Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Please wait, your request is processed... McCain's Abramoff Linked Fundraiser Nets $1.75 Million

John McCain raised more than $1.75 million for Republicans Monday at a fundraiser that became high profile after a political operative connected to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff promoted it.

The event was promoted by Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition. McCain's campaign said it was organized by the Republican National Committee _ not Reed, who was linked to the Abramoff scandal that McCain investigated in the Senate.

McCain didn't note the issue during his 22-minute appearance. Instead, he thanked donors to the Republicans' umbrella campaign fund.

"Everybody in this room could be someplace else," the Arizona senator told the crowd of several hundred. "Everybody in this room could be donating to some other cause or to their own well-being. But I want to thank you."

Reed was not seen inside the hotel ballroom; a McCain campaign spokeswoman said he did not attend. But Democrat Barack Obama's rival presidential campaign sought to make him an issue, asking how much Reed-linked money was raised or would be kept by McCain's campaign.

"Faced with the embarrassing prospect of holding a fundraiser with one of Jack Abramoff's closest associates, the McCain campaign scrambled today to scratch Ralph Reed from tonight's program, but voters deserve to know the answers to the real questions raised by Reed's involvement," Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

"If the McCain campaign won't return the money Reed has raised for them, then voters should rightly ask why it matters that Reed didn't show up at tonight's event. The real question isn't why Reed isn't showing up, but why a so-called reformer would invite him at all."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week that Reed said he had agreed to be on the Republicans' "Victory 2008 Team." In a follow-up statement to reporters, he said he has no position in the McCain campaign.

Extreme anti-environment Cheney aide up for top Energy Department post

F. Chase Hutto, a senior Cheney advisor, is the leading candidate to be appointed assistant secretary for policy and international affairs at the Energy Department, the Washington Post reports. Former EPA official Jason Burnett said Hutto is “naturally and philosophically opposed to regulation,” adding, “I can’t think of a case where Chase advocated more environmental or health protections.” The Washington Post had more highlights from Hutto’s career:

cheney.jpg– “At the White House, Hutto has been one of the oil and gas industry’s key points of contact for energy and environmental issues.”

– “In recent months, Hutto has helped scale back a rule proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to protect North Atlantic right whales — one of the most endangered animals on the planet — from lethal ship strikes.”

– “Burnett said that this year Hutto opposed tightening federal rules for smog-forming ozone — which is linked to thousands of premature deaths each year– and in 2005 he questioned why the EPA needed to limit mercury emissions from power plants, because the agency had just issued a rule that would have the incidental effect of somewhat reducing the toxic pollutant.”

Hutto is also deeply opposed to regulating greenhouse gas emissions from cars. As one energy official described in July: “He [Hutto] would talk, for example, about not wanting greenhouse gas controls to do away with the large American automobile.”

Rachel Maddow Replacing Dan Abrams On MSNBC Effective Immediately

Rachel Maddow will replace Dan Abrams as host of the 9PM hour on MSNBC, the New York Times' Bill Carter reports. Just last month in a Times article by Jacques Steinberg, MSNBC president Phil Griffin declared Maddow "at the top" of a "very short list" for those who should have their own show, though at the time he said he "[didn't] know when" that would be. As Carter reports, the final stretch of the 2008 election season will be Maddow's debut as the host of her own MSNBC show:

Just in time for the closing rush of the presidential election, MSNBC is shaking up its prime-time programming lineup, removing the long-time host -- and one-time general manager of the network -- Dan Abrams from his 9 p.m. program and replacing him with Rachel Maddow, who has emerged as a favored political commentator for the all-news cable channel.
The moves, which were confirmed by MSNBC executives Tuesday, are expected to be finalized by Wednesday, with Mr. Abrams's last program on Thursday. After MSNBC's extensive coverage of the two political conventions during the next two weeks, Ms. Maddow will begin her program on Sept. 8.

MSNBC is highlighting the date, 9/8/08, connecting it to the start of the Olympics on 8/8/08, as a way to signal what the network's president, Phil Griffin, said "will be the final leg of the political race this year." He added, "We making that Rachel's debut."

Mr. Abrams, who is well liked at MSNBC, is expected to remain at both that network and at NBC News, where he is the chief legal correspondent. He will also serve as an anchor during some of MSNBC's daytime coverage, as well as a substitute host on NBC's "Today" show, Mr. Griffin said.

The last broadcast of Abrams' "Verdict" will air Thursday.

Abrams, the network's former General Manager, told the Times that he understood the decision.

"Putting my general manager's hat back on, considering where the network is right now, it is actually the right call," he said.

