In it, but not of it. TPM DC

While Congress was focused today on grilling AIG over the executive bonuses, the two parties' House campaign committees have been doing their own back and forth over which party deserves the blame for it.

The NRCC today sent out a press release to the districts of targeted Democrats, accusing them of supporting the AIG bonuses by having voted for the stimulus bill. This goes back to the fact that an 11th-hour amendment to the stimulus bill limited executive compensation on financial institutions receiving bailout money, but didn't apply the limitation retroactively to prior contracts.

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TPMDC first reported last week on the Obama administration's plans to consider charging veterans' private health insurance for injuries suffered during their service. The proposed move ignited a firestorm on the right in recent days, with the Drudge Report picking up on a critical press release from the American Legion and sparking a letter of protest to the administration this morning from 61 House members.

The scandal abruptly cooled this afternoon, however, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told a gathering of veterans' groups that the White House had agreed to kill the idea of charging third parties for service-related veterans' health care. Pelosi said:

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Republican candidate Jim Tedisco, who is running in the March 31 special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat, has found a foothold from which he is basing his opposition to the stimulus bill. Yesterday evening, Tedisco's campaign sent out a press release attacking Democratic candidate Scott Murphy, entitled: "MURPHY ENDORSES AIG BONUSES WITH HIS SUPPORT FOR STIMULUS PACKAGE."

The issue here is that the stimulus bill had an amendment setting restrictions on executive pay for financial institutions receiving bailout money, but explicitly did not make the restriction retroactive -- thus the AIG contracts fall under an exception as the stimulus restrictions only applied going forward.

The question here is whether one issue that is reasonably popular, the stimulus, can be dragged down by associating it with something that is incredibly unpopular. If the answer turns out to be yes, the Republicans will be yelling this message loud and clear from now on -- and if not, it's back to the drawing board.

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This new Gallup poll shouldn't be too shocking: An overwhelming majority of Americans don't like the AIG bonuses.

The poll finds that 76% of respondents want the government to block or recover the bonuses, compared to only 17% who say the government shouldn't intervene. Also, 59% described themselves as "outraged," 26% were "bothered," and only 11% were "not particularly bothered."

In the party breakdowns: 83% of Democrats wants the government to block the bonuses and 70% are outraged; 67% of Republicans want to stop the bonuses and 56% are outraged; and 77% of independents want to block the bonuses and 54% are outraged.

Unfortunately, there is no polling out there on Chuck Grassley's comments.

While everyone watches the AIG spectacle unfold in the House, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is laying some shocking truths on the Senate Banking Committee in a little-noticed report.

The GAO, Congress' independent investigative bureau, spent three months probing the performance of government financial regulators in advance of a hearing today on "lessons learned in risk management oversight." What investigators found -- summarized in a 35-page report that's not yet available on its website -- was a system held captive by the banking industry.

The GAO's report concluded that "regulators had identified numerous weaknesses in the institutions' risk management systems before the financial crisis" -- but did nothing "until the crisis occurred because the institutions had strong financial positions and senior management had presented the regulators with plans for change."

Here are some of the distressing conclusions uncovered by the investigation (emphasis mine):

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The Franken campaign's latest legal filing has made official something that was widely expected to come in some form or another -- they are asking the election court to order the Coleman campaign to pay the costs for the contest, including a not-yet-specified amount of Franken's own legal fees.

So what exactly does this mean? Just how much would the Coleman camp be on the hook for, if the judges agreed?

The Star Tribune asked lead Franken lawyer Marc Elias if the campaign is asking just for fees related to the Pamela Howell dust-up, or the campaign's other legal expenses, too. "We're going to leave it to the court to decide that," said Elias. So for now, this appears to be up in the air.

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Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA) has asked the Treasury Department inspector general (IG) to open an inquiry into senior officials' knowledge of AIG's plans to pay out $450 million in bonuses to employees of its disgraced Financial Products unit.

In a letter to the Treasury IG today, Grassley singles out the department's general counsel as the office "largely involved" in the decision to let AIG proceed with its bonuses. Treasury chief Tim Geithner has said he became aware of the bonuses last Tuesday and notified the White House two days later, but Grassley also has asked the IG to examine that timeline.

Grassley's full letter to the IG, Eric Thorson, can be read after the jump.

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates has notified members of Congress of the official lifting of the Bush-era ban on media access to deceased soldiers arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Gates' move was previewed two weeks ago, but today's guidance symbolizes the end of an era in which the human costs of war were essentially hidden from the American public. TPMDC has obtained a copy of the Pentagon's memo on the new proposal, which you can view after the jump.

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When Rep. Dennis Moore (D-KS) asked Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit about his 2008 compensation last month, Pandit gave a simple answer: $1 million. Except the truth wasn't so simple.

Pandit actually received $11 million as part of a lavish package of stock awards and retention pay, making his testimony to Moore dangerously close to an outright falsehood. And Moore is calling on Pandit to explain himself in a frustrated letter sent yesterday, a copy of which has been obtained by TPMDC.

Moore writes:

While I was initially pleased to hear you agree to take a salary of $1 per year with no bonus until Citi returns to profitability, I am deeply troubled by this latest news. Should we expect additional, unexpected announcements of bonuses or financial compensation for your work in 2008 or going forward until Citi returns to profitability?

Former GOP Senator Chuck Hagel is now vocally blasting his party -- or more specifically, the state of the party as it stands now under the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Steele.

Hagel spoke to David Corn yesterday, describing Rush Limbaugh as "the center of gravity" for the current GOP. "We need a new center of gravity," Hagel made clear.

Hagel was also sharply critical of Michael Steele's public discussion about potential primary challenges to Arlen Specter, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe for backing the stimulus bill. "People expect serious people to deal with serious issues and to govern seriously," said Hagel. "And when you don't do that, you become irrelevant."


It's Lonely In The Minority

Now that they’re in the minority, this is the press corps covering House Republicans…