Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

October 2011 Archives

WASHINGTON--The White House on Monday released the results of President Obama's latest physical and the numbers show he is good shape, his physican reports. "The President is in excellent health and "fit for duty," said his doctor, Jeffrey C. Kuhlman.

Read the pdf of the doctor's reportThe_President's_Periodic_Physical_Exam.pdf

Obama by the numbers:

193 total cholesterol
68 triglycerides
69 HDL cholesterol
110 LDL cholesterol

Prostate cancer PSA .0.80

Vital Statistics

50 years, 2 months
73 inches height
181.3 pounds
23.9 kg.m2 body mass index

67 bpm heart rate
107/71 blood pressure

WASHINGTON--GOP White House hopeful Herman Cain said he "never sexually harassed anyone" while at the National Restaurant Association but did confirm there was an in-house investigation of his conduct.

Cain is enjoying front-runner status in the crowded 2012 Republican field and as a result, "the bullseye on my back is getting bigger," he told a crowded lunch speech at the National Press Club. The speech, long booked, came as Politico published a story alleging the NRA paid a settlement to workers as a result of harassment charges.

"In all my over 40 years of business experience,...I have never sexually harassed anyone.... At the NRA, I was accused of sexually harrassement. Falsely accused, I might add," he said.

Cain said he recused himself from a probe of the alleged incidents conducted by the NRA.

"I am not aware of a settlement. I hope it is not for much because I did not do anything. ..I have never sexually harrased anyone and those accusations are totally false."

Halloween at the White House

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I was on WGN Monday morning with host Greg Jarrett discussing Politico's story about GOP White House hopeful Herman Cain sexual harrassment settlements while at the National Restaurant Association. Listen to the segment HERE.

When the South Korean president and first lady visited Chicago this month, they were honored at a dinner in the Cultural Center by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and an understated woman the city doesn't know -- Amy Rule, his wife.

Although Emanuel was inaugurated in mid-May, it was not until Oct. 14 that Rule made her official debut as first lady, meeting South Korean leader Lee Myung-Bak and his wife, Kim Yoon-Ok, at O'Hare Airport and co-hosting the dinner with her husband.

Rule has an intense desire to remain private while the reality is that her husband's job has made her somewhat a public figure. I bet most of you would not recognize Rule -- and that's fine with her.

Private, unpretentious and humble are a few of the words friends and acquaintances use to describe her. She's also known as being fun and witty.

Like her husband, she's trim and wiry. She runs, bikes and kayaks. Unlike her husband, she's not caught up in politics.

Above all, she is a devoted mother. Since Zacharia, the couple's oldest child, was born, Rule has been a stay-at-home mom.

When she moved to Washington after Emanuel became President Barack Obama's chief of staff, she cherished her anonymity, her pals said, and was not enthusiastic about giving it up.

Rule remained at their Ravenswood home with their children when Emanuel started in the Obama White House. Eventually, the family moved temporarily to a big house near the Washington National Cathedral.

As Emanuel departed Washington to jump into the Chicago mayoral race, the president tipped his hat to Rule. At Obama's Oct. 1, 2010, send-off for Emanuel, the president noted: "Much to Amy's chagrin, I've intruded on [Emanuel's] life at almost any hour of the day, any day of the week."

Rule is the yin to Emanuel's yang. She is the warm to his cold.

"She's smart and thoughtful and understated and in some ways the polar opposite of him," said Dee Dee Myers, a former Clinton White House press secretary who met Emanuel when they worked on Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign.

"He obviously is the outgoing of the two. She is a more reserved person," said Cathy Russell, one of Rule's closest friends who knows about the role of a first lady because she is the chief of staff to second lady Jill Biden.

Emanuel kept in check

While Emanuel dominates the city's news, Rule, 54, prefers to stay behind the scenes. She would rather this profile not be written. She declined to be interviewed for this story. City Hall provided limited cooperation.

"Amy Rule is not a public official and values her privacy and that of her children," said Emanuel's communications chief Chris Mather. "We request that the media respect that."

Emanuel has a reputation as a bully in the bully pulpit. By all accounts -- including Emanuel's -- Rule does not put up with his famed bombastic brashness.

Riffing off Obama's famous takedown of Hillary Rodham Clinton during a presidential primary debate, Emanuel quipped at the Washington Press Club Foundation dinner in 2008, "I tell my wife I love her and she says I'm likable enough."

David Boul, Emanuel's campaign fund treasurer said, "I think she keeps him in check. I think she keeps him grounded."

Just how would that work?

Rule "gently prods him when she thinks he is a little off track," said David Axelrod, Obama's top strategist who met Rule when she started dating Emanuel. "She has been good about making him, encouraging him to put work in its proper place and focus on his family."

While publicity averse, Rule is not a recluse.

She has been a sought-after guest, courted by the elite social circles in Washington. In March, the Washington Post reported she attended a dinner hosted by Kuwaiti Ambassador Salem Al-Sabah and his wife, Rima. Emanuel, the Post noted, was "officially there as husband of Amy Rule."

Rule's Republican parents

Amy Merritt Rule was born on June 30, 1957, in New London, Conn., and is two years and five months older than the 52-year-old Emanuel, who was born on Nov. 29, 1959.

Rule grew up in the Cleveland suburb of Chagrin Falls. Her parents are Republicans, according to Ohio voting records. Her mother, Mary, is a retired teacher. Her father, Adrian, still works at his Chagrin Falls firm, Environmental Growth Chambers.

Rule is the middle of three children. Her sister, Hilary, is an attorney with a Cleveland law firm. Her brother, also named Adrian, works with their father.

In 1975 Rule graduated from Laurel School for Girls in Shaker Heights. Her mother taught English at the private high school.

Rule graduated from Tufts University in 1982 with a history of art degree from the Boston-area school. She earned a masters in medieval art history from the University of Chicago in 1986. She joined the Art Institute of Chicago as the assistant director of government and foundation relations.

A blind date

She met her future husband in 1990 on a blind date arranged by Antonia Contro, the executive director of Chicago's Marwen Foundation, an organization focused on bringing art into the lives of disadvantaged youths.

By 1991, Rule lived in a high-rise condo at 2020 N. Lincoln Park West and was dating Emanuel steadily.

At that point, Emanuel had already launched a career as a political operative and fund-raiser. He raised some $7 million for Richard Daley's 1989 mayoral campaign, solidifying his connections with Daley and his brother, Bill, who would go on to replace him as White House chief of staff.

As their relationship flourished, Rule shifted careers, leaving the Art Institute.

Rule started the first of her two jobs in Daley's City Hall in the city's Planning and Environment departments during the 1990s.

At the Department of Planning, Rule was a project manager. She was promoted to assistant commissioner of Natural Resources in the Department of Environment.

Henry Henderson was the commissioner and Rule's boss. He said her duties included working on the revival of North Park Village, Southeast Side wetlands and Lake Michigan shoreline management.

In a fateful coincidence, Rule was in the Daley administration at the same time as other women who went on to the Obama White House: Valerie Jarrett, Susan Sher, Michelle Obama's former chief of staff, and Michelle Obama.

Meanwhile, her romance with Emanuel took a turn.

During 1991, Emanuel moved to Clinton's Little Rock, Ark., headquarters to jumpstart the fund-raising drive for Clinton's presidential campaign.

As Henderson remembers it, Emanuel and Rule became engaged while she was at City Hall. Emanuel by then was at the Clinton White House. Rule moved to Washington, her first of two stints in the nation's capital.

Conversion to Judaism

Once in Washington, she enrolled at Wharton, University of Pennsylvania's business school, commuting to Philadelphia to pick up a MBA.

Rule juggled school with a new job: director of private sector relations for the Peace Corps. Mark Gearan was her boss; he worked with Emanuel in the White House before the Peace Corps.

"She is very smart, very compassionate, very calm, she has a fun sense of humor and I think she provides a great compliment to Rahm's energy," Gearan said.