Almost immediately, Keith Olbermann took to DailyKos to celebrate the news, brag about his involvement in the decision — "Yes, I had something to do with it," he wrote — and remind readers that though Maddow's rise at the network was quick ("less than five months between first paid appearance and own show"), his was quicker ("I believe I still hold the MSNBC record: I came back to guest host for three days in 2003 and 39 days later I had a contract to do the 8 PM show.").
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Obama veep announcement expected in coming days

Barack Obama will publicly disclose his vice presidential choice in the coming days, though the Democrat is keeping most aides who are preparing for the announcement in the dark and is giving away nothing to voters as he campaigns.

The Illinois senator has staffers in place to aide the No. 2 and his or her spouse, including more than a dozen seasoned operatives who have set up shop in a section of the campaign's Chicago headquarters. They are running through various logistical scenarios involved in taking over the relatively normal life of a person unknown to them and thrusting them into the unrelenting glare of a presidential campaign.

Obama was believed to have narrowed his list to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. While it seemed increasingly unlikely that he would choose his vanquished rival, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, some Democrats speculated Monday that he could pull a surprise and pick her.

Former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, a close Obama adviser, said Monday he had given the campaign personal information needed to examine the background of potential vice presidential nominees but was confident he wouldn't be selected.

"I did give ... documents a long time ago, but these matters have been resolved for a long time now as far as I'm concerned," Daschle told The Associated Press in an interview.

Only Obama, his wife, Michelle, a handful of his senior-most advisers and his two-member search committee know for certain who was on the initial list, who made the cuts, whose backgrounds were researched, whose names were floated to divert the media — and who Obama ultimately will choose.

He planned to campaign Tuesday in Florida and on Wednesday ride a bus through North Carolina and Virginia, where he was appearing with former Gov. Mark Warner, also mentioned as a possible contender for the No. 2 spot. After that, Obama's schedule is wide open, leaving the end of the week as a more likely time for the pick before the Democratic National Convention begins next Monday in Denver.

Campaign manager David Plouffe e-mailed supporters last week telling them they would receive first word of Obama's decision through a mass text message, but otherwise the team has revealed little about what to expect. Historically, presidential tickets then tour battleground states to maximize media exposure, and Obama is expected to do the same.

For his part, Republican rival John McCain is seriously considering naming his running mate between the end of the Democratic convention Aug. 28 and the Sept. 1 start of the GOP convention in hopes of stunting any uptick in polls for Obama. McCain has at least three large rallies planned in top battlegrounds Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, before the Republican gathering in St. Paul, Minn.

His top contenders are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Less traditional choices mentioned include former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an abortion-rights supporter, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential prick in 2000 who now is an independent.

Since Obama clinched the nomination in early June, speculation has swirled about the prospective No. 2s.

Names mentioned included Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a national security expert who traveled with Obama to Iraq and Afghanistan; former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, another foreign policy authority; and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a prominent Hispanic with vast international experience.

While Obama's search committee reviewed its list of potential candidates during the past several weeks, the campaign was busy building the vice presidential staff operation that includes chief of staff Patti Solis Doyle, who was Clinton's campaign manager, and spokesman David Wade, who was 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry's traveling press secretary. Rick Siger, advance director for Kaine's campaign, came on to oversee the travels of the eventual pick, increasing buzz that his former boss could be the likely choice.

The drama of Obama's impending announcement drew dozens of new reporters to travel with his campaign Monday. They listened in vain for clues as Obama held a subdued meeting with several dozen women in New Mexico on the topic of wage discrimination, sticking to his word that he wouldn't say anything about the decision until his announcement.

Obama was more animated Monday afternoon at a raucous town hall meeting, where he was introduced by Richardson. He praised Richardson as one of the nation's best governors, but otherwise gave no hint of the governor's future status.

Even as they were kept out of the loop on the decision, Obama's staff debated who would make the right choice. Many said if the candidate asked them, they would suggest Biden because of his foreign policy experience and strong debate skills; Sebelius because she's a respected Washington outsider who has won a Republican state; or Bayh because he can appeal to Democrats uneasy about Obama and could help him win Indiana.

Each candidate could pose problems, too. An Obama-Sebelius ticket would be especially light on international experience. Bayh supported the Iraq war; Obama did not and has said that is a leading indicator of judgment.

Republicans are already envisioning their response to a Biden pick — Obama is so inexperienced that he had to pick someone with a 26-year record in Senate. Biden has spent a longer time on Capitol Hill than McCain, they point out, which doesn't exactly represent the kind of change Obama says is needed in Washington.

Biden was far from the speculation Monday; he traveled over the weekend to Georgia to meet with President Mikhail Saakashvili to discuss the country's military clash with Russia.

Other potential vice presidential prospects also seemed to be going about business as usual. Sebelius was traveling to Michigan on Tuesday to help boost Obama's support among women there, while Kaine helped unveil a bust of explorer Meriwether Lewis in Virginia's old House chamber on Monday.

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