POLITICS
03/15/2012 09:43 pm ET Updated Mar 15, 2012

HUFFPOST HILL - Economic Superpower Shuts Down To Watch People Throw Balls In Circles

President Obama made fun of Rutherford B. Hayes' lowly place in history but managed to keep the Martin van Buren gout jokes to himself. In a stunning turn of events, us journos giddily tweeted about a media event that no one else cares about. And Senate Republicans want older Americans to enjoy the same affordable, top notch private health care that senators do. "Older Americans who enjoy affordable, top notch private health care" is, of course, another way of saying "Senate Republicans." This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, March 15th, 2012:

WASHINGTON DC: A FRIENDLY PLACE TO LIVE - HuffPost DC: "District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray personally handled as much as $100,000 in campaign donations linked to a politically-connected fundraiser now under intense scrutiny by federal investigators. Two sources involved with fundraising for Gray's 2010 mayoral campaign told WRC-TV/NBC4's Tom Sherwood that Gray showed up to his mayoral campaign headquarters in the days before a critical campaign-finance reporting deadline in June 2010 with a stack of contributions. Reports Sherwood: 'The number of $2,000 checks given on deadline created a problem to get them recorded before midnight June 10, sources said.' The fundraiser in question, Jeffrey Thompson, controls the city's largest Medicaid managed care firm, and has raised hundreds of thousands in campaign donations for various local officials. Federal investigators raided Thompson's home earlier this month as part of its wide-reaching inquiry, though no charges were filed at the time." [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - From our ongoing series PASTED: The Emails of the Jobless, here is a message from someone who said she is 30 and pregnant for the first time. After writing, the person did not responded to DDD's emails. "I have been a productive member of the workforce since I was 16 years old but found myself out of work due to lack of sales. I am now nearing the end of my fourth tier [of unemployment insurance] and at 7 months pregnant I am left with the fear of being cut off from unemployment. When it came to the decision of informing prospective employers of my current condition, I chose to be honest and inform interviewers of my pregnancy. As you can imagine this made me a less than desirable candidate to employers. If I could say one thing to congress it would be 'please don't penalize me for my honesty, not every citizen on unemployment has been sitting around doing nothing and collecting a check.' I just would like the opportunity to have my baby, quickly recover and get back to work. I pray that they give me and others like me that chance." Hang in there.

UPSIDE DOWNER - Weekly unemployment claims are back down to 2008 levels, and way below the hot-under-the-collar 400,000 mark. "In the week ending March 10, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 351,000, a decrease of 14,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 365,000," the government said this morning. [DOL]

LIBERAL DONOR NETWORK 'SPLAINS ITSELF TO LIBERAL DONORS An email from Democracy Alliance chief Kelly Craighead to the group's donors, made its way into our inbox, and now it's in yours: "As news of our new funding approach and 2012-2014 Portfolio has been getting wider attention, a handful of Partners and friends have inquired about how the news is being received, and particularly have called our attention to yesterday’s Huffington Post story that has been making the rounds. Because similar stories may be showing up in the coming days and weeks, we wanted to reach out to you directly...Today, that concern spilled into the press when Ryan Grim posted this story on Huffington Post...Unfortunately, Mr. Grim initially posted the story without talking to the DA. It has since been updated...We want to take this opportunity to clarify that all contributions to all 2009-2011 DA recommended organizations will continue to be recognized against Partner membership requirements through at least June and likely continuously through 2012." What that means: DA donors pledge a certain amount of money. By giving to approved organizations, they get credit against that pledge. What they're saying here is that donors can give to the groups that were knocked out of the top tier and still get credit, "based on modest assumptions that sufficient support will be garnered" for the chosen groups.

DEMOCRACY ALLIANCE: WE'RE NOT WHITE HOUSE TOADIES - The email also rejects the charge that DA, by focusing on groups like CAP and Media Matters, was aligning itself with groups close to the White House and focused on near-term electoral strategy: "That’s just not true. Our focus is on continuing to build the foundation for sustainable and long term progress. We understand that elections are a critical element to that, but our hallmark in the broader funding community is that we understand that progress requires more than investing in the ephemeral cycles of elections. We understand that progress is only possible through long term commitments of support to the building blocks for an ecosystem of change." And finally, stop leaking internal stuff to HuffPost or Ken Vogel: "If you are contacted by a member of the press with inquiries about the Democracy Alliance we would ask that you refer them to us." Read the full text email here.

Why did we just give you carpal tunnel scrolling through all those words about an organization most people have never heard of? Because probably a third of our readers are or have been, in one way or another, on the Democracy Alliance payroll.

