In it, but not of it. TPM DC

So what should we think of the fact that Norm Coleman is still attending Senate GOP policy lunches, even though he's not a Senator?

Here's what Eric Schultz, the new DSCC spokesman (and a former communications man for Franken) told us when we asked him for comment on the story: "Springing for lunch is the least they can do for using his prolonged and increasingly desperate legal battle to obstruct the Democratic agenda."

Schultz is referring here to the widespread perception that this lawsuit is only being done in order to prevent Al Franken from being seated, thanks to the unique Minnesota law that prevents certification of a victory while a legal contest is still going, and which has made it a lot harder for Dems to reach 60 votes on cloture motions.

Norm Coleman appeared yesterday on the Armstrong Williams radio show, and the Minnesota GOP has posted this interesting excerpt of Norm responding to Williams' question regarding how Minnesotans feel about their current lack of full representation.

"Those of us who have had the honor to serve as public servants, public officials, we serve with the consent of the governed," Coleman said. "You're not gonna get that consent if the governed -- if the citizens -- don't think the guy who got the most votes is the guy that got elected, the guy that sits in the office."

He later added: "But people in Minnesota understand that you've gotta get it right."

Where were you eight years ago, Norm, when we really needed you?

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) just told reporters that he asked Roland Burris (in a very polite manner) to resign. And Burris said no.

"If I were in your shoes, I would consider resigning," Durbin said, reciting what he told Burris.

Durbin said he also asked Burris whether he would be running for a full term in 2010, and Burris said he hasn't made up his mind. Durbin then recalled telling Burris that it would be very difficult to win either the primary or general elections.

"What I've done is, I made my recommendation to Senator Burris," Durbin said. "And he's told me clearly that he will not resign."

Durbin added that he doesn't have much persuasive power with Burris -- he previously advised Burris during the Blagojevich scandal to not seek or accept the appointment, and Burris did that, anyway.

Josh just posted the video of Michael Steele's appearance on Fox News yesterday, when the national Republican chairman suggested that he would be open to denying political funds to the three GOP senators who supported the economic stimulus law.

See more at

It sounds like a brash bit of moxie from Steele. But when I asked him about it today -- the RNC chief joined ex-Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) as an official lunch guest of Senate GOPers -- Steele backtracked.

"It's totally up to the state parties," he told me, in a stark contrast to his comment on Fox that he would "talk to the state parties" about withholding funds to the three stimulus-supporting Republican senators. (The three in question: Arlen Specter, up for re-election in Pennsylvania next year, and Mainers Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both out of cycle in 2010.)

Incidentally, the Senate Republican campaigns chief, John Cornyn (TX) was also bearish on Steele's initial vow. When I asked if he was open to blocking party aid to the three Cornyn said simply: "We're going to support incumbents."

[ed. note: This post has been edited from the original, which incorrectly noted that the winner of last week's Northern Trust golf tournament had received a phone call from the president.]

When it rains, it pours ... hours after a major labor group asked the Treasury Department to deny bailout money to a bank that dropped half a million dollars on lobbying in three months, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) is telling another bank to give back some of its government aid right now.

In a letter to Northern Trust -- which, it should be noted, is the president's personal bank -- Frank and every Democrat on his committee chastise bank president Frederick Waddell for sponsoring a lavish golf tournament in Los Angeles and giving out Tiffany souvenirs to clients while taking taxpayer money.

"We insist that you immediately return to the federal government the equivalent of what Northern Trust frittered away on these lavish events," the Democrats wrote to Waddell.

The Democrats' full letter to Northern Trust is after the jump.

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The House is on the verge of taking up a mortgage aid proposal that would, for the first time, allow judges to modify the terms of primary mortgages for individuals facing bankruptcy -- a reform known as the "cram-down."

The bankruptcy law change is backed by the Obama administration as well as Citigroup (which is increasingly looking like a ward of the Obama administration). But the American Bankers Association, the Mortgage Bankers Association, and other K Street players are no fans of the cram-downs plan.

In a letter sent today to every House member, a group of financial lobbying giants urges Congress to reject the cram-downs bill. Lobbyists are especially concerned about language in the bill "provid[ing] that even minor violations of the Truth-in-Lending Act (TILA) could result in a home equity loan or even a mortgage being disallowed in bankruptcy."

You read that right: K Street is asking Congress to permit lenders to get away with minor violations of the TILA, a 40-year-old law that was passed to protect consumers from banks that hide punitive terms in the fine print of loans.

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Senator David Vitter (R-LA), whose career became mired in controversy back in 2007 when he became implicated in the D.C. Madam prostitution ring, is now calling upon Roland Burris to resign.

That's right. Vitter is challenging someone else's ethics and fitness to serve in the Senate.

