Huffpost Politics

HUFFPOST HILL - Chris Christie Popular Among Those He Hasn't Needlessly Harmed

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A resurgent Chris Christie scandal involves the governor doing needless harm to New Jersey so he could appear on television, meaning he has more in common with the cast of "The Jersey Shore" than he'd like to admit. Labor allies George Miller and Tom Harkin are both retiring, which is arguably the worst blow to workers since McDonalds told them to get a second job. And a little-known tea party candidate in Pennsylvania could seriously undermine the country's infrastructure development, because you know what they say can happen when an Ayn Rand-reading butterfly flaps its wings. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, January 13th, 2014:

CHRISTIE'S NATIONAL RATINGS NOT IMPACTED BY BRIDGE SCANDAL - Emily Swanson: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has seen little change in his national favorability ratings since emails were released last week showing that his staff had intentionally caused a massive traffic snarl in a New Jersey town as a form of political payback, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll. According to the new poll, 38 percent of Americans now have a favorable view of the New Jersey governor, while 34 percent have an unfavorable view. Another 28 percent said they aren't sure. Those figures are virtually unchanged compared to other surveys conducted over the course of the last month. A YouGov/Economist poll conducted Jan. 4-6 found Christie's favorable rating at 41 percent, as did another YouGov/Economist pollconducted in late December. A mid-December YouGov/Economist poll, which specifically identified Christie in a list of potential Republican candidates for president, found his national favorable rating at 36 percent." [HuffPost]

GEORGE MILLER TO RETIRE - Meaning Chuck Schumer will get a room upgrade and no longer have to spend his nights in conditions that would make a staff assistant's Columbia Heights share house seem downright indulgent. Politico: "Rep. George Miller, Nancy Pelosi’s strong right arm and one of the top Democratic legislators of his generation, is stepping down at the end of this year after four decades in Congress. Miller informed Pelosi, the Democratic leader, of his decision last Wednesday and began telling personal staff Monday morning in advance of a public announcement in his Bay Area home district. Miller’s decision is a personal loss for Pelosi and is sure to be seen as a blow to Democrats. But Miller said his retirement has everything to do with having reached the 40-year mark in Congress and is no reflection on his party’s chances of regaining power in the House in November. 'I’ve immense confidence in her,' he said of Pelosi. 'I am energized by our freshman class, their diversity, their enthusiasm. This decision is about me having been here 40 years. I am comfortable that it is the right time.'" [Politico]

DAVE JAMIESON DAVESPLAINS - HuffPost labor reporter Dave Jamieson weighs in: "With Miller and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Ioawa) retiring, unions and low-wage workers are losing their clearest voices in Congress. Other groups that will lose out include U.S. coal miners and impoverished Bangladeshi garment workers...also labor beat writers." Thanks, Dave!

The Senate's vote on unemployment benefits has been postponed till tomorrow afternoon. Reid's hoping to placate some Republicans.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Julia Isaacs and Olivia Healy: "Even though the unemployment rate is slowly improving, millions of children are still living in families affected by job loss. And we should be particularly concerned about children whose parents have been seeking work for six months or longer. Regular unemployment benefits run out in most states after 26 weeks, and extended benefits under the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program were cut off as of December 28, 2013. The Senate is debating measures to reinstate unemployment insurance for the long-term employed, but prospects for final enactment remain uncertain. Long-term unemployment remains at record high levels. Children may suffer when their parents are out of work for a long time….[In] an average month in 2013, 2.3 million children were living with a parent who had been seeking work for 26 weeks or longer, or three times as many children as in in 2007." [Urban Institute]

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CHRISTIE UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR MISUSE OF SANDY FUNDS - When it rains... Luke Johnson: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is facing a federal investigation into whether the governor used Hurricane Sandy relief money to produce tourism ads starring himself and his family, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) told CNN Sunday. The New Jersey lawmaker said the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted a preliminary investigation, and concluded that a full investigation is warranted. The investigation comes as the New Jersey governor is facing a separate federal probe into revelations that his top aides engineered the temporary shutdown of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge as political retribution. Pallone wrote a letter to the inspector general of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in August, asking why a firm with a more expensive pitch won the project to make a New Jersey tourism campaign with Hurricane Sandy relief funds. The winning firm's bid was $4.7 million, while a comparable firm cost $2.5 million. The more expensive idea included the Christies, while the cheaper pitch did not." [HuffPost]