Rule easily fit in with Emanuel's White House friends, holding her own when she joined him at their informal Wednesday night group sessions.

It was during this period that Rule, raised Episcopalian, studied for and converted to Judaism. Embracing Emanuel's religion was a process she took "extremely seriously," one of her friends said. "She took it on totally."

The late Rabbi William Frankel married Rule and Emanuel on June 5, 1994, at the South Shore Cultural Center -- the same lakefront venue where Barack and Michelle Obama held their wedding reception on Oct. 3, 1992. Axelrod signed their Ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract.

At their wedding, "the Democrats sat on Rahm's side and the Republicans were on her side," recalled David Wilhelm, who was Clinton's 1992 campaign manager. The political talk "fell short of fisticuffs, it was good natured, but certainly intense, that's my memory."

Their first children were born in Washington -- Zacharia in 1997 and Ilana in 1998, a few weeks before Emanuel quit the Clinton White House to return to Chicago. Leah was born in 2000.

After Emanuel was elected to Congress in 2002, Rule spent stretches running their home -- and their Union Pier, Mich., retreat -- on her own when Emanuel was away.

Before returning to Washington, Rule was active at her kids' Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School. A talented cook, "she was in charge of creating the cookbook for a fund-raiser," at Anshe Emet, Boul recalled.

Rule also joined several boards through the years: Marwen's for a time, and the Foundation for Jewish Culture.

Rule is currently on the board of After School Matters, founded by former First Lady Maggie Daley. Recent stories detailed how some developers said City Hall pressured them for donations to the group when Daley was mayor.

It may be awhile before Rule embraces a first lady agenda.

"Her motherhood defines her, Washington friend Laurie Strongin said. "That's her top priority."

Her close friend Russell predicted, "I think she will take it one step at a time and get everybody settled back in the house and back at school and see what happens. She is obviously a very smart, very caring warm person and I imagine she will be a huge asset to the civic life of Chicago."

.rahm zombie.jpg (City of Chicago official photo)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, taking an "El" ride, oblivious to the zombie behind him. I don't know if the photo above was posed or if an official Chicago photographer just happened to be along for an "El" ride with the mayor and knew a good picture when he saw one. In any case, the photo was posted on the City of Chicago's Facebook page with this caption: "In case of a zombie apocalypse, remember to stay calm like Rahm. Have a happy and safe Halloween, Chicago!"

A man in the photo is identified as Scott Lyon.


From President Barack Obama shows students from Johnson College Prep in Chicago, Ill., and their principal, Dr. Garland Thomas, a model of Samuel Morse's telegraph patent in the Oval Office, during their visit to the White House, Oct. 28, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Obama taps Chicago's Joseph Gutman, New Trier grad Clemantine Wamariya, Elie Wiesel to Holocaust Memorial Council. Video above, Clemantine Wamariya.

WASHINGTON--White House chief of staff Bill Daley let loose in an interview with Politico's Roger Simon, saying when it came to the man who held the job before him, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel--well, he was not as "beloved" as people now say. Emanuel was also an aggressive leaker--and Daley isn't, Daley told Simon.

Daley and his brother, former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley made Rahm--he got his first boost in the political business by raising money for Daley's 1989 mayoral campaign.

Simon, a former Chicago Sun-Times columnist, talked to Daley in his White House office.

Read the entire Simon column HERE.

Excerpt from Simon interview with Daley...

People are asking if you are as good as Rahm, I (Simon) say to Daley.

"It's pathetic, isn't it?" Daley responds, laughing.

Rahm wouldn't say it, I say.

"Rahm would say it!" Daley says. "Maybe I missed it -- I wasn't here the first two years -- but I don't think Rahm was as beloved (as people now say.)"

Rahm was famous for calling reporters, do you call reporters? I ask.

"I call; I'm not as aggressive leaking and stroking," Daley says. "I'm not reflecting on Rahm, but I'm not angling for something else, you know? Rahm is a lot younger [Emmanuel is 51], and he knew he was going to be doing something else in two years or four years or eight years, and I'm in a different stage. I'm not going to become the leaker in chief."

You've got others for that, I say.

"Yeah, and hopefully in some organized leaking fashion," Daley says, laughing. "I'm all for leaking when it's organized."

WASHINGTON-- Fred Hochberg, Chairman and President of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, hosts a Global Access for Small Business forum in Chicago on Friday.

The Ex-Im Bank organized the session on international trade at the Hotel Monaco, 225 N. Wabash, and about 250 are expected to attend. Chicago marks the 25th Global Access for Small Business event, a signature initiative of Hochberg.

"I hope that as a result of today's forum, more Chicago companies will soon be exporting to more customers in more countries around the globe with the support of Ex-Im Bank's financing services," Hochberg told the Sun-Times.

The U.S.-backed Ex-Im Bank helps finance U.S. exports of goods and services, taking on financing deals private lenders can't or won't do because of country or credit risks.

Speakers include Hochberg, Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.), J.P. Morgan Chase Midwest Chairman Glenn Tilton and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's former chief of staff. There will also be representatives of the Department of Commerce and the Small Business Administration at the international trade session.

Later in the day Hochberg travels to Des Plaines to tour Honeywell UOP, a global exporter in the petroleum refining, gas processing, petrochemical industries to discuss potential Ex-Im bank financing.

On Thursday evening, Hochberg was scheduled to attend a Winnetka fund-raiser to benefit the Obama re-election drive headlined by billionaire Warren Buffett.

WASHINGTON--Democrats are springing on GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney as he hits Chicago on Thursday for a fund-raiser, with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) raising questions about his backing tax breaks for the wealthy and not wanting to extend President Obama's payroll tax cuts. In a tactic designed to turn off GOP primary voters, Schakowsky heaps praise on Romney for the health care plan he put in place while Massachusetts governor--used as a model by Obama.

Schakowsky's letter to Romney comes as he arrives for a fund-raiser hosted by Susan Crown (of the Crown family) and husband William Kunkler.

The event is 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Ivy Room at Tree Studios, 12 East Ohio.

Schakowsky writes, "Your ground breaking work on health reform in Massachusetts, including the notion of individual responsibility, was a model for the nation and for the Affordable Care Act which President Obama signed in to law. Why then do you keep distancing yourself from the very reforms that you said were a "model for the nation?""

The letter comes as the Democratic National Committee and the Obama 2012 re-election team are focusing more on Romney, a front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination who is trying to lock in a lead over Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Godfather Pizza mogul Herman Cain.

Nominations are won by winning delegates state by state. Romney has the strongest Illinois organization of any of the Republican 2012 contenders in terms of establishment support and campaign contributions. As of Sept. 30, Romney has raised $673,175 in Illinois--leading all his GOP rivals. But compare that to $2,655,677 raised for Obama, whose 2012 national re-election headquarters is in Chicago.

Here's the entire Schakowsky letter:

Dear Governor Romney,

I want to welcome you to the great state of Illinois. Throughout your trip to the state, I'm confident you will get to know the hardworking, entrepreneurial and resilient people that I am privileged to represent every day as a Member of Congress. I hope you take some time to talk with them about many of the challenges facing our state and our country, but also about the great faith that they have in getting our economy working again and creating jobs for middle class families.

As part of your visit, I want to pose a few questions about your plans our constituents would be interested in the answers to:

1) Why do you feel like the wealthiest Americans and corporations need more tax breaks while at the same time criticizing President Obama's plan to extend tax breaks to the middle class as "little Band-Aids" - a plan that would result in a tax cut of $1,640 for a typical Illinois family?

2) In Nevada, you said, "Don't try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom." Do you think it is fair to propose more tax breaks for Wall Street CEO's whose decisions led to the collapse of the housing market, while telling homeowners in Illinois and elsewhere who were scammed, cheated or saw their home's value plummet because of the risky bets of Wall Street that they have to fend for themselves?

3) In August you said "I love a flat tax." Is this still the case? And if so, what would a flat tax mean for middle class families in Illinois?

