also invited the prime minister to visit the United States in July and said he was looking forward to seeing him in June at G8 and G20 meetings. They also discussed Afghanistan, the Middle East Peace Process and Iran."

"NON-LOBBYING" ENTITY EXPANDS, PREPARES K STREET TAKEOVER - HuffPost Hill caught up with Brien Bonneville and Larry Mitchell, founders of K Street Research, the very first "non-lobbying entity." KSR markets itself as a firm that does everything a lobbyshop does but without making "lobbying contacts," so clients can keep their names out of that pesky Lobbying Disclosure Act database and avoid the "Scarlet L." Big news over at KSR: They've added Tim Farnsworth, a former colleague from Bonneville and Mitchell's former employer KSCW. They've got nine clients who pay the firm an unknown amount for its "non-lobbying" information services. Bonneville and Mitchell say they draw inspiration for their innovative business model from Robert Kaiser's "So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government," a book about pioneering superlobbyist Gerald Cassidy. "It's kind of a cult classic around here," said Mitchell. Ironies abound... Full story from Arthur Delaney in the morning.

Watch and be inspired. Here's the video mash-up the Senate GOP watched over lunch today: http://bit.ly/cwlazz

Don't be bashful: Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to huffposthill@huffingtonpost.com

TRENDING

FED AUDIT PASSES, FINANCIAL REFORM DEBATE CONTINUES- The Bernie Sanders compromise Fed audit amendment passed this morning 96-0. HuffPost on the amendment's bumpy road to passage: "The Sanders amendment began as a reflection of language passed by the House and cosponsored by Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) that would authorize a broad audit of the Fed. In negotiations with Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and officials from the Fed, Sanders scaled back his audit and restricted it to a one-time look at lending activity from December 1, 2007 until the present -- information that the Fed has so far fought to keep from disclosing. It goes further in some respects than the Paul-Grayson measure, in that it mandates the disclosure of recipients of Fed largesse." A broader amendment, from David Vitter, went down, 62-37, immediately after, with previous supporters voting against it as part of the deal that led to Sanders' compromise. Yet Sanders voted for the tougher amendment despite his compromise deal with Dodd. http://huff.to/b3qlYz

Classic Bernie photo from after the vote: http://bit.ly/dbWDJV

This as Al Franken's amendment to prohibit banks from choosing their own credit rating assessors picked up GOP backing: "Often, banks will ask raters for a preliminary review, allowing them to pick the rater most likely to look favorably on whatever bundle of products the bank wants to sell to investors. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the highest ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, said today he'd back Franken's effort. The amendment is also backed by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who overheard a Franken speech on the measure on the Senate floor and was intrigued...Under Franken's amendment, a bank would be randomly assigned a rating agency and companies who consistently delivered inaccurate results would be penalized with less business -- the way the free market would work if there was one. The selection process would also open to gates to smaller rating agencies to compete against the oligopoly of the big three raters."

OIL SPILL HEARINGS CONTINUE - This afternoon the Environment and Public Works Committee grilled top officials from BP, Halliburton and Transocean just hours after the same executives appeared before Energy and Natural Resources. The whole thing started to feel like an Escher drawing as the BS rolled downhill and proceeded to roll back up again. BP blamed Transocean for running the rig. Transocean blamed Halliburton for the cement plug in the rig. Halliburton blamed Transocean for shoddy safeguard mechanisms. Transocean blamed BP for overseeing the whole thing. Committee member Frank Lautenberg called offshore drilling "[A] 19th century solution to a 21st century problem." The Guardian's Richard Adams' terrific live blog: http://bit.ly/bBTkEc

Earlier in the day, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee convened to investigate the oil slick. Officials from the same companies played hot potato with the question of who was to blame for the environmental disaster. BP America Chairman Lamar McKay passed the buck to Transocean, noting that it, not BP, owned the overturned oil rig. Transocean CEO Steven Newman pointed his finger right back, telling the committee that "offshore oil and gas production projects begin and end with the operator, in this case BP." Newman also criticized Halliburton which was subcontracted to encase the well pipe in cement. Halliburton executive Tim Probert insisted his company had properly fulfilled its duty. "I hear one message - don't blame me," said John Barrasso. http://huff.to/aRQSh9

Bennett Roth in Roll Call on the scene: The hearing, the first of several planned on the issue, was designed for maximum media attention with six tables filled with reporters taking up much of the cavernous room. Cameras clicked incessantly as chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) entered the room and strode down the first row, shaking hands with the executives and their aides seated beside them. It was a remarkably homogenous group. All but one executive in the front row was male. All were white. As the executives made their introductions, several protesters ensured they, too, got in the pictures. Clad in pink shirts and hats, they jumped up and waved signs, including 'BP kills wildlife' and 'Spill Baby, Spill.'"