In an interview with The Hill, Vitter dismissed any idea that his own personal scandals made him a hypocrite for calling upon Burris to quit. "I honestly don't know anybody who would compare these situations," he told The Hill on Tuesday. "They are dramatically different."

There are differences, obviously. Burris' scandal involves being metaphorically in bed with somebody.

It turns out that Norm Coleman is still a member in good standing of the Senate Republican Conference -- in fact, it just so happens that he attended today's party lunch meeting on the Hill, and was also there for Inauguration Week.

What makes this remarkable is that Coleman isn't actually a member of the United States Senate anymore. Remember that his term expired this past January 3, and Minnesota has been without a Senator because of his lawsuit bottling up Al Franken's amazingly-narrow win.

"He's always welcome," Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) told TPMDC, adding that "we still think he has a very good opportunity" to win.

It's unclear whether Alexander has actually been watching the trial, which has seen some key rulings lately going against Coleman's position, diminishing the likelihood of a Coleman victory. In fact, the Coleman camp's press operation has taken to openly attacking the court's rulings.

We will say this: The fact that Coleman doesn't actually have a vote probably makes Jon Kyl's whip operation a lot easier.

Several members of Congress are choosing to donate political contributions from accused fraudster Allen Stanford to charity -- with the notable holdouts being Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who has hung onto 4/5 of his Stanford cash, and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX).

But the Dallas Morning News reports that lawmakers may not have a choice in the matter anymore, now that the court-appointed receiver who's managing Stanford's assets has asked both the Republican and Democratic campaign committees to give back all the cash. From the Dallas report:

Ralph S. Janvey, who was appointed by the U.S. District Court in Dallas to take control of Stanford's assets, asked Democratic and Republican national political committees on Monday to return donations from Allen Stanford and his company's political action committee.

Stanford, his employees and his corporate PAC gave $250,125 to the NRCC since 2000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Stanford entities gave the most to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee - $965,500, according to the center.

Janvey's request does not appear to have been sent to individual members of Congress (yet), but the Dallas paper adds that Sessions has already donated $2,000 to charity to offset his Stanford cash, and is considering getting rid of the rest of the $40,000-plus he received.

Late Update: As the AP reported last night, Janvey's letters seeking a political-cash refund are "highly unusual." The practice is common with charitable donations given by individuals before their assets are frozen, but rarely occurs with campaign donations. Here's how Janvey put his request:

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For those of you who think that conservatives are Luddites and only liberals have really mastered the tools of the digital age, listen to what happened to me on Friday.

Sick as a dog, I was lying in bed around 6 PM with my BlackBerry watching the chat on Twitter. I'd been following Newt Gingrich for awhile and I noticed he'd been chatting with Michael P. Leahy, the founder of something called Top Conservatives on Twitter.

As I lay sneezing and wheezing, Leahy was, before my eyes, using Twitter to organize dozens of rallies across the country to protest the economic policies of the Obama administration all under the heading of a National Chicago Tea Party. The reference to the Windy City is, of course, a homage to Rick Santelli's cri de coeur. Leahy notes that other conservatives had been toying with the idea of a tea party, pre Santelli, including Michelle Malkin, Glenn Reynolds and the Managing Editor of the American Spectator J. Peter Freire. But it was Santelli's screed combined with Twitter that brought it all together so quickly.

The speed with which Leahy found people to sponsor events, design a logo,even come up with Revolutionary War reenactors was startling.

Just a week later, on Friday, conservatives will gather in about 35 cities across the country to fight what they see as profligate policies that reward irresponsibility.

I spoke with Leahy this afternoon. He was at his home near Nashville. Raised in an Irish Catholic family in Oswego, New York--he tells me that he's actually third cousins with Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat--the 54-year-old went to Harvard undergrad and Stanford business school. An entrepreneur, he worked in enterprise systems and computer marketing and became a conservative in the mid 80s having grown up in a JFK-admiring home. Now he's published a few conservative tomes and devotes considerable energy to Top Conservatives on Twitter.

By now everyone knows Twitter but what's less well known is the so-called hashtag or tick tac toe symbol that often accompanies Twitter messages. It's used to identify a message so that it can be easily grouped with other like minded souls. On Sunday, for instance, I Twittered some comments about the Oscars and ended each post with "#oscars"

In the conservative world, #TCOT is the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. Karl Rove uses it regularly. So does Newt. If you want to be in the conservative dialogue that's where you go. It's now the most popular hashtag on Twitter. All of this makes Leahy an important facilitator in the conservative movement.

I'm not sure what will become of these rallies. I know I don't agree with Leahy's claim that Obama is "moving us toward European socialism." I think Hank Paulson of Goldman Sachs and the Bush administration started the government interventions and any president would have continued them in this climate. And I don't really see how tax cuts and less government will get us out of this mess. But the ability to fire up a nationwide protest movement so quickly is impressive to me and should be a reminder that liberals have no monopoly on technology and innovation.