4) Your ground breaking work on health reform in Massachusetts, including the notion of individual responsibility, was a model for the nation and for the Affordable Care Act which President Obama signed in to law. Why then do you keep distancing yourself from the very reforms that you said were a "model for the nation?"

Thank you for taking some time to consider these important questions.



WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama made an unannounced visit to the Obama 2012 national headquarters during her Tuesday visit to Chicago.

Mrs. Obama arrived at the Prudential Building headquarters at 7:10 p.m and departed at 7:45, a campaign spokesman told me Wednesday. "She spoke for about 15 minutes and shook hands," I was told.

At 9:22 p.m. the campaign sent out a message via Twitter: "The First Lady stopped by campaign HQ tonight on her way back to Washington to get us fired up. It worked. #Obama2012."

Mrs. Obama traveled from a fund-raiser at Plumbers Hall on the near West Side to headquarters, on Randolph Street across from Grant Park. I'm told Mrs. Obama had dinner with some friends at Plumbers Hall before her fund-raiser.

Mrs. Obama's team arranged for a print pool reporter to cover her fund-raising event. The Mrs. Obama team did not arrange for a pool reporter to at least note her arrival and departure from headquarters.

Obama on Jay Leno. Video clips

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Obama talking about trick or treating at the White House with Jay Leno

Obama reacts to Gaddafi death

First Lady Michelle Obama touched down in Chicago for a few hours on Tuesday to fund-raise for President Obama's re-election, highlight new deals with Walgreens and other retailers to offer fresh food products in Chicago and tour a South Side farm. The Sun-Times Abdon M. Pallasch has the report, read it HERE.

From Pallasch: First lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday announced 37 new fresh-food stors for Chicago, held a live worm from a compost heap, and helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for her husband's re-election.

Obama joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a Walgreens in Chatham to announce new or expanded food stores around Chicago. The Chatham Walgreens and 19 others in the city will start offering vegetables and other fresh food.

"...I am so glad that we are doing this here at home in Chicago," Obama told the crowd. "This is a truly wonderful homecoming. We are not just anywhere, but we are here on the South Side."

Obama on Jay Leno

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WASHINGTON-- First Lady Michelle Obama hits Detroit and Chicago on Tuesday for fund-raisers and in her hometown adds stops on the South Side to highlight her healthy eating campaign with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

This is a rare visit home for Mrs. Obama--and the first time she is in Chicago for official business since becoming first lady. Previous visits have been personal or for fund-raising.

My column on Mrs. Obama and Emanuel Chicago food conference is HERE. My lede:

For 22 months, first lady Michelle Obama has been traveling the country on her healthy eating and anti-childhood obesity drive. On Tuesday, she is taking her crusade home to Chicago, where low-income neighborhoods on her native South Side are underserved by grocery stores.

Mrs. Obama's Tuesday schedule details:

12:55 PM Detroit at a fund-raiser to benefit the 2012 re-election campaign at the Westin Book Cadillac. .

2:45 PM at the Walgreens at 11 E. 75th, to deliver remarks on food deserts and access to healthy foods at a food conference Emanuel is organizing with eight mayors and White House officials. Walgreens and other retailers are expected to announce new pledges at the event.

3:50 PM at the Iron Street Urban Farms, a 7-acre year round grower on Chicago's South Side, the city's largest farm. The mayors will have visited earlier in the day.

6:40 PM at 2012 fundraiser at Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union hall, 1340 W. Washington Blvd.

Michelle Obama book jacket.jpg

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama's book about her garden will be titled American Grown: How the White House Kitchen Garden Inspires Families, Schools, and Communities and will be published in April, I'm told. The cover of the book features Mrs. Obama in her garden, in front of a trestle of beans holding a basketful of produce grown on the South Lawn of the White House.

The garden, in its third year, quickly became a signature project for Mrs. Obama, who has said she found herself answering questions about her crops in her global travels. The success of the message of the garden--healthy eating--coupled with exercise--paved the way for Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" campaign against childhood obesity, launched on Feb. 9, 2010.

The book project was announced last March, on the day of the spring, 2011 planting and is expected to reflect a year in the garden--which has plantings each season--even hoop houses in the winter. The book will be published in print and digital editions by Crown Publishers, an imprint of Random House, Inc.'s Crown Publishing Group. Mrs. Obama will donate all earnings from the book to charity.

Random said in a statement, "Through telling the story of the White House kitchen garden, Mrs. Obama will explore in American Grown how increased access to healthy, affordable food can promote better eating habits and improve health of families and communities across America. Mrs. Obama will describe how her daughters Sasha and Malia were catalysts for change in her own family's eating behavior, which inspired Mrs. Obama to plant an edible garden on the South Lawn - the first since Eleanor Roosevelt's "Victory Garden" planted during World War II. The book will be inspirational and instructive and will provide ideas and resources for readers to get involved in the movement to create community, school, and urban gardens, support local farmers' markets, and make small lifestyle changes to achieve big health results."

I asked about Mrs. Obama taking a tour to publicize the book and was told by Random House spokesman David Drake, "details of the book launch will be forthcoming a little closer to publication date."

WASHINGTON--President Obama will announce new steps to make it easier to refinance for homeowners with high rate mortgages and homes worth less today than they were when purchased. Obama will make the announcement, aimed at "underwater" owners in Las Vegas, one of the cities hit the hardest in the foreclosure crisis. A deadlocked Congress will not need to approve any of the new rules announced Monday by the Federal Housing Finance Authority. The Obama move comes as interest rates are at record lows--but banks are reluctant to loan. The rules are intended to prod banks to re-fi.

from the FHFA:

In general, borrowers must meet the following criteria:

 The mortgage must be owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.
 The mortgage must have been sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac on or before May 31, 2009.
 The mortgage cannot have been refinanced under HARP previously unless it is a Fannie Mae loan that was refinanced under HARP from March-May, 2009.
 The current loan-to-value (LTV) ratio must be greater than 80%.
 The borrower must be current on the mortgage at the time of the refinance, with no late payment in the past six months and no more than one late payment in the past 12 months.

Click below for details of new re-financing rules.

WASHINGTON--Hollywood stars are hosting President Obama at high-end fund-raisers on Monday, with Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas opening their Los Angeles home for an event hosted by Eva Longoria aimed at Hispanic donors. That's according to Variety's Ted Johnson, over at his Wilshire and Washington blog. Chicago attorney Manny Sanchez is one of the co-hosts. Actor Will Smith is a co-host at a second fund-raiser.

Obama is hitting his top high-end money state, California, for fund-raisers Monday and Tuesday in Los Angeles and San Francisco. California is home to 87 Obama "bundlers"-- the very top fund-raisers--the state with the most in the nation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Excerpt from Ted Johnson: "In what his reelection campaign says is the first official Latino fundraiser for Obama's candidacy, the President is scheduled to be at an event Oct. 24 hosted by Eva Longoria and a team that includes TV personality Giselle Fernandez, Puerto Rican attorney Andres W. Lopez, Texas designer and architect Henry R. Munoz and Illinois attorney Manuel "Manny" Sanchez. With tickets starting at $5,000 per person, according to the invite, the event is aimed at supporters nationwide, but it undoubtedly will have a showbiz flair: It's at the Hancock Park-area home of Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas.

"The campaign's finance team was optimistic enough to add another event: a $35,800-per-person dinner at the home of producer James Lassiter and his wife Mai, with his business partner Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith among the co-hosts."

WASHINGTON--President Obama returns to Los Angeles on Monday for high end fund-raisers hosted by Hollywood stars. California is home to the biggest number--87-- of Obama's top fund-raisers or "bundlers," people who use their own personal and professional networks to raise money. New York is second at 49.

