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


Residency Challenge Expected in Emanuel's Chicago Mayoral Bid

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CHICAGO) -- Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said he did not expect the likely challenge to his status as a Chicago resident to derail his mayoral campaign.

Emanuel spent nearly two years in Washington, serving in the Obama Administration.  Before that he traveled a lot, working on the presidential campaign.

Emanuel said he was born here, raised his kids here, was a congressman here and owns a home here.  Emanuel said 90,000 people signed a petition to allow him to run for mayor and he doesn't think that they should be denied their choice.

The challenge is expected sometime in the coming week.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Billionaire Warren Buffett: Bush-Era Tax Cuts for Rich Should Expire

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(OMAHA, Neb.) -- Warren Buffett says that the rich should be paying more taxes and that the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy should be left to expire at the end of December.

"If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further," Buffett told ABC News. "But I think that people at the high end -- people like myself -- should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we've ever had it."

The billionaire brushed aside Republican arguments that letting tax cuts expire for the wealthy would hurt economic growth.

"The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we'll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you. But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on," Buffett explained.

The White House announced on Wednesday that President Obama will award Buffett a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, early next year.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


New Jersey Pol Gets 41 Months For Taking On-Camera Bribe

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Former New Jersey state legislator Daniel Van Pelt has been sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for accepting $10,000 from a developer in a bribery sting that was caught on tape.

Van Pelt, an assemblyman from Ocean County, was convicted of taking the money in return for promising a local developer that he would help him acquire permits for a large coastal development. The developer was actually an FBI informant, and the sting was captured on undercover video.

An ABC News report on the bribery case, featuring the undercover video and an exclusive interview with Van Pelt, was part of a week-long investigative series called "State House Scoundrels" produced by student reporters working with ABC’s Investigative Unit. Five graduate school journalists selected as Carnegie Fellows examined the ethics and behavior of state legislators, and found conduct that could be best described as unbecoming.

In February 2009, Van Pelt told the informant over dinner at a pricey Atlantic City steakhouse how he could help him acquire the much-coveted environmental permits. When the meal ended, the informant pulled out a white envelope stuffed with $10,000 in cash.

"I'll hold on to it," Van Pelt said, tucking the envelope into his pocket. "I don't know what I'm going to do with it."

Earlier this year, a jury viewed the tape and convicted Van Pelt of bribery and extortion. He faced up to 30 years in prison, but Judge Joel Pisano gave him 41 months and two years of supervised release. Van Pelt's star turn was among the most dramatic moments in a New Jersey public corruption investigation, Operation Bid Rig, that nabbed 44 individuals in one of the most sweeping stings in the nation's history.

In coastal New Jersey, say environmental activists, the willingness of local politicians like Van Pelt to make deals with developers, whether legally or illegally, is threatening the shoreline and coastal waterways.

"Barnegat Bay may die," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, referring to an estuary in Van Pelt's old district. "And it's really happening because we're loving the bay to death with development."

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Van Pelt maintained his innocence, saying he took the money as a consulting fee. He says the proposed project never made it to the permit stage, and that he was convicted not for his actions but for promises that, he claims, were ultimately meaningless.

But since New Jersey's coastal environmental permit (CAFRA) process began more than three decades ago, wealthy developers have filled the coffers of local political organizations, whose members helped craft the legislative loopholes that allowed the builders to expedite the permit process and push through projects that critics claim are environmentally unsound.

According to environmental advocates, the impact of coastal development in the past three decades has been disastrous. Advocates say that Barnegat Bay's fishing industries, including a quarter million dollar clamming trade, have almost collapsed. Poisonous jellyfish, which thrive on pollutants found in lawn fertilizer, have invaded Barnegat Bay, making long stretches unswimmable and threatening the region's $3.5 billion tourism industry.

Van Pelt, who also served ten years as mayor of Ocean Township, made his name pushing through development projects in Ocean County.

He fiercely defended his record to ABC News, explaining that the deals made as mayor and assemblymen were the best for the town --  a necessary compromise between development and environmental concerns.

"They have to protect the environment and I understood that," Van Pelt said of the Sierra Club's efforts to limit development.

"People are going to develop anyway," he added. "Whether I'm here or someone else is here. We just tried to do it the right way."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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