At what point does news emerge of a pot-bellied, bald cal-wearing Christian Bale conning Chris Christie for the Feds? Times: "In another indication of the hardball Gov. Chris Christie played to win support from Democratic officials, documents released Monday show that the governor’s administration aggressively courted the mayor of Jersey City, then abruptly cut ties after he informed them that he would not endorse the governor for his re-election...Working with Bridget Anne Kelly – an aide to Mr. Christie who was fired last week after the release of documents showing she gave the signal to shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge – [Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop]... set up a day’s worth of meetings on July 23. Ms. Kelly and a Fulop aide referred to it as a 'mayor’s day,' with scheduled appointments with commissioners or heads of six different administration agencies...After Mr. Fulop told Christie aides on July 18 that he would not endorse the governor, the commissioners began calling to cancel. Almost all cancellations came within an hour, and the remaining ones followed close on their heels. That the commissioners called the mayor’s office personally shows an unusually close level of involvement for high-ranking government officials." [NYT]

TED CRUZ TED CRUZES - We give it a month until the junior Texas senator is diming off colleagues' spouses to mistresses and calling out staffers on the Senate floor for having bad BO. Amanda Terkel: "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) delivered a slap in the face to House Republicans Monday, hiring an operative they fired just last month for working with conservative groups to undermine the leadership's agenda. Cruz announced Monday morning that he was naming Paul Teller, the former executive director of the Republican Study Committee, his deputy chief of staff. Teller begins work on Thursday...Last month, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the head of the RSC, announced he had fired Teller because he no longer had the 'trust' of lawmakers in the group, which is dedicated to pushing a conservative agenda. The ouster came after Scalise learned that Teller had been allegedly leaking internal information to outside conservative groups in order to undermine the bipartisan budget deal being worked out between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)...Cruz has worked closely with conservative advocacy groups and often clashed with the House GOP leadership. During the government shutdown in October, House Republicans fumed against the senator for conceding defeat on repealing Obamacare after leading them into the unpopular shutdown." [HuffPost]

HuffPost Hill visited Alaska last year to profile Mark Begich, who is up for reelection: "On a balmy day last August, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) stood at a makeshift kitchen in the Alaska Native Medical Center and gleefully watched a chef whisk a bowl of reindeer fat. 'I'd rather have this than Jell-O!' the first-term lawmaker gushed, watching his instructor beat away at the bowl of rapidly congealing triglycerides. 'It'd make a great dip'. Begich was filming a PSA on nutritious ways to prepare indigenous Alaskan dishes, and his enthusiasm contrasted sharply with the sanitized meeting room where the video was being shot, not to mention the gutted and cleaned remains of a creature best known as Santa's chauffeur... with oil production declining, its future in natural gas undercut by finds in the lower 48 and Congress gripped by austerity fever... residents fret with increasing alarm about the state's long-term prospects." [HuffPost]

TEA PARTY CHALLENGER IN PENNSYLVANIA COULD SCREW UP YOUR COMMUTE IN 2024 - Eugene Mulero: "A tea party candidate's primary challenge to the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee may have reverberations far beyond Pennsylvania's 9th Congressional District, and even screw up the country's transportation system in the coming years. Transportation groups representing the construction industry, state officials and other infrastructure advocates tell The Huffington Post they worry that Art Halvorson, a retired Coast Guard official who calls himself the 'Ted Cruz of central Pennsylvania' after an article suggested the moniker, could push Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) to promote conservative transportation priorities this year in order to appeal to tea party voters back in the district. Since taking over as chairman of the Transportation Committee last year, Shuster has sought to convince tea party members of the House to embrace the federal government's role in infrastructure spending. But these lawmakers continue to press for limiting Congress' involvement in large-scale infrastructure projects, much to the displeasure of transportation groups representing the construction industry, state officials and other infrastructure advocates. If elected, Halvorson said, he would join the tea party's efforts in the House and give as much authority over roads and bridges to state and local governments as possible. This year, Shuster is managing the reauthorization of a 2012 highway law that would expand the federal government's role in certain projects. That law expires in September. " [HuffPost]