From The Center for Responsive Politics analytics on 2012: "The following chart provides the minimum amount bundled -- and the number of individual bundlers in each location -- for these elite fund-raisers for Obama's re-election. You can also find out additional information about Obama's bundlers on

Place Bundlers Min. Amount Bundled

California 87 $15,350,000
New York 49 $9,300,000
Florida 29 $4,450,000
Massachusetts 23 $3,850,000
Illinois 28 $2,750,000
Texas 17 $2,750,000
Washington DC 16 $2,500,000
Washington 6 $1,500,000
Maryland 13 $1,500,000
New Jersey 7 $1,400,000
9 $1,350,000
Georgia 9 $900,000
Missouri 5 $900,000
Vermont 3 $900,000
Puerto Rico 3 $750,000
Connecticut 8 $550,000
North Carolina 6 $550,000
Kentucky 1 $500,000
United Kingdom 5 $500,000
Maine 2 $400,000
Ohio 2 $400,000
Tennessee 5 $400,000
Rhode Island 3 $350,000
Colorado 3 $300,000
Michigan 2 $250,000
South Carolina 2 $250,000
Virginia 3 $250,000
Oklahoma 1 $200,000
Oregon 1 $200,000
Wisconsin 3 $200,000
New Hampshire 2 $150,000
China 1 $100,000
Minnesota 2 $100,000
Switzerland 1 $100,000
Virgin Islands 1 $100,000
Alabama 1 $50,000

Total 359 $56,050,000

Note: Some bundlers disclosed by the Obama campaign represented pairs of individuals who raised money on the president's behalf. The figures shown here are the number of "bundling units." The actual number of individuals is higher, but pairs -- such as married couples or business partners -- are only counted once in this chart, not twice.

Source: Center for Responsive Politics

Illinois Contributions to 2012 Presidential Candidates, as of Sept. 30, 2011

Candidate Total Raised

Barack Obama $2,655,677

Mitt Romney $673,175
Rick Perry $313,800
Tim Pawlenty $280,121
Ron Paul $123,712
Jon Huntsman $106,072
Michele Bachmann $63,178
Herman Cain $47,795
Newt Gingrich $37,100
Rick Santorum $29,750
Gary Johnson $8,000
John Thune $4,150
Fred Karger $2,450
Mike Pence $2,000
James W. DeMint $250

Total to All Candidates: $4,347,230
Source: Center for Responsive Politics

WASHINGTON--President Obama announced Friday that all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the year. The significance: A centerpiece of Obama's presidential bid was his opposition to the authorization of the war in Iraq and a pledge to end the Iraqi war. That was a central distinction during the Democratic primary between Obama, then an Illinois state senator, and his chief rival, then Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), now the Secretary of State.

Obama's announcement comes as the Iraqi government declined to clear the way for U.S. troops to remain.

Obama in 2010 removed the combat troops and declared the combat mission over.

From a White House official "Today the President will announce that we will fulfill our commitment and complete the drawdown of US troops from Iraq by the end of the year. This will allow us to say definitively that the Iraq war is over, and that the partnership between the US and Iraq will be a normal one between two sovereign nations. During their conversation, President Obama and PM Maliki strongly agreed that this is the best way forward for both countries."

First Lady Michelle Obama sends out her first Tweet on the "Joining Forces" account before the first pitch at Game One of the World Series.

In the video: At the back of the table, Dr. Jill Biden. The female staffer behind Mrs. Obama is Chicago native (and Francis Parker grad) Kori Schulman, Deputy Director of Digital Content at the White House.

joining forces tweet.png

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former White House chief of staff, dipped into the Defense Department for a new hire, Michael Negron, tasked to City Hall to work on the new "Innovation Delivery Team." The team is bankrolled by a $6 million, three-year Bloomberg Philanthropies grant.

Hat tip for this item: Politico's Mike Allen, in his "Playbook"

From Mike Allen: "Michael Negron, special assistant to DoD General Counsel Jeh Charles Johnson, will depart DoD today for his hometown of Chicago to work for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Michael will be the director of a Bloomberg-funded Innovation Delivery Team, a re-inventing government team to be housed in City Hall. An early Obama campaign staffer who started in New Hampshire during the primaries, Michael also worked for Elizabeth Warren's TARP oversight panel before moving on to OMB and then DoD."

From the July City Hall press release.....

"The Innovation Delivery Team will focus on two priority issues: reducing the time Chicagoans spend in line to access City services, and creating Energy Efficiency Target Zones throughout Chicago to significantly reduce energy use. Driving efficiencies in these areas will help fulfill Mayor Emanuel's campaign promise to deliver high-quality services to Chicago residents at a lower cost.

"The Innovation Delivery Team grants are the first made through the Mayors Project, the new government innovation program at Bloomberg Philanthropies. The Mayors Project has two goals: develop innovation capacity within municipal government and disseminate effective programs and policies across cities. Chicago was one of five cities selected by Bloomberg Philanthropies to receive the grant.

"...Chicago's Innovation Delivery Team will launch in September. The team will deliver its initial progress update to the public within 6 months, with continued reporting over the next three years."

WASHINGTON--Groundwork continues to be laid for NATO to have start-up missile defenses by the May NATO meeting in Chicago. The NATO summit will overlap with a G-8 meeting.

Ellen Tauscher, Undersecretary at the State Department for Arms Control and International Security delivered a speech to the Atlantic Council Missile Defense Conference Tuesday on that subject. Her talk was titled, "Transatlantic Missile Defense: Phase II and the Lead Up to the NATO Chicago Summit."

Timeline towards Chicago, according to Tauscher:

"On September 13, Secretary Clinton and Romanian Foreign Minister Baconschi signed a Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement for Phase 2. Once ratified by the Romanian Parliament, this agreement will allow the United States to build a land-based SM-3 interceptor site at Deveselu Air Base in Romania."

"...On September 15, our Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement with Poland entered into force for Phase 3. It is the first such agreement that reached entry into force and we greatly appreciate all of the effort and support we have received from Poland.

"...Most recently, Spain agreed in October to serve as a home port for four Aegis ships to support future deployments to Europe. This contribution by Spain supports the commitment made by NATO to missile defense.

"...Over the coming months, we will continue these efforts with our NATO Allies. As we said from the start, we want our missile defense deployments to be part of a NATO missile defense effort, where our system will be the U.S. contribution. NATO is working hard on developing the necessary command and control arrangements for this system.

"...It is NATO's goal and our desire that enough of this work be completed by the May 2012 Summit in Chicago to declare an initial NATO missile defense capability.:

WASHINGTON--Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) will protest the tough Alabama immigration law on Saturday--in Alabama.

I'm told by the Gutierrez camp that the trip is intended to push back on the Alabama immigration law. Gutierrez, a national leader on immigration issues, will suggest to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that if there were ever a place to stand up for her new deportation guidelines targeting criminals, she needs to take a stand against a state that has decided to target everyone willy-nilly. He speaks to the NAACP state convention, then has a press conference in Montgomery and a big rally in Birmingham in the afternoon, all on Saturday. He starts his day in Eufaula.

FOX News hosts more GOP debates

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WASHINGTON--More GOP White House debates are in the pipeline in the long march to the nomination. Fox News announced Thursday it will host a debate Dec. 15 from the Sioux City Convention Center in connection with the Iowa Republican Party.

Fox News teams with the Republican Party of South Carolina in Myrtle Beach on Jan. 16.

The Iowa caucus is Jan.3. The South Carolina primary is Jan. 21.

Fox anchor Bret Baier will moderate both debates.

WASHINGTON--GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney hits Chicago on Thursday for a high end fund-raiser hosted by Susan Crown (of the Crown family) and her husband William Kunkler.

The Oct. 27 event is 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Ivy Room at Tree Studios, 12 East Ohio. There is a sliding scale for donors: if you are a "bundler" pledging to raise $25,000 you are an event co-chair who will get a private dinner with Romney. An under-40 Romney backer can get in for $100.

