Sarah Palin, Ph.D, apparently received her doctorate in Music Theory from the University of My Cousin's Wedding Reception Playlist. Chuck Schumer said "unicorn," which is ... y'know ... HILARIOUS. A congressional candidate's ad promoting brotherhood between Koreans and Jews reminds us what Spike Lee Joints would be like if Spike Lee were lobotomized and freebasing Prozac. And speaking of the movies, we learned that Tom Hagen does not clean up the messes of beleaguered Nevada senators as a token of the Corleones' friendship. Oh well. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, May 12th, 2011:
SENATE ETHICS COMMITTEE RELEASES ENSIGN REPORT - A man from a state where the interaction of money, sex and employment is not only common but legal in some places is catching flak for mixing the three. The Senate Ethics Committee today released its report on former Nevada Senator John Ensign's attempts to cover up his affair with the wife of a former aide. The report claims that Ensign "made false or misleading statements to the Federal Election Commission," violated campaign laws and obstructed the panel's investigation. It concludes that there is "substantial and credible evidence" that Ensign broke the law. The report itself contains a number of revealing facts about Ensign's cover-up -- like how Ensign listed Cynthia Hampton as "Aunt Judy" on his cell phone -- and salacious details about his affair. This one is our favorite: "Senator Ensign told Ms. Hampton that he wanted to marry her while they attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington." Yeeeeeesh. [AP]
The report alleges that Senator Tom Coburn knew of the affair and acted as a go-between as Ensign and Doug Hampton negotiated the terms of the ... um ... "severance". "Senator Ensign was told that the affair had to stop," the report says of a meeting brokered by Coburn at the C Street fellowship house between Ensign and Hampton. "Mr. Hampton was very emotional during the meeting, and at one point got very close to a physical confrontation with Senator Ensign. Senator Coburn asked Mr. Hampton to leave, stating 'we’ll take it from here. We ll take care of this.'" [HuffPost's Elise Foley]
@jbendery: Just walked by former Rep. Patrick Kennedy heading into the WH. Whats he doing here? His reply: " Slummin, you know."
MERKLEY: REGULATORS DOING ZIP ON FORECLOSURES - Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced a bill Thursday to force mortgage services to quit abusing homeowners like they've been doing for the past three years. The bill would give homeowners seeking modifications a single point of contact at their bank, end the crazy "dual track" process that lets banks pursue modifications and foreclosures simultaneously, and require third-party review before a bank can kick a family to the curb. Why, HuffPost Hill wanted to know, would they push this legislation now, shortly after federal regulators, including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, required exactly the same reforms in an April enforcement order? Merkley said the order wouldn't get the job done. “It’s essentially voluntary. It essentially says, 'Please do these things,'" Merkley said. "And the servicer can hire their own person to check on how they’re doing. It hardly hardly constitutes a strong step forward."
The OCC begs to differ. "These orders are not voluntary," a spokesman said. "They are enforceable through federal district courts, and we can impose penalties of more than $1 million a day for each day the bank is in violation of the order." As evidence the banks are taking the orders seriously, the spokesman pointed out that one bank (JPMorgan Chase) said it would hire some 3,000 employees to comply. As for that big settlement reportedly coming from a coalition of state Attorneys General, Merkley's not banking on it. "That is a mirage at this point," he said. "Until it is signed and delivered it is a hope.”
TESTER SWIPES DURBIN - Ben Bernanke and Sheila Bair came to testify before the Banking Committee today, where Jon Tester pressed them on how awful capping debit-card swipe fees might be for banks. "I know we're in a political process here, and I know you've probably been getting a lot of pressure from people -- or at least one person from the Senate," Tester said.
Bernanke and Bair continued to wonder whether implementing the Durbin Amendment will be doable; Bernanke promised to get it done, while Bair insisted it'd cost small banks money and lead them to jack up fees on you. [HuffPost]
BEST GOP NEW MEDIA TEAM NOT GOOD - Tim Pawlenty is hoping to spike the boring brew he's serving America with some juice from his new media team. He's off to a rough start. Yesterday's blast to supporters misspelled the name of National Review's Stanley Kurtz. Whatever. We do that shit all the time (as you never tire of reminding us). They also forgot to hyperlink their donation request at the bottom of the email, giving supporters nothing but a blue line. Hey, it's your money, you don't want government officials -- past and present -- telling you what to do with it.