Don't be bashful: Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to huffposthill@huffingtonpost.com. Follow us on Twitter - @HuffPostHill

MITT ROMNEY'S HEAVY INVESTMENT IN LOSING PAYS SPECTACULAR DIVIDENDS - Wow, it sure was nice of him to spend all that donor money on an economic stimulus for the Deep South! Trickle down, baby! Empower others to empower themselves! Kaboooom! Paul Blumenthal: "Thanks to stronger fundraising by Romney's campaign and Restore Our Future, Romney forces invested the most of any candidates' in broadcast advertising buys in both states. But Romney came out of both contests in third place. This continues Romney's trend of spending vastly more on television advertising -- the biggest expense of presidential campaign -- per vote and per delegate than any of the other remaining candidates. Romney and the super PAC supporting his candidacy wound up spending $9.07 on television ads for each vote he picked up in Alabama and Mississippi. This compares with the wildly lower $1.93 spent on ads in both states by Santorum and the super PAC backing him. Gingrich and the super PAC supporting him spent $3.17 per vote in the two Southern states." [HuffPost]

Here's Paul Ryan doing a walk-and-talk that Aaron Sorkin would probably not endorse.

Speaking of which: "Mitt Romney and his Super PAC have dumped nearly $3.5 million combined into Illinois television advertisements before next week's primary, outspending Rick Santorum by a nearly 8:1 margin, according to data from a Republican media-buying source." [BuzzFeed]

Seamus fever will not subside. Rick Santorum campaign honcho John Brabender said Thursday that Mitt Romney's mistreatment of the family dog 30 years ago shouldn't be the focus of the Republican primary contest, but he didn't back down from his previous criticism. The Washington Post's Chris Cilizza asked Brabender on MSNBC if discussion of Romney's dog is fair game. 'It was in response to a question where he described Rick Santorum as desperate and said that his campaign was going to end right then,' Brabender said. 'And I simply said, 'Look, here's a guy who, I'm not listening to his judgment, particularly his political judgment, about when anybody's campaign is going to end.'" [HuffPost]

The color of the Seamus ribbon will be gray, the same color of the plastic Pet Mate dog kennel that probably transported him to Canada. We haven't forgotten you, Seamus.

Richard Lugar can't vote in his hometown, so expect him to be attacked over this and/or be involved in a very awkward confrontation at his local elementary school on November 6th. Mike McAuliff: "Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and his wife have been ruled ineligible to vote at the Indiana address they have used for decades because they moved to Virginia decades ago. The Marion County Election Board voted along party lines, with the two Democrats siding against Lugar and the one Republican favoring the senator's case. The ruling adds fuel to the charges of his Republican primary opponent, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, that Lugar is not really a Hoosier anymore." [HuffPost]

GOP LAWMAKERS PROPOSE THING AIMED AT GETTING SENIORS HEALTHY, VOTING REPUBLICAN - The Hill: "A group of Senate Republicans has introduced legislation that would end traditional Medicare and sign seniors up for the same private healthcare plans received by members of Congress. The 'Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act' would allow seniors to choose from the array of plans currently offered to the four million federal employees and their dependents in the Federal Employee Health Benefit program, starting in 2014. It would also gradually increase the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 70 over a 20-year period. The bill was introduced Thursday by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). South Carolina Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint are co-sponsors, along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)." [The Hill]

And now, some sad: "During a discussion of a far-reaching mandatory ultrasound bill, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) on Wednesday dismissed off-handedly the insinuation that the measure goes too far, saying, 'You just have to close your eyes.' Corbett reaffirmed his support for the 'Women's Right to Know' Act, which would require doctors to perform an ultrasound on a patient, offer her two personalized copies of the image and play and describe fetal heartbeat in detail before she can have an abortion -- 'as long as it's not obtrusive.'" [HuffPost's Laura Bassett]

THE IOWA REPUBLICAN PARTY IS NOW THE RUNT OF AMERICAN POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS - Move aside, American Association Of People Who Slip On Banana Peels In Amusingly Comedic Ways! Jon Ward: "Rick Santorum and Ron Paul are best positioned to win the most delegates in Iowa as the Republican primary process moves forward, making Mitt Romney the odd man out, state insiders told The Huffington Post. Santorum and Romney finished first and second on Jan. 3, with Paul finishing about 3,000 votes behind the 29,000 votes Santorum and Romney both got. Rep. Paul (R-Texas) is currently estimated by The Associated Press to have zero delegates in Iowa. The AP numbers give former Sen. Santorum (R-Pa.) 13 delegates and former Massachusetts Gov. Romney 12. But Iowa Republican operatives scoffed at the AP figure...The winner of Iowa's caucuses has already changed once, after the state Republican Party announced Santorum the winner three weeks after saying Romney had won the night of the caucuses." [HuffPost]

@elisefoley: ProEnglish upgraded Santorum's rating from a B to an A- for saying Puerto Rico should make English its official lang. bit.ly/wnpbuS

PRESIDENT CALLS OUT DEAD MAN - National Review: "Earlier today, President Obama -- in an attempt at historical analysis -- compared the GOP's skepticism toward alternative energy to President Rutherford B. Hayes's supposed reaction to the telephone: 'It's a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?' 'That's why he's not on Mount Rushmore,' Obama concluded. 'He's explaining why we can't do something instead of why we can do something.'" [National Review]

The anecdote is false, apparently.