NSA SURVEILLANCE NOT PREVENTING ATTACKS: REPORT - Like an overly needy boyfriend, the NSA says it's monitoring your communications because it just cares that much, but like the overly needy boyfriend, it will find that such behavior tends to be alienating and counterproductive. WaPo: "An analysis of 225 terrorism cases inside the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has concluded that the bulk collection of phone records by the National Security Agency 'has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.' In the majority of cases, traditional law enforcement and investigative methods provided the tip or evidence to initiate the case, according to the study by the New America Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit group. The study, to be released Monday, corroborates the findings of a White House-appointed review group, which said last month that the NSA counterterrorism program 'was not essential to preventing attacks' and that much of the evidence it did turn up 'could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional [court] orders.'...The researchers at the New America Foundation found that the program provided evidence to initiate only one case, involving a San Diego cabdriver, Basaaly ­Moalin, who was convicted of sending money to a terrorist group in Somalia. Three co-conspirators were also convicted. The cases involved no threat of attack against the United States." [WaPo]

THE TERRIBLE FATHER LOBBY IS A THING - Stealing candy from babies is easy. Stealing candy from YOUR OWN babies requires a solid government relations strategy. Mother Jones: "After Michael Eisenga, a wealthy GOP donor and Wisconsin business owner, failed to convince several courts to lower his child support payments, he came up with an inventive plan B -- he recruited a Republican state legislator to rewrite Wisconsin law in his favor. A set of documents unearthed Saturday by the Wisconsin State Journal shows Eisenga and his lawyer, William Smiley, supplying detailed instructions to Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch on how to word legislation capping child support payments from the wealthy. Kleefisch began work on the legislation last fall, weeks after an appeals court rejected Eisenga's attempts to lower his child support payments. For example, in a September 13 letter, a drafting lawyer with Wisconsin's legislative services bureau complained to a Kleefisch aide, 'It's hard to fashion a general principle that will apply to only one situation.' According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Eisenga's current child support payments for the three children he has with his ex-wife are set at $216,000 a year. (Per the couple's prenuptial agreement, the divorce settlement left his $30 million in assets untouched.)" [Mother Jones]

FOX DESTROYING WASHINGTON - Not the one that employs Ed Henry (well, that one, too). Roll Call: " [There were] a plethora of Capitol Hill Fox sightings over the weekend.. Evan Gildenblatt, a Kent State University student, live-tweeted the latest CHF chronicles after spotting the fearless furball sunning itself on the lawn in front of the Capitol. No longer satisfied with merely being an object of adulation, the CHF apparently decided to strike a little fear into the hearts of local admirers by savagely dispatching a too-slow squirrel. 'He put on a helluva of a show, … an old-fashioned safari-style kill,' the awestruck collegian shared via Twitter." [Roll Call]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here are some dogs with poor spatial orientation.

RACISM UPDATE - Adjectives are your friend. Columbia Journalism Review: "The big news out of West Virginia over the weekend is obviously the chemical spill that left nearly 300,000 people without water. But in the city of Morgantown, in the north-central part of the state near West Virginia University, a three-paragraph news item in the local paper, The Dominion Post, has caused a bit of a stir. On Saturday, Jan. 11, the paper published this item under the headline 'Sheriff’s department looking for suspect': 'The Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department is asking for help identifying a man involved in some suspicious activity. The person is described as a black man. If anyone has information he or she is asked to contact Deputy J.D. Morgan...'" [CJR]

COMFORT FOOD

- Last night's Golden Globes in 90 seconds. [http://bit.ly/1eCOh1P]

- Also courtesy of Digg, the best Golden Globes jokes from hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. [http://bit.ly/1j3fi1X]

- Japanese game shows are just... well... Japanese game shows. [http://huff.to/1a2ExyO]

- Viruses can be deadly... and gorgeous! [http://huff.to/1gAZqj9]

- The first full-length trailer for the next season of "Game of Thrones" is up. [http://bit.ly/1iEm4Zu]

- "The "Star Trek" reboot recut with blooper footage. Doesn't have the same impact. [http://huff.to/1gB6EUh]

- Kitten won't leave pug alone. [http://bit.ly/1eAmVr4]

TWITTERAMA

@funnyordie: Reminder: There is no current legislation that requires you to tell people about a dream you had last night.

@SenSchumer: Seeking roommate. 20 terms in the House & unmatched legislative record preferred. Lover of cold cereal a must. ow.ly/sxmIU

@timothypmurphy: #ff RT @AP_Boston: Ybubbbnybynbyybybyybtbnbbbyybvvynyvvvvbvlv@gmp #@l @j h

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