Speaking of which, where's their video guy Lucas Baiano been? He's either at work on a two-our, larger-than-life opus, or Pawlenty's dialing back the Michael Bay-esque portrayals of his lunching habits.
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - "I've been out of work for a little over two years now. My wife doesn't love me anymore; my kids don't love me." [OverFiftyAndOutOfWork]
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MITT ROMNEY MAKES EXCUSES FOR HIS STATE'S HEALTH CARE REFORM - Whether it's his Mormonism or his previous support for Democratic-ish health care reform, it wouldn't be a presidential campaign if Mitt Romney weren't explaining away a central part of himself or his history. At an address in Ann Arbor, the former Massachusetts governor tried to stand up for his greatest legislative achievement while also recasting it as a shining example of conservative principles ... all while arguing that it shouldn't be adopted by the rest of the nation. Got it? "I presume that a lot of folks would think that if I did that, it would be good for me politically," he said. "But there's only one problem with that: It wouldn't be honest." He went on to describe the individual mandate as a way to enforce "personal responsibility" and to keep people from developing a dependence on government health care. He also had nice things to say nice things about the coinsurance parts of France's health care system (and Republicans love them!). We're not sure how much this will soften the blow of this morning's editorial in the Wall Street Journal that quipped Romney "might as well try to knock off Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket," but, hey, doesn't hurt to try. [HuffPost's Jon Ward]
NEWT GINGRICH HAD KIND WORDS FOR THE INDIVIDUAL MANDATE - Sam Stein: "In the mid-2000s, [Gingrich] partnered with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to promote a centrist solution to fixing the nation's health care system. A July 22, 2005, Hotline article on one of the duo's events described the former speaker as endorsing not just state-based mandates (the linchpin of Romney's Massachusetts law) but 'some federal mandates' as well. A New York Sun writeup of what appears to be the same event noted that 'both politicians appeared to endorse proposals to require all individuals to have some form of health coverage.' Neera Tanden, an aide to Clinton at the time who went on to help craft President Obama's law, said she couldn't recall exact speeches, but 'strongly' believed that the both Clinton and Gingrich backed the individual mandate." [HuffPost]
RON PAUL TO ENTER REPUBLICAN PRIMARY - Texas Congressman Ron Paul will announce Friday that he is entering the 2012 Republican presidential primary. Our nation's libertarians were going to spend the next year constructing Danny Taggart collectible train sets and perfecting their Yahoo! Answers response to "Who is John Galt?" Looks like they'll have to postpone. Paul will make his announcement on "Good Morning America" and will then deliver a speech in Exeter, N.H. [Politico]
Ben Bernanke today: “I think using the debt limit as a bargaining chip is quite risky,” leading to “an increase in interest rates, which would actually worsen our deficit and would hurt all borrowers in the economy.” But whatevs.
OIL EXECUTIVES TESTIFY ON CAPITOL HILL ... WOO DOGGY IT GOT ROUGH - You know how on the Friday after Thanksgiving, local news broadcasts run b-roll of shoppers congregating en masse in front of a Walmart's automatic doors, right before they promptly bum rush the store upon its 4 a.m. opening? Today's Senate Finance Committee hearing was a lot like those throngs of bargain hunters in Peoria. Except instead of trampling an elderly lady in a pink cardigan, committee Democrats couldn't wait to stomp all over top oil industry officials in pursuit of a decent sound bite. Addressing the heads of the top five largest private oil companies, Ron Wyden played a 2005 clip of oil executives insisting they didn't need tax breaks because oil was at $55-a-barrel (it's over $100 now). Committee member Orrin Hatch displayed a picture of a horse and a dog, declaring the hearings to be "a dog and pony show." "I know which one the horse's ass is," he said, before arguing that highly profitable oil companies are simply enjoying high consumer demand and as such shouldn't be punished. "What if an increase in demand for coffee results in Starbucks reporting record profits? ... I would be doing a grave disservice to my constituents if I were to ignore the consequences of these tax increases." Chuck Schumer was miffed: "Well, you'd have an easier time convincing the American people that a unicorn just flew into this hearing room than that these big oil companies need taxpayer subsides. That's the real fairy tale." [ABC News]
Finance Committee member Jay Rockefeller, who is -- how should we put this delicately -- a Rockefeller, also had strong words for the executives: "I think you’re really out of touch."
