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Manic Monday Markup 3/26/2012…

…And the World:

Another Tory scandal in Britain over being too close to influence peddlers.  British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party have been caught, seemingly selling out once again.  After being caught too close to Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers (a former New International Exec worked for Cameron as a press aide), new revelations Murdoch’s own Sunday Times put the PM in another sticky wicket.  In a report in the Paywall protected Times, the Conservative Party was caught offering high-profile dinners with Cameron and other higher-ups in the party for generous donors.  Cameron has distanced himself from the scandal and offered public lists of visitors to Number 10 Downing Street, his official residence and his private residence nearby.  The party official behind the access-selling has also resigned.  The new scandal has reignited debates about party funding in Great Britain and the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, has called for an independent inquiry (rather than a Conservative-run internal investigation) into the propriety of donors’ access to high-level party officials.

Cameron is not the only English-speaking premier facing the heat.  After devastating losses for Labor in Queensland, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard may face an uphill fight next year when her party faces reelection next year.  Consequently, Gillard is already beginning a new offensive to change the public’s perception of her.  On Saturday, Labor lost 43 seats in the Queensland State Assembly, a shocking loss since the state is usually seen as friendly to Labor.  While they had been expected to lose control of the assembly, the bleeding included traditional Labor strongholds like the City of Brisbane.  The leader of the Labor party resigned both her leadership position and her seat in Parliament following Saturday’s results.

A peaceful transition comes to Africa.  In elections held yesterday, Senegal’s president since 2000, Abdoulaye Wade, whose controversial run for a third term sparked outrage in this West African country, conceded to his opponent, Macky Sall.  This region of Africa is not known for the best adherence to democratic principles, although Senegal has been better than most.  Sall is a former protege of Wade, but differs greatly from the president in demeanor.  He came back from a second place finish in an earlier election round to defeat Wade in the second round held on Sunday.

The Feds:

The High Court takes on health care reform.  Today is only about whether or not the Court has any jurisdiction over the bill now due to its tax implications.  Under the Anti-Injunction Act of 1867, the Courts are not to halt a tax until it is collected, which in the Affordable Care Act’s case would not be until 2014’s taxes are filed in 2015.  The justices seemed unreceptive to that argument.  The justices appointed an outside attorney to argue for the delay as both the plaintiffs and the defendants in the case rejected the notion that the nineteenth century law.  Still it provided for some legal ju-jistsu for Solicitor General Donald Verrilli who argued that the penalty individuals must pay if they fail to get insurance is not a tax for the purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act, but is a prerogative of Congress’s taxing power under the Constitution.

For more info about the Supreme Court case on Health Care or really any Court watching, we highly recommend SCOTUSBlog.com.  It is non-partisan (no, really!) and is staffed by experts in the Highest Court in the land.  And for a rundown of various viewpoints about the case, Greg Sargent’s Morning Plum and Happy Hour roundups today has some prime links!

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking legislation to better regulate the collection of people’s data that gets scooped up by Internet companies.  This occurs as efforts by Senator John Kerry and others gather steam for a similar push from within Congress.

The State of Things:

A report from the New England Center for Investigative Reporting highlights how flat lottery sales coupled with legislative raiding of the account to shore up the commonwealth’s budget has left communities with less and less local aide.  Communities have lost billions in local aide over the last several years resulting in yawning budget gaps, cuts in services or hefty rises in taxes and fees.

Another third party expenditure obligates Scott Brown to write a check to a Warren approved charity.  Time to start raising eyebrows, as least preliminarily.  There are two possibilities starting to develop.  After the first non-entity of a SuperPAC was caught breaking the campaign pledge, Brown jumped to pay the fine.  Some suspected that it may have been a plant.  Now the American Petroleum Institute’s latest ad is triggering the second one.  It seems possible that is evidence of further efforts by Brown’s allies to polish his halo by giving him a chance to look so honorable.  By contrast, it is possible that Warren’s campaign may have taken the right risk in agreeing to the pledge since it could bleed Brown’s campaign little by little.  However, these ads have been relatively small and not dented much of Brown’s $13 million war chest.  This one was also a twofer for Warren’s campaign as it highlights Brown’s past support for oil and gas subsidies that cost taxpayers $4 billion a year.

Also on the Senate campaign front, the Republican claimed in a lazy, bogus online-only Editorial that Elizabeth Warren has not spent enough time in Western Massachusetts.  Cow Excrement we declare!  Here’s the proof!

Federal indictments finally come out of the US Attorney’s Office in the Probation scandal.  Other than O’Brien and his deputies, nobody else is facing prosecution by the Feds…yet.  However, the wife of State Rep. Thomas Petrolati, Democrat of Ludlow, who had a Probation Job for which she was allegedly not qualified, makes an appearance in the indictment along with other legislators alluded to by their titles.

City Slickers:

Technically a county-wide story, but the job is based in Springfield so it counts, but Clerk of Courts Brian Lees’s decision to not seek another six year term could set off a hell of a scramble.  Among the possible contenders are Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette, Springfield at-large Councilor Thomas Ashe and assistance clerk Magistrate Laure Gentile of Springfield.  John DaCruz of Ludlow has already announced for the race.  Also mentioned in the article is the race for Governor’s Council.  Western Massachusetts-based councilor Thomas Merrigan is not running leading others to consider the position, including hardly-missed and barely unindicted former Springfield mayor Michael Albano.

Again another regional story, but it hits the urban centers the hardest and that includes Springfield.  The PVTA is facing a budget gap of its own and with no appetite for more taxes legislators are looking for a way to close it through means other than cuts as ridership has actually been ticking up in this notorious non-mass transit region of New England.

Twitter Chatter:

Okay, we admit it.  This week is kind of a cop out, but it is still pretty funny.  Reports have surfaced that Dick Cheney had a heart transplant leading this tweet from Jon Stewart at the Daily Show.  Perhaps the most disturbing thing is that it can be believed.

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