POLITICS
05/15/2013 05:48 pm ET Updated Jul 15, 2013

HUFFPOST HILL - Scandals Keeping White House From Important Work Of Not Getting Bills Passed

Somewhere, Darrell Issa is wondering whether he can make hay out of Solyndra again. Eric Holder doesn't know how many journalists' records have been subpoenaed by his department, but does think Reuters' reporters need to call their parents more often. And the White House press corps will be spending much of its evening scouring the 100 pages of Benghazi emails released by the White House just now. Jay Carney probably added 20 pages just for revenge. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, May 15th, 2013:

President Obama will address the IRS scandal at 6:00 pm.

WHITE HOUSE RELEASES BENGHAZI EMAILS - Times: "More than 100 pages of e-mails released by the White House on Wednesday reveal intensive jostling between the C.I.A. and the State Department over the government’s official 'talking points' in the aftermath of last September’s attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans. The White House released the e-mails to reporters after Republicans seized on snippets of the correspondence that became public last Friday to suggest that President Obama’s staff had been complicit in trying to alter the talking points used by Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, in the days after the attacks. White House aides have said the excerpts used by Republicans -- and heavily reported by the news media -- were an inaccurate representation of their involvement. On Tuesday, CNN obtained one of the e-mails in question that appeared to minimize the White House involvement." [NYT]

@jbendery: And... Mark Sanford is now a member of Congress. Boehner just swore him in.

WHITE HOUSE PUSHING MEDIA SHIELD LEGISLATION AFTER DOJ SUBPOENAS - WaPo: "As Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. offered few new details Wednesday on Capitol Hill about the Justice Department’s decision to secretly obtain journalists’ phone records, the White House began pushing for a federal media shield law, an apparent act of damage control in the wake of a decision criticized by members of both political parties and the news media. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that he will re-introduce the media-protecting legislation at the request of the White House, according to a White House official. The Free Flow of Information Act would protect journalists from being compelled to testify about their confidential sources, unless all other avenues are exhausted and exposure is in the public interest. Under a compromise struck in 2009, the measure would let federal judges deny a subpoena aimed at a journalist if they found that the benefit the public would gain from learning of the news outweighed the importance of identifying government authorities who leaked the information. This would include, in some instances, the public release of classified national security information." [WaPo]

DEPARTMENT OF SPREAD - Shahien Nasiripour: "The Obama administration is forecast to turn a record $51 billion profit this year from student loan borrowers, a sum greater than the earnings of the nation's most profitable companies and roughly equal to the combined net income of the four largest U.S. banks by assets. Figures made public Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office show that the nonpartisan agency increased its 2013 fiscal year profit forecast for the Department of Education by 43 percent to $50.6 billion from its February estimate of $35.5 billion. Exxon Mobil Corp., the nation's most profitable company, reported $44.9 billion in net income last year. Apple Inc. recorded a $41.7 billion profit in its 2012 fiscal year, which ended in September, while Chevron Corp. reported $26.2 billion in earnings last year. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo reported a combined $51.9 billion in profit last year." [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Thanks to federal budget cuts known as sequestration, Judy Cohagen of Arlington, Texas, recently saw her income shrink from $370 to $330 per week. She has a question about that. "I guess I'd really like to know if the $40 a week that was taken from me is making a significant contribution to ending the government's financial problems," she said. "Forty dollars doesn't sound like a lot to a whole lot of people, but $40 when you don't have a lot of income, that's food." The gap between federal government spending and revenue in the 2012 fiscal year was slightly more than $1 trillion dollars. This year, thanks in tiny part to Cohagen's reduced unemployment compensation, the Congressional Budget Office says the deficit will be more like $642 billion. Cohagen's token contribution to deficit reduction isn't much of a consolation. "I'd like to know what the congressmen are contributing," she said. "They've got a cushy job and good health care. They're not making any sacrifices. They're making all us little people do it." [HuffPost]