An Exxon executive, under questioning from Maria Cantwell, says that much of the price of oil is a result of speculation. See, it's not just us saying it! [YouTube]
Several days after Steny Hoyer came out in opposition to the president's impending executive order on contractor campaign disclosures, Nancy Pelosi made her support known. "I salute the president for what he did," she said at her weekly press conference. [WaPo]
RICHARD LUGAR WITHDRAWS SUPPORTS FOR DREAM ACT, RENEWS SUPPORT FOR BEING REELECTED - Like a relapsed addict hawking his father's Rolex for a fix, Sen. Richard Lugar has pawned part of his agenda after getting a taste of some sweet, pure, uncut Senate. The DREAM Act was reintroduced to the upper chamber yesterday, without the co-sponsorship of Lugar, who had previously lent his name to the immigration reform bill. In a statement, Lugar's spokesman, Mark Helmke, blamed the move on President Obama's immigration speech, even though it had as much impact on the DREAM Act's provisions as a non-binding resolution honoring Menudo's contributions to Hispanic American culture. "President Obama's appearance in Texas framed immigration as a divisive election issue instead of attempting a legitimate debate on comprehensive reform," wrote Helmke. "Ridiculing Republicans was clearly a partisan push that effectively stops a productive discussion about comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act before the 2012 election." [HuffPost's Amanda Terkel]
Sarah Palin on Common: "I'm not anti-rap. In fact, like Bret Baier, I know the lyrics to 'Rapper's Delight,' too."
PRESIDENT ASKS FOR TWO-YEAR EXTENSION FOR ROBERT MUELLER - President Obama announced that he will seek to extend FBI Director Robert Mueller's term by two years. “In his ten years at the FBI, Bob Mueller has set the gold standard for leading the Bureau," the president said in a statement. "Given the ongoing threats facing the United States, as well as the leadership transitions at other agencies like the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, I believe continuity and stability at the FBI is critical at this time." After J. Edgar Hoover's 48-year reign at the Bureau of Investigation/Federal Bureau of Investigation, directors' terms were limited to ten years to curb their power. Let's be careful, though: A few more years and Mueller will start disseminating rumors that Adlai Stevenson is gay, spying on civil rights leaders and donning black dresses ... unless, of course, he already does.
Benjy Sarlin: "In his latest ad, [California 36th Congressional Candidate Ben] Adler hangs out with a multi-ethnic crowd touting his appeal to Asian voters by pointing out that he's married to a Korean and that -- as a Jew -- he can understand what it's like to be a minority. In a weird and seemingly quite patronizing twist, a heavily-accented Korean immigrant woman in a laundromat awkwardly interrupts him throughout the ad, finally asking the camera 'What's a mensch?'" [TPM]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Because you just can't have ONE video of an animal riding a tortoise. Here is a best-of collection of the BEST videos of animals riding tortoises. [http://bit.ly/jma62K]
CARLY'S CANNABIS CORNER - Carly Schwartz: "In the coast-to-coast battle for legalized greenery, this round goes to the preppies over the hippies. A medical marijuana dispensary in North Hollywood shuttered this morning after the city of Los Angeles filed suit against the business, part of its massive effort to put hundreds of distributors out of business. Up in Walla Walla, Washington, a SWAT team with time on its hands descended on the home of 58-year-old Tim Bennett, seizing his supply. Across the country, a Florida teen stuck it to cops when he looked them right in the face and said, "Yeah, I smoke weed...a lot of weed." And our nation's First State is poised to become the sixteenth that would legalize the plant for medicinal purposes: a bill is headed straight for Delaware Governor Jack Markell's desk. (Cannabis Corner is also pleased to announce that Markell signed a landmark civil unions law yesterday.)" Thanks, Carly!
