White House Advisor Axelrod Leaving White House Earlier Than Expected

Photo Courtesy - Pete Souza | White House(WASHINGTON) -- White House senior advisor David Axelrod will leave the White House in late January or early February 2011 to prepare for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012.

A White House source explained the change of date, saying that Axelrod calculated how much time he needed for rest and family before the next project heats up, and he decided to accelerate his schedule a bit.

Axlerod originally planned to leave and prepare for the campaign in spring 2011.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Sarah Palin Book Signing: Despite Early Crowd, Tickets Still Available

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- With folding chairs and blankets in tow, fans lined up Tuesday outside the Barnes and Noble in Phoenix at 5 a.m., braving the cold for hours for a chance to have Sarah Palin sign a copy of her new book. The crowd, which consisted mostly of women but also many men, several teenage boys and even a 10-year-old girl, showcased the former governor’s broad appeal.

After several hours of waiting, Palin supporters were finally allowed to enter the bookstore, buy only two copies of America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag, and receive a wristband that would gain them entry to the book signing Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Despite the enthusiasm of Tuesday morning’s crowd (roughly 150 people), tickets were still available before the event. Several in line Tuesday morning noted that Palin’s appearance was not well-publicized in the area. A spokesperson with Barnes and Noble would not say how many tickets were distributed Tuesday morning or how many total exist, but confirmed they were still being handed out.

Palin, who will miss seeing her daughter Bristol on the finale of Dancing With The Stars to attend the book signing, took to Twitter Tuesday to promote her second book. "America By Heart is out in bookstores today and available online for purchase. Our book tour kicks off at 6 p.m....” she tweeted, linking to a review of the book.

Meeting the former governor, however, came with strict rules. Palin fans were not allowed to bring in any cameras, cell phones or bags. In addition, she did not make any public comments or take any questions from the media.

Tuesday’s book signing kicked off Palin’s nine-day, 16-stop book tour.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Obama Hails Chrysler Factory 'Shining Example' of Auto Recovery 

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(KOKOMO, Ind.) -- Describing the Chrysler factory as once “dark and empty,” President Obama on Tuesday trumpeted the success of the Kokomo, Indiana, factory, now at full capacity, hailing it a “shining example” of the auto industry’s recovery since the federal bailout.

“Even as we continue to face serious challenges, what's happening here at this plant, the changes we're seeing throughout Kokomo, are signs of hope and confidence in the future, in our future, together,” Obama said from the floor of the Chrysler factory Tuesday afternoon.

The Kokomo plant two years ago had plummeting production and had to lay off many of their workers. With the federal government’s bailout, the plant is back at full capacity and hiring workers. Kokomo's unemployment has gone from a staggering 20 percent in June of 2009 to 12 percent this fall.

“There were those who were prepared to give up on Kokomo and our auto industry,” the president said. “There were those who said it was going to be too difficult, or that it was bad politics, or it was throwing good money after bad. You remember the voices arguing for us to do nothing. They were pretty loud, suggesting we should just step back and watch an entire sector of our economy fall apart.”

The president heralded the Big Three automakers’ recovery as well, saying that for the first time in over a decade Americans are buying a larger share of Chrysler, Ford, and GM cars and a smaller share of their foreign counterparts.

Bringing up the bipartisan summit scheduled for next Tuesday from the White House, the president called for Democrats and Republicans to work together to better the economy, and work on tax cuts, in order to “make it easier, not harder, for middle-class families to get ahead.”

President Obama and Vice President Biden made three local stops in the Kokomo area. The pair visited an elementary school and the Gingerbread House Bakery and ate lunch with firefighters who had been laid off but got their jobs back due to a FEMA grant.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


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

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