THIS IS PROBABLY INCONSEQUENTIAL AND DEFINITELY MEDIA-CENTRIC BUT YOU WILL ENJOY IT NONETHELESS... WE PROMISE - Sam Stein: "A private spat between the Democratic National Committee's communications shop and a reporter for the Daily Caller, a conservative-leaning web outlet, erupted publicly on Wednesday after a DNC official leaked a heated email exchange to the press. The Caller reporter, Matthew Boyle, had told DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse that if he didn't get back to him with a comment about Attorney General Eric Holder's handling of the 'Fast and Furious' controversy, he would report that "Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not supporting Holder.' In response, Woodhouse deemed the technique a journalistic form of blackmail...By Wednesday evening, Boyle had published his article, which reported that Wasserman Schultz did in fact stand by Holder while noting that Woodhouse had leaked his emails....Boyle was back with a follow-up request the next morning, once more regarding the chairwoman's position on Fast and Furious. And the subsequent round of emails, which Woodhouse passed along to The Huffington Post, is even more peevish and animated than the first. [HuffPost]

Hashtag "mediastrategy" - "Boyle defended his tactics Thursday in a statement provided jointly to BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post." Thanks, Daily Caller!

IF THE PRESIDENT WON'T HIRE A PORTUGUESE WATER DOG AS HIS SENIOR ENERGY ADVISER, HOW CAN HE STAND UP TO AHMADINEJAD? - One of the better pool reports and/or examples of reporter humor we've witnessed for quite some time. From WaPo's David Nakamura, via Jen Bendery: "POTUS arrived back at WH at 12:45 pm after uneventful ride. POTUS was greeted in Rose Garden by Bo. POTUS didn't reply when another pooler asked: 'Does Bo think you should release the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?'"

POLITICO ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT WORSHIP CONVENTIONAL WISDOM - The title: "How much do voters know?" The article: "Voters are appalled at President Barack Obama's handling of gas prices, even though virtually every policy expert in both parties says there's little a president can do to affect the day-to-day price of fuel in a global market. Americans are disgusted at Washington's bailout culture, and especially the 2008 rescue of the financial services industry. They're so fed up with bailouts, in fact, that a majority of them now think federal intervention in the auto industry was a good idea that helped the country. They're aghast at the trajectory of the war in Afghanistan, which Obama helped escalate and extend, and they don't think the war was worth it in the first place. And many also think Obama is handling the conflict acceptably well. That's presumably a different set of voters than the ones who routinely tell pollsters that they still believe the president is a Muslim, despite all public evidence to the contrary. Add up that litany of contradictory, irrational or simply silly opinions, and it's enough to make a political professional suspect the electorate is, well, not entirely sophisticated about the choices it's facing in 2012." [The Politico Via WaPo]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a St. Bernard playing with a little kitty.

PIT STOP - HuffPost DC: President Obama stopped off for baby-back ribs in Clinton, Md., with Sen. Ben Cardin.

COMFORT FOOD
By @bradjshannon!

- Best use of lighting gimmickry in a dance routine ever. [http://bit.ly/yWK6JO]

- Cameraman squishes earless bunny he was sent to cover. [http://bit.ly/yfSlYE]

- Wonderful art montage in advertisement for "artCircles" app.[http://bit.ly/Annz8Z]

- Remember the good ol' days when machines did one thing, and did it well? Neither do we. [http://bit.ly/xzq4jN]

- Resignation letters from THE FUTURE. [http://slate.me/A1hmQe]

- This supercut demonstrates that we, as a society, are obsessed with babies. Or something like that. [http://bit.ly/zVVYdW]

- Rock Center did an 8 minute segment on the Upright Citizens Brigade. [http://bit.ly/xTGAaY]

TWITTERAMA

@Chris_Moody: I can haz trans fats? MT @CharlesMBlow Your body, sovereign. Your frdm to make own choices, sacred. My oath to defend your choices, solemn

@julietlapidos: Uh oh, it looks like Stalin coined the term "American exceptionalism" bit.ly/xBe3t9

@MattMackowiak: BREAKING: President Obama to host Brad Woodhouse and Matthew Boyle for beer summit.

ON TAP
By @christinawilkie

TONIGHT
6:00pm - 8:00pm: Launch parties for right-wing news sites like The Free Beacon don't usually beckon us. But it's a damn nice day for a drink. [2519 Pennsylvania Ave NW]

6:00pm: You'd think Senate Dems could do better than to pick a barbecue joint for a St. Patty's Day party. But no, they can't. [401 Seventh St, NW]
TOMORROW

10:00pm - 1:00am: The glorified GOP frat The Capital Club's "Shamrock Soire." If rowdy, entitled prepsters are your type, then this a great party. [1606 20th St, NW, Attire: Euro Leprechaun (seriously?)]

All Weekend: Loretta Sanchez's horrendously labeled St. Regis Weekend And Golf Getaway!. When will they stop flaunting five-star hotels?? [Dana Point, Calif.]

All Weekend: Proving that stupidity is bipartisan, Republican Dean Heller is hosting a March Madness Weekend! at the biggest, splashiest hotel on the Vegas Strip. [Palazzo, Las Vegas]

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 Arthur Delaney (arthur@huffingtonpost.com). Follow us on Twitter @HuffPostHill (twitter.com/HuffPostHill). Sign up here: http://huff.to/an2k2e

CONVERSATIONS