OBAMA'S NUMBERS REBOUNDING - Two polls today suggest the president's approval numbers are rising. A PPP survey has Obama's support at 50% (the highest since October of last year) and Gallup's daily tracking puts it at 51%. http://bit.ly/bDVNno

PRIMARY DAY...AGAIN - Although today's contests aren't engendering the same excitement as last week's Tea Party resurrection-that-wasn't, polls are still closing on some noteworthy races:

In West Virginia, Alan Mollohan tries to fend off a challenge from state senator Mike Oliverio. Oliverio has leveraged an anti-incumbency sentiment in the district into a roughly 2-to-1 fundraising advantage over Mollohan. Polls close at 7:30 pm.

In Georgia, voters are choosing a replacement for former Rep. Nathan Deal who left the House to run for governor. It's an open primary, and with six Republicans and one Democrat in the race, it is unlikely that any contender will nab enough votes to avoid a June 8th runoff. http://bit.ly/cA1ndb

Elsewhere in Georgia, Jimmy Carter's grandson, Jason Carter, will try and become the first Carter in elected office since his grandfather left the White House in 1981. The younger Carter is vying for a state Senate seat against three other candidates. http://bit.ly/a9WdwI

NEW SPECTER AD IN PA. - With polls showing Joe Sestak opening up a multiple point lead over Arlen Specter, the Specter campaign began running a new TV spot highlighting Obama's endorsement today: http://bit.ly/bQW9OU ...

...which seemed oddly similar to an a Specter ran six years ago: http://bit.ly/9canaD

Will Bunch throws some water on the much ballyhooed ad: "Maybe I'm stupid or naive, but when Pa. TV viewers see a glowing endorsement of Specter from George W. Bush followed immediately by a glowing endorsement from Barack Obama, might they not conclude that Specter is a flip-flopping, career-minded politician? Probably not the best place to position yourself in 2010. Also, this gives conservatives something to rejoice about -- now Specter's loss will be pinned directly on the tail of Obama." http://bit.ly/9Q2Iyp

Steve Kornacki expounds on Specter's woulda-coulda-shouldas and concludes an independent bid was the best route: "[T]he value of all this establishment support is diminished -- significantly -- if the electorate simply doesn't want to vote for the establishment's candidate, as seems to be the case in Pennsylvania. Then, all it takes is one credible candidate to defy the establishment's pressure and jump in the race. By securing a one-on-one race against Specter, Sestak long ago put himself in position to corral the Anyone-but-Specter crowd, just as soon as the electorate actually began paying attention to the campaign. In this sense, the push to clear the field for Specter backfired: With multiple challengers, Specter would probably be in a better position to prevail next week." http://bit.ly/9CG8zr

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here are some dudes breakdancing in the D.C. metro: http://bit.ly/cWQ8kf

WHITE HOUSE RENEWS OPPOSITION TO POT LEGALIZATION - As California mulls legalizing weed, President Obama skunked the possibility of federal action , reiterating his administration's opposition to legal marijuana. The Hill: "The president and his drug czar re-emphasized their opposition to legalizing drugs in the first release of its National Drug Control Strategy this morning. 'Keeping drugs illegal reduces their availability and lessens willingness to use them,' the document, prepared by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, says. 'That is why this Administration firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drug.'" http://bit.ly/dn8pzo

But the old Drug Czar's for it. Former Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey is hard at work to beat the California initiative, too. But he was for it before he was against it. It's called YouTube, General, and you're busted. McCaffrey, asked about legalizing pot: "There's a 10-minute answer, there's an hour answer, there's a three-day answer. And, fortunately, since I'm not in public life, I actually don't care. I care about 6th graders through 12th graders. If you're 40 years old, and you're living in Oregon, and you have 12 giant pot plants in the back of your log cabin, knock yourself out." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU6kMeuH8VM&eurl

KAGAN NICKNAME CONTEST - Folks offered up a number of monikers for the would-be justice. "Elka," "Kegger" and "Kay Duz" were among the keepers we received. Yet many readers sidestepped the nicknames and simply pointed out all the people Kagan resembles. The award for most left-field doppelganger goes to reader Raven Wagoner, who sees a striking similarity between Kagan and the late comedian Stubby Kaye, seen here: http://bit.ly/cf12Rx