Romney has the strongest Illinois organization of any of the Republican 2012 contenders and the list of his co-hosts for his Chicago event shows fund-raising fire-power:
Robert H. Asher
Congresswoman Judy Biggert
Charlie Bobrinskoy
John Canning
Mayor Roger Claar
Dan Dumezich
Ty Fahner
Michael Ferro
Randy Fifield
Steven Fifield
Howard Foster
Matt Gambs
David Hoese
Richard Jaffee
Fred Krehbiel
Tim Larsen
Robert McCormack
Andy McKenna, Jr.
Richard Porter
Stephen Quazzo
J. Christopher Reyes
John Rowe
Treasurer Dan Rutherford, Illinois Romney chair
Muneer Satter
William Strong
Alexander Stuart
Miles White

There's a lot of political money in the Chicago area: First Lady Michelle Obama is in Chicago on Tuesday for a fund-raiser for the 2012 re-election bid and healthy eating events with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The Chicago Sun-Times Stella Foster reported that another GOP White House hopeful, Herman Cain, will headline a fund-raiser Tuesday.

click below for a copy of the Romney invite...

McConnell on Gadhafi's death

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WASHINGTON--President Obama will deliver remarks at 2 p.m. est Thursday on the death of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, which the U.S. has been working on confirming. A White House official tells the Chicago Sun-Times, "In his remarks, the President will cite the fact that Libyan officials have announced Gaddafi's death. We have also received similar reports through diplomatic channels and have confidence in this reporting."

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), commenting on the death of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said the U.S. and NATO allies should "take pride in the fact that they have given the people of Libya the chance to rule their own future." Durbin said he hoped the new government will have tolerance of people of different backgrounds.

Durbin's remarks came in an interview with Andrea Mitchell on her MSNBC show.

WASHINGTON-- First Lady Michelle Obama will visit a South Side farm and a Walgreens' store with an expanded food section when she returns to Chicago next week to highlight her "Let's Move" healthy eating and anti-obesity initiative.

This will be Mrs. Obama's first public event in Chicago since she has been first lady and the South Side location may be nostalgic for her since she grew up on S. Euclid in South Shore.

Mrs. Obama will also be headlining a fund-raiser for the 2012 re-election campaign next Tuesday at Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington. Her food activities are part of a food conference in Chicago next week with mayors from the Chicago area invited to attend.

Mrs. Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel will visit Iron Street Urban Farms at 3333 S. Iron St., a farm on what had been an industrial site in Bridgeport. Emanuel used the farm at a July press conference to unveil his ordinance to make it easier to create fresh produce gardens in the city. The conference follows an Emanuel "food desert summit" he held last summer.

Walgreens' has already partnered with Mrs. Obama's programs to pledge to put in grocery sections in communities known as "food deserts," not served by local supermarkets. Before heading to Iron Street, Mrs. Obama will visit a Walgreens that has installed a prototype food section. Walgreens, based in Deerfield, has promised to put in food departments in 1,000 stores in underserved areas. Mrs. Obama will deliver summit closing remarks at the Walgreens.

Mrs. Obama will be bringing top Obama administration food policy figures to Chicago: Let's Move!'s Executive Director Judy Palfrey and Sam Kass, a Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives. Kass, a Chicago native, is also a White House chef who also was the Obama family personal chef when they lived in Chicago.

WASHINGTON--The Illinois Republican Party 2012 presidential straw poll voting opens online on Oct. 29. Though Illinois is seen as an Obama state in the general election, there is still a battle to be fought for Illinois delegates in the March, 2012 Illinois primary.

Voting open only to Illinois residents. .A minimum donation of $5 must be made to the state party. At present, the best organized 2012 contender in Illinois is Mitt Romney. But an on-line poll made give the edge to the rival with the best social networking networks.

For complete rules and information

WASHINGTON--President Obama would rather Malia and Sasha not watch some of the Kardashian family reality shows, but First Lady Michelle Obama sees no harm--as long as her daughters realize some of the stuff they do is crazy.

Mrs. Obama made her comments Monday during a roundtable with journalists. She brought up the Kardashians when asked if she sets a limit on her daughters' television viewing.

"Barack really thinks some of the Kardashians - when they watch that stuff - he doesn't like that as much," she admitted, "but I sort of feel like if we're talking about it, and I'm more concerned with how they take it in - what did you learn when you watched that. And if they're learning the right lessons, like 'that was crazy,' then I'm like, okay," she said.

follow on Twitter: @lynnsweet

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama made a relatively rare campaign-style appearence with President Obama on Wednesday, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in the crucial 2012 re-election state of Virginia.

At the base, Mrs. Obama announced the trade association of companies that supply consumer goods to bases--the American Logistics Association--pledged that the 270 companies in their organization will hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013.

"Know that people are stepping up," Mrs. Obama told the crowd, speaking before the president. The announcement was an outgrowth of her "Joining Forces" initiative to help military families.

Mrs. Obama has headlined fund-raisers for the 2012 re-election drive--she hits Chicago on Oct. 25--but is being very cautious at this stage of doing anything that seems overtly political. The event at the base--to tout Obama's jobs plans and her "Joining Forces" is her cup of tea.

"Michelle is an honorary military spouse because she has to put up with me," Obama said.

Members of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen were in the audience.

click below for the military jobs plan details...

WASHINGTON --Big congressional primary contests are shaping up in the Chicago area, with new disclosure reports showing candidates are trying to stockpile cash for the March election.

Illinois Republicans are challenging the new Democratic-drawn map in federal court, hoping a judge will order new districts that are not stacked against them. Until then, candidates are running in districts created by Democratic mapmakers. The next court hearing on the case is in November.

That said, here is a rundown on fund-raising for the biggest contests in 2012, with the Sept. 30 third quarter federal reports just made public.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. raised $350,992 so far this cycle and has $259,215 cash on hand. His challenger, former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, just got in the primary, with $210,311 left in her warchest and nothing raised in the third quarter.

There is no incumbent in the north suburban Democratic battle between Raja Krishnamoorthi and Tammy Duckworth. Krishnamoorthi raised $726,184 so far and has $635,997 cash on hand. Duckworth, who started in the third quarter, raised $478,354 and has $365,338 cash on hand.

In the big North Shore contest, Republican incumbent Bob Dold raised $1,232,349 so far and has $994,633 cash on hand. Two Democrats are battling to take him on. Brad Schneider raised $500,147, including $150,028 he loaned his campaign. He has $417,017 cash on hand. Ilya Sheyman raised $258,9000 so far and had $141,514 cash on hand.

The Democrats drew the new map to pit Republicans against each other and that's what is likely to take place unless a court draws new lines.

In the northwest suburbs, two GOP freshmen incumbents will face each other in the primary. Joe Walsh has raised $758,749 so far and has $466,058 cash on hand. Randy Hultgren has raised $644,887 and has $275,810 cash on hand.

Under the Democratic map, freshman GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger had little choice but to challenge fellow Republican lawmaker Don Manzullo. Kinzinger so far has raised $788,025 and has $567,012 cash on hand. Manzullo has raised $433,588 this cycle and has $483,994 cash on hand.

The fund-raising of Walsh and Kinzinger has likely been bolstered by their developing national profiles since taking office in January; donors are more likely to give to figures they are familiar with.

Looking ahead to the November 2012 general election, one big match-up is in the works. If the map does not change (and each becomes the nominee, which is likely) Republican Rep. Judy Biggert will face former Democratic Rep. Bill Foster. Biggert raised $720,113 so far this cycle and had $886,412 cash on hand. Foster raised $586,008 so far and has $552,588 cash on hand.

Rep. Peter Roskam, a member of the House Republican leadership team, has no viable rival and has the biggest warchest of the entire Illinois delegation. Roskam has raised $1,296,858 so far this cycle and has $1,767,463 cash on hand.

The figures do not reflect other campaign funds, called leadership political action committees member may also have.

The House Ethics panel resumed its probe of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.)--looking at an outgrowth of the Blagojevich mess--and the Sun-Times Abdon M. Pallasch has the story HERE.

Committee press release is HERE.

CNN video highlights of Oct. 18, 2011 GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas.