KEVIN THE INTERN'S 'THIS DAY IN HISTORY' - May 12th 1903: New Wonder Called Video Shows Nation the Roosevelts Before YouTube moments caused the D.C. press corps to salivate, moving pictures were capturing President Teddy Roosevelt’s adventures in the White House. The President made a trip to San Francisco and a cameraman decided to film him marching in a parade with a cavalry unit. The tape was circulated in arcades around the country, and Roosevelt made certain the camera was always rolling when he was in public. There is tape of him campaigning in 1912, meeting with foreign heads of state, and visiting the Panama Canal and Africa. Roosevelt became the first video president, and even his funeral was shown to the public, but it would be many more decades before American presidents started to wish the cameras weren’t always on. Thanks, KB!
A RANDOM DAY IN 'JEREMY THE INTERN'S WEATHER REPORT' HISTORY - Because JB has moved on and is no longer filing weather reports (despite the incessant demand) here is JB's report from October 6, 2010: "Tonight: It'll remain cloudy, and may rain. Tomorrow: Expect sunny skies and mid 70s. Should be a pleasant Fall day.Thanks, JB!"
- A group of friends decided to prepare every type of pizza mentioned in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. It's pretty disgusting. [http://bit.ly/mIiXNB]
- Cat tries to open a box. Fails. Tries to get its owner to do it for him. Owner obliges. The worst kind of moral hazzard. [http://bit.ly/mn55dA]
- The 40 classiest (if you really want call excessively tasteless items of clothing "classy") "Osama is dead" t-shirts. The "As Dead As Disco" with bin Laden sporting a 'fro is actually pretty funny. [http://on.vh1.com/koNReS]
- This is precisely how living in California softens your brain: A former California resident in Dallas totally lost it when an In-and-Out franchise opened up near her. [http://bit.ly/ksF9hv]
- Man turns his 258-square-foot apartment into a decked-out pad thanks to some nifty compartments. Eat your heart out, Ikea. [http://gizmo.do/lvQKvT]
- "Vegan Black Metal Chef" teaches you how to make delicious, animal-friendly dishes through instructive black metal songs. [http://bit.ly/lRF4Ep]
- Seven websites you should be wasting time on right now, courtesy of the fine folks at HuffPost Comedy [http://huff.to/m5jSSR]
- Japan's National Defense Academy plays a game called "Pole Pull-Down." What is "Pole Pull-Down," you ask? Good question! [http://bit.ly/lY4mRD]
@lizzieohreally: Hip. Hop. No, actually I'm stopping now.
@megancarpentier: Yeah, but does she know all the words to "Bust A Move"?
@pourmecoffee: Mitt addressing Romneycare like an abstinence advocate: Yes, it's beyond awesome, but I am recommending you avoid it.
@fredthompson: GloWarm'ers: higher temps could interfere w/ wi-fi signals. Not buying it. If hot air killed wi-fi, DC would be a wireless dead zone. #tcot
6:00 pm: Richard Shelby attends a fundraising dinner at lobbying guru Tim Rupli's townhouse [Rupli Townhouse, 446 New Jersey Ave SE].
6:00 pm: Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much, but they sure can agree on the importance of attending those financial services dinners. Mike Crapo takes checks from his finance friends [Rosa Mexicano, 575 7th Street NW].
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm: The DCCC goes off the beaten track and hosts a fundraiser in National Harbor. Nancy Pelosi and Donna Edwards will be on hand [Bond 45, 149 Waterfront Street, National Harbor].
8:00 am - 9:00 am: The thing that worries us about "Meet and Greet" fundraisers is that they imply that at a lawmaker's other fundraisers are "gawk at me from afar"-type affairs. David Cicilline holds his own "Meet and Greet" [Democratic National Headquarters, 430 South Capitol Street SE].
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