Republican Insider Gunning for RNC Chairman Michael Steele's Job

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- ABC News has learned former Republican National Committee (RNC) political director Gentry Collins has taken the first step toward running for RNC chairman. Collins filed papers with the IRS to create a 527 fundraising committee called "Collins for Chairman."

Collins caused a stir last week when he abruptly resigned from the RNC, accusing current chairman Michael Steele of mismanaging the RNC and "allowing its major donor base to wither."

Michigan Republican Saul Anuzis has already declared his candidacy and exploratory committees have been set up by former Bush administration official Maria Cino and former RNC chairwoman Ann Wagner.  

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Former Obama Auto Czar Continues Feud With NY Attorney General

Photo Courtesy - Jemal Countess/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Former Obama administration auto czar Steve Rattner, who last week blasted Andrew Cuomo as a "bully" who had filed a "politically motivated" $26 million lawsuit against him, has taken his feud with New York's attorney general to the airwaves.

On Monday, Rattner told talk show host Charlie Rose that Cuomo had issued "threats" against him, was relying on emotions instead of facts in filing the suit, and questioned whether Cuomo, who becomes New York's governor in less than two months, has the right temperament to hold high elected office.

Rattner, a long-time force in Democratic politics, also told Rose he was never a Cuomo supporter. "I was never part of the Andrew Cuomo fan club," said Rattner. "I was frankly never president of his fan club or even a charter member."

Cuomo announced Thursday that he was suing Rattner over allegedly paying kickbacks to win investment business for his firm, Quadrangle Group, from the New York state pension fund. In dual lawsuits, Cuomo is demanding that Rattner return $26 million, and wants to ban Rattner for life from the securities industry.

The news came the same day that the federal Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Rattner had agreed to pay $6.2 million to settle civil charges over the same influence-peddling scandal. He is also barred for two years from the securities business.

In a response to Cuomo's suits, Rattner denied wrongdoing and said he intended to clear his name "by defending myself vigorously against this politically motivated lawsuit."

"While settling with the SEC begins the process of putting this matter behind me," said Rattner, "I will not be bullied simply because the Attorney General's office prefers political considerations instead of a reasoned assessment of the facts."

On "Charlie Rose," Rattner repeated the bully charge, and his insistence that he had not broken any laws. He also said he had been willing to settle with Cuomo, but that the attorney general had "dragged this out."

"I've been willing to settle this all along at a -- you know, on reasonable terms, but I'm not going to settle them on terms that make no sense," said Rattner. "The SEC looked at facts and came to a set of conclusions. Andrew Cuomo chose instead to rely on his emotions."

"This is not the kind of behavior I think we want out of an attorney general or a governor," added Rattner, who also charged that Cuomo's handling of the case was "frankly close to extortion" and involved "threaten[ing] & [to] prosecute me to the ends of the earth."

Rattner also seemed to suggest that Cuomo's decision to sue him may have been influenced by Cuomo's gubernatorial opponent Carl Paladino, who during the campaign had tried to make an issue of Cuomo not "going after" Rattner.

"My supposition," said Rattner, "but you should get the attorney general in here and ask him, is that it comes down to emotion and politics. I don't know how else to account for it."

In his introduction to the interview with Rattner, Rose dislosed that he and Rattner were long-time friends.

Asked to comment on Rattner's accusations on Rose's show, Cuomo's office said Tuesday that they were not planning to add anything to a statement issued last week.

On Thursday, Cuomo spokesman Richard Bamberger responded to Rattner's criticisms by noting how many times Rattner had invoked the Fifth Amendment, which protects a witness from self-incrimination, while testifying. "Mr. Rattner now has a lot of say as he spins his friends in the press, but when he was questioned under oath about his pensions and dealing he was much less talkative, taking the Fifth and refusing to answer questions 68 different times."

"Anyone who reads the extensive facts laid out in our complaint," said Bamberger, "will understand that Rattner's claim that he did nothing wrong are ridiculous and belied by the fact that he is paying the $6 million today."

The SEC alleged that Rattner and Quadrangle Group provided political favors and kickbacks to win business from the New York's $125 billion pension fund. The SEC alleged that one of the favors was distributing DVDs of a low-budget film called "Chooch" produced by a pension fund official and his brothers.