Fact check: Obama's new bus

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WASHINGTON--President Obama is on his second bus tour on a new big $1.1 million bus, dubbed "Ground Force One," and the subject of criticism from Republicans, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), because they claim the bus is Canadian. That is misleading because it does not tell the whole story. Today, Tuesday, in North Carolina, Obama made a reference to the bus in a speech--and noted that it was ordered by the Secret Service--not his staff.

The bus debuted in August during a Midwest Bus Tour, with the GOP slamming the bus for its supposed Canadian heritage. The bus actually is a U.S. and Canadian mix. I am reposting a fact check I did in August at a stop in Alpha, Ill.

ALPHA, Ill.--President Obama arrived at this bucolic spot for a town hall meeting Wednesday afternoon in his new, $1.1 million sleek black bus, an imposing vehicle with mixed U.S. and Canadian heritage.

A charge by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus that Obama is running "around in his Canadian bus" is not accurate because it does not tell the whole story.

The new bus--a road version of Air Force One--was retrofitted by Hemphil Brothers Coach Company in Nashville, Tn., with the basic heavy duty shell purchased from Prevost, a divison of The Volvo group, a manufacturer of touring coaches with its corporate headquarters in Sainte-Claire, Quebec.

Prevost has a variety of U.S. operations, including a U.S. central order desk in Elgin, Ill., a city west of Chicago. In the U.S., Prevost also has parts and service centers in New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Tennesse and California.

Ed Donovan, a spokesman for the Secret Service, the agency ordering the bus, told me in a telephone interview that Prevost was selected because the model was the only one "to our knowledge that had the payload capacity, " to "handle the weight of the equipment we were going to put on it."

Hemphill Brothers used U.S. contractors and parts, Donovan said, for the security and communications equipment and other items on the two buses the agency purchased. "Everything that is retrofitted was done in the U.S.," he said.

The heavy duty motorcoach model was selected "based on our requirements to provide the most protection for the people who are going to use it."

One of the ironies in the Republican complaints: the buses will probably be used for roadtrips by the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, who will be under the protection of the Secret Service.

bo and michelle .jpg
First Lady Michelle Obama, Bo in the White House kitchen garden on Sept. 14, 2011
(White House photo)

WASHINGTON--The day before game one of the World Series, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other senators are asking Major League Baseball to ban players from using tobacco products at games, especially smokeless or chewing tobacco.

"Tomorrow night, an expected 15 million viewers, including many children, will tune in to watch the first game of the series. Unfortunately, as these young fans root for their favorite team and players, they also will watch their on-field heroes use smokeless tobacco products," wrote Durbin and other senators to MLB executive director Michael Weiner.

"During the upcoming negotiations over the bargaining agreement, we write to ask that the Major League Baseball Players Association agree to a prohibition on the use of all tobacco products at games and on camera at all Major League ballparks. This would send a strong message to young baseball fans, who look toward the players as role models, that tobacco use is not essential to the sport of baseball."

click below for senators' letter...

WASHINGTON--With White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Sec. of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood saying they will leave at the end of the term, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will serve as long as President Obama wants him.

"He will stay as long as the president will have him," said spokesman Peter Cunningham.

Duncan, the former Chicago Public Schools CEO, returns to Chicago on Thursday. He will appear with Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean Claude Brizard and school board vice president David Vitale at an afternoon event to highlight the Lights On Afterschool programs around the country at the Morton Elementary School, 431 N. Troy.

Duncan hit Shurz High School at an event last September.

Daley told NBC5 WMAQ's Mary Ann Ahern he planned to return to Chicago at the end of Obama's term. LaHood told the Chicago Tribune's Katherine Skiba he would also depart after four years. Clinton has told several interviewers she looks forward to winding up duties at the State Department after years of constant travel.

If Obama was elected to a second term, and if asked to remain in the administration, Duncan would want to continue to serve.

michelle chicago oct. 25, 2011.png

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama returns to Chicago on Oct. 25 for a fund-raiser and to team up with Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a "food desert" conference. The fund-raiser has a new six-pack gimmick: for $10,000 a family--up to six people--can pose together for a photo with Mrs. Obama.

The 5 p.m. reception is at Plumbers Hall on the near West Side. There is a sliding price scale from $100 to $10,000 (donated and raised from others.)

April Harley, the Illinois finance chair at the Democratic National Committee, is handling the event.

WASHINGTON--GOP White House hopefuls debate for the second time in a week on Tuesday night, with Herman Cain and Rick Perry the most to lose and gain in the encounter. There is plenty to talk about: Las Vegas suffers from some of the highest unemployment in the nation and the foreclosure crisis hit the city in the gut.

Perry, as of last week was still uncomfortable in a debate format. Cain, surging in polls, found his "9-9-9" tax plan under scrutiny at the New Hampshire debate last week and should expect to play some defense Tuesday.

The debate, at 8 p.m. est, is sponsored by the Western Republican Leadership Conference and CNN. Jon Huntsman won't be there; he is protesting Nevada setting Jan. 14 for their caucus date, an attempt to steal the limelight from Iowa and New Hampshire.

On deck: Michele Bachmann, Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Perry, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum.

alex roman.jpg Chicago's Alex Roman at left
(White House photo)

WASHINGTON--Alex Roman, 12, a student at Chicago's Walsh Elementary School, was honored by First Lady Michelle Obama on Monday, at an event to highlight schools and students who have taken up healthier eating and exercise habits. Roman was at a South Lawn event with Mrs. Obama and Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack.

WASHINGTON--GOP White House hopefuls Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, the front-runners for the Republican nomination, raised most of their campaign cash through large donations, new third quarter fund-raising totals reveal. Neither of them disclose more than the legal minimum when it comes to the names of the "bundlers" who are helping to bankroll their campaigns.

The third quarter numbers also show that Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman are all at least a million dollars behind their rivals when it comes to amount of cash on hand they reported on Sept. 30, the end of the third quarter.

According to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, only four percent of Perry's donations came in small contributions compared to 10 percent for Romney. Huntsman, struggling to raise money, also had only 4 percent come from small donors.

Perry and Romney rely heavily on larger checks for their third quarter haul: $13.9 million for Romney and $17.1 million for Perry.

Other Republicans have a broader fund-raising base, but they are no where near their top rivals in collections. Michele Bachmann has 52 percent small donors compared to 50 percent for Herman Cain, 48 percent for Ron Paul, 43 percent for Gingrich and 21 percent for Santorum.

Under a law effective in March, 2009, federal candidates must report the names of federal lobbyists who raise more than $16,000 in a two month period. That's a pretty limited universe when it comes to national fund-raising for a presidential campaign.

President Obama voluntarily discloses the names of people who raise $50,000 and more for him, with his third quarter list growing to about 350, up about 100 from the previous quarter. Obama has a lot of big donors--and many small ones. Obama's re-election campaign, Obama for America, raised money jointly with the Democratic National Committee. If looking only at OFA, the small donations accounted for 46 percent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics analysis--but the bigger picture should take into account both funds.

"Bundlers" are well connected individuals who use their extensive personal and professional networks to raise money. Bundlers are critical to federal presidential candidates who are trying to raise millions of dollars while faced with federal contribution limits of $2,500 per person for the primary election and $2,500 for the general election.

Cash on hand third quarter

Rick Santorum (R) $189,557
Jon Huntsman (R) $327,615
Newt Gingrich (R) $353,417
Herman Cain (R) $1,333,779
Michele Bachmann (R) $1,339,184
Ron Paul (R) $3,674,768
Mitt Romney (R) $14,656,966
Rick Perry (R) $15,078,415
Barack Obama (D) $61,403,711

one million Obama donors.jpeg

WASHINGTON--The Obama re-election campaign hit a big metric on Monday afternoon, one million donors. That translates into dollars and into a valuable organizing data bank. As of Sept. 30, team Obama had $60 million cash-on-hand.

Meanwhile, the GOP White House contenders are scrambling, according to new third quarter reports:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich scrapped together $807,962 in the third quarter. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney collected $14.2 million. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who started in the third quarter, took in $17.2 million.

romney band aids.jpg

WASHINGTON--The Democratic National Committee is trying to raise money off of GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney remark that Obama's payroll tax breaks are just a "temporary little Band-Aids."