COMFORT FOOD

- The June edition of Playboy will be in 3-D. http://huff.to/9d4Anl

- Goldfish are a lot more fun when you give them an obstacle course. http://bit.ly/auBLsW

- The most frivolous lawsuits ever. http://huff.to/9ylEiI

- A 13-year-old's rendition of "Paparazzi" is making pre-teens everywhere swoon. http://huff.to/bP7Dka

- Countries with the longest lifespans for men. http://huff.to/ddmzV0

- A collection of pop video tributes. http://bit.ly/di1Jn5

TWITTERAMA

@edatpost: Awesome: Gordon #Brown shows up at Buckingham Palace w/ full motorcade escort. He leaves the compound and his car is cut off by London taxis http://bit.ly/9SMFAz

@daveweigel: I hope David Cameron defunds ACORN's fiendish British satellite, ACOURN. http://bit.ly/cQ7JQO

@agolis: Up = down. RT @emptywheel Frmr Nation intern brings Tories to power in UK on same day 39 GOPers vote 4 Amendment offered by Socialist in US. http://bit.ly/clb8cX

THE TUBE

TONIGHT

Ken Salazar spoke to Dylan Ratigan about changes in the government's oversight of offshore drilling. John Garamendi was on Hardball talking about the oil spill. Quite the procession of elected officials on Ed Schultz: Mary Landrieu, Frank Lautenberg, Ben Cardin, Joe Sestak and Ron Wyden. Louis Gohmert is on Hannity. Robert Menendez and Bernie SandersTim Pawlenty, Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri and Mike Pence are on On the Record.

TOMORROW

Laura and Barbara Bush make an appearance on Fox and Friends. Jeff Sessions, John Kerry and Sherrod Brown. Blanche Lincoln and her primary challenger Bill Halter are on Morning Roundup.

ON TAP

TONIGHT

5:30 pm - 6:30 pm: Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.) hosts her final "Pre-Primary Cocktail Reception" [National Democratic Club Townhouse, 40 Ivy Street SE].

6:30 pm - 8:30 pm: Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) brings together a number of union representatives at the Strategic Healthcare Townhouse for his annual "Nathan's to Zabar's" reception. If anyone wouldn't mind stealing HuffPost Hill some whitefish and a bagel with lox, we would be eternally grateful [Strategic Healthcare Townhouse, 230 Second Street SE].

9:00 pm: Cafe St. Ex's iPod Jukebox gives patrons the chance to play DJ for a few moments. Bring your iPod and have your tunes vibrate through the bistro-cum-nightspot for 12 minutes [Cafe St. Ex, 1847 14th Street NW].

10:00 pm: Karaoke at Sticky Rice on H Street. A delightfully awkward cocktail of hipsters, Hill staffers and atonal renditions of history's most annoying ditties [Sticky Rice, 1224 H Street].

TOMORROW

8:30 am - 9:30 am: John Adler (D-N.J.) hosts a final "Pre-Primary" event of his own at Johnny's Half Shell. Nothing gets you going in the morning quite like a nice cup of Joe and fried oysters...ew [Johnny's Half Shell, 400 North Capitol Street NW #175].

8:30 am: Must be a big restaurant. Gene Green (D-Texas) also hosts a fundraiser at the Capitol Hill seafood joint. Lobbyists from U.S. Oncology host [Johnny's Half Shell, 400 North Capitol Street NW #175].

8:30 am - 9:30 am: Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.)'s fundraiser is being sponsored by his campaign PAC, "People for Ben." If there is a competing "Aardvarks for Ben," "Lake Trout for Ben" or "Escherichia coli for Ben," let us know [Tortilla Coast, 400 First Street SE].

8:30 am: Although we have our suspicions, we're not entirely sure if Kevin Brady's (R-Texas) "Oil and Gas" fundraiser refers to the food or the sponsors. Both make us queasy [Capitol Hill Club - 300 First Street SE].

8:30 am: Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.)'s final "Pre-Primary" event is at Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar in Capitol Hill [Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar, 223 Pennsylvania Ave SE].

8:30 am: John Olver (D-Mass.) has a breakfast fundraiser at Charlie Palmer Steak. They don't have a breakfast menu so don't be surprised if your $500 gets you runny eggs from the Dirksen cafeteria [Charlie Palmer Steak, 101 Constitution Ave NW].

Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (eliot@huffingtonpost.com), Ryan Grim (ryan@huffingtonpost.com) or Nico Pitney (nico@huffingtonpost.com). Follow us on Twitter @HuffPostHill (twitter.com/HuffPostHill). Sign up here: http://huff.to/an2k2e

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