David Rosenfeld, associate director of the SEC's New York Regional Office, said Thursday, "Rattner delivered special favors and conducted sham transactions that corrupted the [New York state] Retirement Fund's investment process."

Cuomo 's two lawsuits accuse Rattner of paying kickbacks to help Quadrangle land a $150 million investment from the state pension fund.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Exclusive: Fans of Congressional Gridlock Cheer Election's Outcome

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As many Republicans favor political gridlock as oppose it, complicating the lives of leaders of the victorious party in this month's congressional elections.

While the phrase customarily is taken as a negative, the latest ABC News/Yahoo! News poll finds that Republican registered voters in fact divide evenly, 42 to 43 percent, on whether gridlock is a bad thing because it prevents good legislation from being passed, or a good thing because it blocks bad laws.

The split underscores many Republicans' skepticism of active government.  But it may make it difficult for GOP leaders to push their own legislative agenda.  And it raises questions about the durability of the party's appeal to independent registered voters, who favored Republicans by a record margin Nov. 2, but who see gridlock as a negative by a two-to-one margin, 57 percent to 28 percent.

Democratic registered voters even more broadly see gridlock as a negative, and among all registered voters combined it's viewed negatively by 56 to 31 percent, again nearly two-to-one.

Whatever registered voters think of it, most believe it's coming: The poll, produced for ABC and Yahoo! News by Langer Research Associates, finds that 81 percent of Americans overall think gridlock is "likely" to occur in the next Congress, and just over a third say it's "very likely."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Poll Not Promising for Obama's Reelection Chances 

Photo Courtesy - Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images(HAMDEN, Conn.) -- Forty-nine percent of respondents in a nationwide poll conducted by Quinnipiac University say that President Obama does not deserve to be re-elected.

Just 43 percent believe that Obama should get a second term.  Still, this represents a slight improvement for the president since July, when 48 percent of people polled were against Obama's re-election and 40 percent favored another term.

The poll also finds that Sarah Palin leads all other Republicans as the pick for the 2012 nominee -- but just barely.  The former Alaska governor is ahead with 19 percent, compared to 18 percent for Mitt Romney and 17 percent for Mike Huckabee, who were governors of Massachusetts and Arkansas, respectively.

When it comes to head-to-head matches against Obama, Romney leads the president 45 percent to 44 percent, with Obama ahead of Huckabee 46 percent to 44 percent.  An Obama-Palin match-up has the president ahead, 48 percent to 40 percent.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Morris Pleads Guilty in NY Comptroller Corruption Case

File photo. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Henry "Hank" Morris has entered a felony guilty plea for his involvement in a pay-to-play kickback scheme at the Office of the New York State Comptroller.

Morris, the chief political adviser to former Comptroller of the State of New York, Alan Hevesi, is said tohave used the pension fund's multi-billion dollar alternative investment portfolio to enrich himself and to dole out favors and paybacks to cronies. Morris is said to have personally received approximately $19 million in fees from the scam. The plea also means he is guilty of steering investments to friends and political associates.

In a press release from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office, Morris is said to have pleaded guilty to violating the Martin Act, a class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison. Sentencing in the case is set for February 1, 2011.

As a result of entering a guilty plea, Morris will forfeit $19 million, which will be paid to the state pension fund, and he will be permanently banned from the Securities Industry in New York State.

This guilty plea is the eighth one in Cuomo’s three-year investigation into corruption involving the Office of the New York State Comptroller.  The investigation has now raked in over $158 million in recoveries for the state of New York.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Alaska Senate Battle Continues, Miller Gets Respite from Federal Judge

Photo Courtesy - Joe Miller for US Senate(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski declared herself a winner last week, but the end is nowhere in sight for the bitter battle being fought among Republicans in the Alaska Senate race.

On Friday, a federal judge in Alaska granted Joe Miller a temporary injunction to halt official vote certification and deferred the matter to a state court.

Miller, who has vowed to continue fighting, has to take up the matter with the state court by Monday.

"The results of this election shall not be certified until the legal issues raised therein have been fully and finally resolved," Federal District Judge Ralph Beistline wrote.

The Tea Party-backed candidate had argued that the Alaska elections division was overstepping its constitutional boundaries by deciding that write-in ballots that were misspelled could still be counted if they showed voter intent.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Mike Huckabee: Divided Government May Boost Obama’s 2012 Chances

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- It's a question that every potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate has to ask before jumping into the race: Could I beat Barack Obama?