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HOLDER UNSURE OF HOW MANY JOURNALISTS' RECORDS HAVE BEEN SUBPOENAED - He added that Julie Pace really might want to think about looking into an international plan what with all the calls she makes to Asia. Luke Johnson: "Amid an unprecedented effort by the Obama administration to crack down on leaks of classified information, Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday said he was unsure how many times he'd signed off on subpoenas to seize reporter records. I'm not sure how many of those cases that I have actually signed off on,' Holder told NPR's Carrie Johnson. 'I take them very seriously. I know that I have refused to sign a few, pushed a few back for modifications.' The comments from Holder are bound to stir up additional criticism of the Obama administration's approach to First Amendment protections for reporters. The president and his staff are already under intense scrutiny over the Department of Justice's decision to subpoena the phone records for more than 100 journalists at the Associated Press. That Holder could not recall how many times he has done something similar in the past will only fan those flames." [HuffPost]

James Cole, your sword. James Cole's sword, James Cole: "Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed Wednesday that Deputy Attorney General James Cole, a longtime friend of Holder's and the number two official at the Justice Department, signed off on subpoenaing a wide range of Associated Press phone records. Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Holder at first said he had to 'assume' that Cole signed off on the subpoenas, which came out of an investigation run from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. But after being handed a note from an aide, Holder said he could confirm that Cole was responsible for signing off on the subpoenas because Holder had recused himself from the investigation into a leak about an undercover al Qaeda sting involving the CIA." [HuffPost's Ryan Reilly]

@HuffPostPol: So there's a baby hanging with Rep. Mel Watt pic.twitter.com/wc47MRIxsM

IRS PROBES: OBAMA MEETS WITH TREASURY OFFICIALS - The Hill: "President Obama will meet Wednesday afternoon with leaders from the Treasury Department to discuss the administration's response to the IRS scandal...White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama would make 'abundantly clear' in the meeting that he wants the Treasury Department to address the systematic failures identified in the report. He declined to say whether IRS staffers -- including acting commissioner Steven Miller -- would be fired." [The Hill]

This is HILARIOUS/sad: "When September 2012 arrived with still no word from the IRS, Ryun determined that Media Trackers [a conservative organization] would likely never obtain standalone non-profit status, and he tried a new approach: Starting over. He applied for permanent non-profit status for a separate group called Greenhouse Solutions, a pre-existing organization that was reaching the end of its determination period. The IRS approved Greenhouse Solutions' request for non-profit status in three weeks...Ryun said he became convinced that his second application was approved quickly because he applied under the Greenhouse Solutions title, which he called a 'liberal-sounding name.'" [Yahoo News]

CONFUSION IN IRS POLICIES MAY HAVE LEAD TO TEA PARTY PROBES - Plus also those sentences in the standards of conduct guides ending with "::wink wink::" probably didn't help. Paul Blumenthal: "The Internal Revenue Service inspector general found in a May 14 report on the agency's targeting of conservative groups seeking tax exemption that the regulations for determining eligibility for exemption lack definition and that the IRS provides no 'specific guidance' on how to apply them. Confusion over the rules, among both the applicants and the reviewers in the IRS' Cincinnati office, could have caused the lengthy delays faced by most of the targeted groups, the report concludes. There were 160 cases for which the reviews lasted from 206 to 1,138 days. The lack of regulatory clarity and guidance affected organizations seeking tax exemption under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, which constituted the majority of the groups swept up for closer scrutiny under IRS criteria deemed to be "inappropriate" in the IG report. Tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups, known as 'social welfare' nonprofits, are permitted to engage in political campaign activities, but must have as their primary purpose a focus on social welfare through public education." [HuffPost]

Planned Parenthood has co-opted the photobombing meme in its latest attack ads against Ken Cuccinelli.