Romney made the comment at the Oct. 11 Republican debate at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire. GOP contenders debate again Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Pressed by Bloomberg News Julianna Goldman at the debate, "So you would be OK with seeing the payroll tax cuts," Romney replied, "Look, I don't like temporary little Band-Aids, I want to fundamentally restructure America's foundation economically.

"No one likes to see tax increases, but look, the stimulus bills the president comes out with that are supposedly going to create jobs, we have now seen this played in the theater several times, and what we're seeing has not worked," Romney said.

The DNC and the Obama team have been slamming Romney for the Band-Aid comparison, with the DNC on Friday releasing a web video.

Friday's react from Romney spokesman Ryan Williams on the band-aide attack: "These baseless attacks confirm that President Obama and his campaign see Mitt Romney as the one candidate who can beat him. The Democrats continue to offer deflections and diversions from what really matters, which is President Obama's failure to create jobs. President Obama has turned America into an economic disaster zone. The only question is whether we can make it to the election of 2012 before Obama takes us all the way back to 1929."

From the DNC on Monday: At a recent Republican debate, Mitt Romney declared that President Obama's proposal to cut taxes for the middle class--tax relief that amounts to $1,500 of extra cash for the typical American family--is nothing more than "temporary little Band-Aids."

So if you, like Romney, can forgo the money for four months of groceries, seven months of gasoline, or a full year's electricity bill, we're pleased to offer a box of Mitt Romney-brand Temporary Little Band-Aids, helpfully priced by Romney himself at $1,500.

(Not for medical use. Side effects of using this product include feeling out of touch.)

The Obama team could do a much better job in explaining the tax break.

Anyone who gets a regular paycheck will see deductions on a paystub for Social Security. This year, the amount of the deduction--also called withholding-has been reduced.

The Social Security payroll tax is 6.2 percent for workers and companies. Under a measure Congress approved in 2010--effective this year, 2011-- that rate dropped to 4.2 percent for workers and no break for firms. That break was to last only one year.

What does this mean to you? If you make $106,800 a year, the maximum saving is $2,136. (Social Security taxes are applied to only the first $106,800 of earnings.)

Let's look at it another way: If you make $500 a week, you get a $10 weekly tax cut. If you make $1,000 each week, your break is $20; a $1,500 weekly salary earner pays $30 less in payroll taxes.

What's new: Obama is proposing that workers pay only 3.1 percent in extending the break for another year.

For someone earning $106,800 or more -- (taxes on Social Security are capped on the first $106,800 in wages), the savings would be about $3,300 a year.

If you make $1,000 a week, you paid $62 dollars a week for Social Security in 2010, $42 weekly in 2011 and you would pay $31 in 2012.

Obama is asking Congress to allow companies to pay half the tax -- 3.1 percent on the first $5 million in payroll, a feature intended to especially help small firms. Employers would further save money if they hired new workers or gave raises because under Obama's plan, they would not have to pay any payroll taxes for them. This provision would be capped at a $50 million payroll.

WASHINGTON--Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs hits Chicago on Thursday, to speak at
Saint Xavier University, 3700 W. 103rd St. Tickets are still available.

Gibbs, who is advising the Obama 2012 re-election campaign headquartered in Chicago, will be back behind a podium earlier in the day, in a press conference Saint Xavier is arranging.

Gibbs joined the Obama operation during then state Sen. Barack Obama's 2004 general election campaign for the U.S. Senate. He is now on the speaking circuit and is a top surrogate for the Obama team.

Tickets for the 7 p.m. Gibbs talk start at $20. From Saint Xavier: "A limited number of $200 priority tickets are available, which include priority seating and admission to an exclusive post-lecture wine and cheese reception with Gibbs. Tickets may be purchased online at, keyword: voices or by calling (866) 468-3401."

Hollywood conservatives

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Variety's Ted Johnson, who covers the intersection of Hollywood and Washington, has the story about 2012 GOP White House hopefuls HERE.

A bi-lateral is most often a meeting between two countries. In the case of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, it's between a nation and the City of Chicago....Emanuel on Friday night hosted a dinner for Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-Bak and his wife,. Kim Yoon-Ok.

From a City Hall release: "The dinner came after a bi-lateral meeting between representatives of the City of Chicago and members of the Korean delegation. In addition to Mayor Emanuel and selected members of his administration, local companies that do business with Korea were represented."

WASHINGTON--President Obama, First Lady Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on Friday night in advance of the Sunday dedication ceremony.

The First Family left the White House at 7:50 p.m. for the unannounced visit to the memorial near the National Mall. The family was back at the White House by 8:20 p.m.

Obama will deliver a speech at the Sunday morning dedication.

Obama talked about King's legacy in a January, 2010 King Day address. "May the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King continue to inspire us," he said. Read the transcript of that speech HERE

WASHINGTON--President Obama's team on Friday released a new list of its biggest fundaisers, people who have raised at least $50,000 for the 2012 re-election.

None of the GOP presidential rivals has disclosed to the extent Obama has when it comes to "bundlers," well connected individuals who use their extensive network of wealthy friends and acquaintances to wrangle donations for a candidate. Bundlers are crucial to federal campaigns where individuals face contribution limits and no corporate donations may be accepted.

The third quarter Obama bundler list is HERE.

The latest on the Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) back child support case from the Chicago Sun-Times Abdon M. Pallash HERE.

Updated with Romney response..

WASHINGTON--At a GOP White House debate this week, White House hopeful Mitt Romney said he would not back extending the payroll tax breaks everyone who gets a paycheck is receiving this year, part of President Obama's plan to stimulate the economy.

Pressed by Bloomberg News Julianna Goldman at the debate, "So you would be OK with seeing the payroll tax cuts," Romney replied, "Look, I don't like temporary little Band-Aids, I want to fundamentally restructure America's foundation economically.

"No one likes to see tax increases, but look, the stimulus bills the president comes out with that are supposedly going to create jobs, we have now seen this played in the theater several times, and what we're seeing has not worked," Romney said.

The DNC and the Obama team are slamming Romney for the Band-Aid comparison, with the DNC on Friday releasing a web video with this message: "Mitt Romney may think tax cuts for the middle class to the tune of $1,500 per year for the typical family is just a temporary little Band-Aid, but in the real world Americans know $1,500 is anything but a Band-Aid. It's four months of groceries, seven months of gasoline and a full year's electricity bill. It's a vacation or months of car payments."

React from Romney spokesman Ryan Williams: "These baseless attacks confirm that President Obama and his campaign see Mitt Romney as the one candidate who can beat him. The Democrats continue to offer deflections and diversions from what really matters, which is President Obama's failure to create jobs. President Obama has turned America into an economic disaster zone. The only question is whether we can make it to the election of 2012 before Obama takes us all the way back to 1929."

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel is featuring noted Chicago chefs at his Friday dinner honoring Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-Bak and his wife, Kim Yoon-Ok. The South Korean leader heads to Chicago from Detroit, where he will be touring a General Motors plant with President Obama, who Thursday night hosted a State Dinner for him at the White House.

Emanuel's dinner for about 150 people will be at Chicago's Cultural Center. The chefs are Graham Elliot, from Graham Elliot and Grahamwich; Paul Kahan from Blackbird and chocolatier Katrina Markoff from Vosges Haut-Chocolat

The entertainment includes R&B star Heather Headley, a Chicagoan, and the Chicago Children's Choir. The choir will perform traditional Korean folk songs.

MAGGIE DALEY FOOTNOTE: I'm told Emanuel called Maggie Daley to invite her greet President Lee at O'Hare at his arrival and she is coming.

Mrs. Daley and former Mayor Richard M. Daley attended the January State Dinner for China's President Hu Jintao, who traveled to Chicago from Washington the next day for a dinner Daley hosted for him that night.