Sarah Palin already said she thinks so, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee acknowledged in an appearance on ABC's The View on Monday that he won't enter the GOP primary unless he comes to the same conclusion.

"I think it's going to be harder to beat Barack Obama than a lot of Republicans are thinking because he is the president, he's going to have a billion dollars starting out in his war chest, there is an extraordinary advantage of an incumbent," Huckabee said. "And I'll tell you something else people don't think about: a divided government is good for the executive branch."

He added, "When the executive and the legislative branches fight, the executive always wins," citing his own experience with a Democrat-controlled Arkansas legislature.

Some fresh polling numbers may help Huckabee, a veteran of the 2008 GOP presidential primary, make up his mind about running. A new Quinnipiac University survey released on Monday found Obama ahead of Huckabee by 2 points in a theoretical match up -- a virtual dead heat. The survey's margin of error is 2 percentage points.

Only one candidate -- former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- actually polls higher than Obama in a head-to-head race, and only by 1 percentage point, according to the Quinnipiac results. Among other potential GOP contenders, Huckabee comes in third in the poll, trailing Palin who gets 19 percent of Republican support and Romney who garners 18 percent. Huckabee comes up with 17 percent and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gets 15 percent.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Tea Party Senator’s Hard Line on Debt: Utah’s Mike Lee says 'No Way'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Senator-elect Mike Lee (R-Utah) is taking a no-compromise, hard-line stand on the national debt that may soon put him at odds with his own party leadership.

Lee told ABC News that when Congress is asked to vote early next year on raising the national debt limit -- a usually routine vote that allows the government to borrow the money needed to finance annual budget deficits -- he will vote "no."

"I'm as serious as they come," Lee said.  "I could not be more serious when I say I'm not going to vote to increase the national debt limit."

The U.S. government is expected to hit its current debt limit -- $14.3 trillion -- sometime next spring.  Economists warn that failure to raise the limit could trigger a crisis in the U.S. bond market, raising the specter that the U.S. would default on its bond obligations.

Lee doesn't see it that way.  A failure to raise the debt limit, Lee says, "will force a discussion on a balanced budget amendment, and a discussion about the need to balance the budget every year."

But incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) says it would be irresponsible for Congress to vote against raising the debt limit.

For Lee, not even the prospect of a federal default on debt or a government shutdown would convince him to raise the debt limit.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Republican Presidential Contenders for 2012

Photo Courtesy - Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With the 2012 presidential election less than two years away, a diverse and ambitious group of Republicans has begun jockeying for the party's presidential nomination and a chance to go head-to-head with President Barack Obama.

With early visits to Iowa and New Hampshire, political action committee fundraisers, and informal conversations with prospective strategists and staffers, these would-be candidates have been subtly and not-so-sublty laying the groundwork for their campaigns.

The list is dominated by GOP governors and former governors, including familiar faces like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and newcomers to the presidential race, like Tim Pawlenty and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.  Everyone has their eyes on former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who has also intimated she could be in the game.

ABC News has identified 16 Republicans as early contenders in the race for the GOP nomination in 2012. A recent Gallup poll puts Romney, Palin, and Huckabee in a virtual statistical dead heat at the top of the pack.

Other than Gingrich, chief challengers include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune, with wild cards including Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former New York Gov. George Pataki, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry also in the mix.

Other names that have been bandied about are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- all of whom say at this point they are not running.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Analyst: Palin’s ‘Non-Presidential’ TV Appearances Will Cost Her

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sarah Palin can been seen all over television this week – from the debut of TLC’s Sarah Palin’s Alaska to her daughter’s controversial appearance in the finale of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars – but can Americans see her in the White House in 2012?

“The independent voters have made up their minds about her, and it is a negative judgment they’ve made,” ABC News political analyst George Will said Sunday on This Week with Christiane Amanpour.

In an interview with Barbara Walters that airs Dec. 9th, Sarah Palin said she could defeat President Obama if she chose to run for president in 2012. According to George Will, however, she has yet to accomplish what voters need to view her as a serious political figure.

“After the 2008 campaign she had two things she had to do: she had to go home to Alaska and study, and she had to govern Alaska well,” Will said. “Instead she quit halfway through her first term and shows up in the audience of Dancing With the Stars and other distinctly non-presidential venues.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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