HARRY REID ON SEQUESTRATION ROLLBACKS: MY BAD - Jen Bendery: "When the Senate voted last month to ease the effects of sequestration on the Federal Aviation Administration, not a single senator opposed it. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) conceded Wednesday that votes like that defeat the purpose of imposing the $85 billion in across-the-board cuts, which are supposed to be so painful that they spur lawmakers to replace them completely with more thoughtful cuts...Still, Reid dismissed the idea that Democrats made an error by supporting the FAA bill, even as he banged the drum on the need to focus on sequestration in its entirety. 'I take all the blame,' he said of bringing up the FAA bill for a vote. 'I did it.'" [HuffPost]

WEINER SET TO ENTER NYC MAYORAL RACE - The former congressman, who resigned after sending lewd photographs to women over the internet (or suggestion that he call himself an "eGentleman Caller" was not heeded), is in it to win it. Daily News: "At least two people close to Weiner have been contacting political operatives to help staff up his campaign. Danny Kedem, who worked on Democrat Mark Murphy’s failed campaign for Congress on Staten Island last year, has agreed to serve as Weiner’s campaign manager, Politico reported. But once he’s officially in, Weiner will have only four months until the Democratic primary. The other top Democrats have been running for years. Weiner on Wednesday said that he did not think the lack of time would not be a problem -- although he admitted that he has to formally announce his candidacy soon. He acknowledged reaching out to hire campaign workers -- and rejected reports that he’s having trouble attracting top operatives to work for him. "we're having no trouble attracting interest, that's for sure,' he said...Political strategists say Weiner has the advantage of having more than $4 million in his campaign kitty, enough to mount a credible campaign, and he has high name recognition." [Daily News]

STUART STEVENS: 2012 NOT A FAIR FIGHT FOR MY SPECTACULARLY RICH CANDIDATE - This sounds less like a condemnation of the president as it is a reminder at how awful the Romney campaign was. Jon Ward: "He talked at length about President Barack Obama's money advantage: 'Obama raised $1.2 billion. So you think about it, the next incumbent president will raise, what, $2 billion?' Stevens said [Editor's note: What about Restore our Future?]. He argued the next incumbent candidate will 'face a challenger ... who will probably come out of the [primary] process broke.' 'We've abolished the four-year term,' he concluded. Stevens talked about how Jen O'Malley-Dillon, a deputy campaign manager for Obama, spent years setting up the president's voter outreach and grassroots mobilization efforts. "These are just monumental advantages that they have," he said. Describing his reaction to a question about why the Romney campaign lost the battle to define its candidate, Stevens said he felt "kind of like Travis at the Alamo being asked, 'How did you let yourself get surrounded?' It wasn't our choice. There were a lot of soldiers out there." [HuffPost]

Stevens thinks Clinton will lose the 2016 primary. “Where to begin? I mean, she’s been around since the 70s. She’s pro-war. It took Rob Portman to get her to come out for gay marriage,” Stevens said at the breakfast today. “If I were a Democratic hot-shot politician, I’d primary her so fast.” Who would Stevens run? John Hickenlooper. Cool. John Hickenlooper. Got it. [BuzzFeed]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - The most epic dog versus cat battle ever.

COMFORT FOOD

- This interactive map shows real time edits to Wikipedia from across the globe.[http://bit.ly/1765ePI]

- From HuffPost Comedy, seven blogs you should be wasting time on right now. [http://huff.to/11F5ch0]

- Amnesty International's "Trial by Timeline" analyzes your Facebook feed and finds all the ways you've committed crimes in countries with repressive regimes. [http://bit.ly/SxkNWd]

- An animation of WIlt Chamberlain reflecting on his athleticism, insecurities and times gone by. [http://bit.ly/19qloAe]

- Speed up the instrumental tracks from Lennon's "Imagine" and combine them with the vocals from McCartney's "Band on the Run" and you get an amazing product. [http://bit.ly/13lQshn]

- Nintendo is cruel: A Dan Brown-level conspiracy haunts the Mario franchise. [http://bit.ly/YWkZ9v]

- Neil Degrasse Tyson is slated to host the remake of Carl Sagan's "Cosmos." Oh. My. God. [http://chzb.gr/10W2aNX]

TWITTERAMA

@elisefoley: Anybody do "with all due respect" as a drinking game cue for this hearing? If so, guess you can't read this right now, probably.

@evanperez: breaking: Rep. Gohmert has access to classified information. discuss.

@dorseyshaw: Conyers looks like the cast of Scooby Doo dressed him... twitpic.com/cqru8j

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