Chicagoans at the Korea State Dinner:

William Daley, White House Chief of Staff and his wife, Bernadette Keller

Robert L. Gallucci, president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Jennifer Emily Sims of Upperville, Va.

Lee Rosenberg, President, American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Nancy Rosenberg

Unmi Song, of Skokie, Executive Director of the Fry Foundation and Unhae U. Song

Valerie Jarrett, White House Senior Advisor and Elvin Charity, a Chicago attorney

Tina Tchen, Mrs. Obama Chief of Staff

And from Edwardsville, Ill., attorney Jeff Cooper and Francesca Moroney Cooper


WASHINGTON--President Obama and First Lady Michelle are serving a fall harvest themed meal for the Thursday State Dinner to honor Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-Bak and his wife, Kim Yoon-Ok.

The White House once again hired Rafanelli Events to help stage the event in the East Room, the fifth state dinner of the Obama administration and the third this year.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hosts a dinner for the South Korean leader Friday night in Chicago's Cultural Center.

From the White House on the menu: "The first course, Butternut Squash Bisque, represents the best in local, seasonal fare: the dish is light yet robust and features the scents of fall. It includes squash from the White House Kitchen Garden and honey from the White House beehive. The Early Fall Harvest Salad, featuring daikon sheets and masago rice pearl crispies, is a nod to Korean traditions, and includes greens from the White House Kitchen Garden.

"The main dish features wagyu beef from a Texas ranch, fresh kale from a DC-area source and squash from the White House Kitchen Garden. The dessert features a classic recipe of chocolate cake layered with a harmonious blend of Korean and American pears."

Dinner Menu

First Course

Butternut Squash Bisque, Honey Poached Cranberries,
Virginia Cured Ham, Pumpkin Seed Praline, Crème Fraiche

Second Course

Early Fall Harvest Salad on Daikon Sheets,
Masago Rice Pearl Crispies, Rice Wine Vinaigrette

Main Course

Texas Wagyu Beef, Orange-Ginger Fondue,
Sauteed Kale, Roasted Kabocha Squash


Chocolate Malt Devils Food Layers
With Pear and Almond Brittle
An American wine will be paired with each course

From the White House on the decorations and arrangements: "The inspiration for the Republic of Korea State Dinner is American Hospitality. At State Dinners, we extend our hand in friendship and convey a generosity of spirit designed to welcome guests. In the spirit of that hospitality, some of the design elements are a reflection of Korea's culture and craftsmanship.

"The art of Korean knotting is depicted on the menu card for the evening. The union of string and tassel represents perfect harmony. Bamboo containers are featured on some of the dining tables, and chrysanthemums are included in the floral arrangements. In Korea, bamboo represents integrity and chrysanthemums are a sign of a productive and fruitful life.

"Hibiscus is the national flower of the Republic of Korea and will be featured in an art installation made of paper flowers in the Upper Cross Hallway. Additionally, tonight's design, created by Rafanelli Events, is a celebration of autumn. It embraces a bright fall palette of reds and greens, with apples featured in centerpieces, wall installations and window medallions. The featured chrysanthemums also symbolize fall in Korean culture."

WASHINGTON--Violin star Jennifer Koh, raised in the Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn, performed Thursday for First Lady Michelle Obama and South Korea First Lady Kim-Yoon-ok at a high school in a Washington suburb.

The performance came before President and Mrs. Obama host a state dinner to honor the Republic of Korea.

Koh, 35, is the daughter of Korean immigrants. She debuted with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the age of 11.

Mrs. Obama said Koh was the "perfect example" of the importance of education.

"As a child, her parents signed her up for just about everything you could imagine: ice skating, swimming, ballet, rhythmic gymnastics. And some of these things she liked; others, not so much. But Jennifer kept exploring, and she soon found that her favorite of all was the violin. She practiced for hours, worked closely with her instructors, and now she is one of the best violinists in the world," Mrs. Obama said.

Click below for transcript

President Obama and First Lady Michelle welcome Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak and First Lady Kim Yoon-ok to the White House Thursday morning.

WASHINGTON--President Obama and First Lady Michelle host their fifth State Dinner Thursday night, to honor the Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak and First Lady Kim Yoon-ok. This is the third state dinner this year for the Obama White House.

A recap of the four other Obama White House state dinners:

*June, 2011 for Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel.

*January, 2011 for China's President Hu Jintao.

*May, 2010 for Mexico's President Felipe Calderón.

*November, 2009 India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


WASHINGTON--Democratic House hopeful Raja Krishnamoorthi has more cash on hand than rival Tammy Duckworth, but she outraised him in the third quarter, according to fund-raising figures released by the campaigns on Thursday.

Krishnamoorthi and Duckworth are facing off in a primary in the northwest suburban district eighth district, in turf designed by Democratic lawmakers in Springfield in the new remap to make it difficult for a Republican to win the congressional seat.

Republicans have yet to field a major contender and time is running out to recruit a blue chip name.

Krishnamoorthi was in the contest months ahead of Duckworth; he resisted pressure to step aside once the better known Duckworth got in the race in the first week of July. The Duckworth/Krishnamoorthi matchup will be one of the major Illinois House primary races.

Krishnamoorthi collected $313,536 in the third quarter--July, August and September, less than Duckworth--but he has more cash on hand, with a $635,997 balance as of Sept. 30.

Duckworth's third quarter haul was $476,894, out of which the campaign had $365,338 cash on hand.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and David Axelrod, President Obama's top political strategist, bolstered Duckworth's fund-raising efforts.

WASHINGTON--Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton tried to shutdown pundits who have been speculating that President Barack Obama could improve his re-election chances by dropping Vice President Joe Biden and making her his runningmate.

Clinton has already said she will step down from the Obama cabinet at the end of the term. NBC's Savannah Guthrie asked her about the political chatter of an Obama-Clinton ticket in an interview broadcast Thursday.

Asked if it is even "in the realm of possibility," Clinton said, "I do not think it's even in the realm of possibility, and in large measure because I think Vice President Biden has done an amazingly good job. He has taken on the burden of selling the economic plan, of traveling the country, of answering people's questions."

Clinton also said no one has ever raised it with her.

"It's maybe a subject for speculation on Google, but it's not a serious issue in the administration," she said.

WASHINGTON--The Obama team raised $70.1 million in the last quarter--$42.8 million for the Obama 2012 campaign and $27.3 million for the Democratic National Committee, likely more than all the GOP candidates combined.

The third quarter numbers, covering July, August and September, were released early Thursday by campaign manager Jim Messina in an e-mail to supporters.

The haul did not match the more than $86 million the team raised in the second quarter, over $47 for Obama 2012 campaign and more than $38 million for the DNC in April, May and June.

A reason the third quarter totals did not match the past quarter is that President Obama and Vice President Biden--the top fundraisers for Democrats--were sidelined off the fund-raising trail this summer to stay in Washington to deal with the tussle with Congress over raising the debt ceiling. Almost every fund-raising day Obama or Biden are on the trail means at least $1 million for 2012 re-election war chest.

Messina said the take was more than their self-imposed $55 million goal and the cash was collected "during a summer when the President was focused on doing the job he was elected to do -- a summer when we had to cancel a series of fundraising events and ask everyone to dig a little deeper."

The Messina e-mail did not mention the role of the mega donors--always a sensitive topic and focused on the small dollar giver.

"In the third fundraising quarter of this year, 606,027 people donated to this campaign -- even more than gave in the record-breaking previous quarter," Messina wrote. "Those people gave more than 766,000 total donations -- 98 percent of them $250 or less, at an average amount of $56. That's more than twice as many donations than we had at this point in the historic 2008 campaign."

The third quarter fund-raising drive for the Obama re-election bid--headquartered in Chicago-- was more than just a hunt for campaign cash. The Obama team also uses fund-raising as an organizing tool, for both small donors and the bundlers--an elite group of people who have pledged to use their networks to raise mega-donations.

GOP White House hopeful Rick Perry campaign has said the Texas governor collected at least $17 million, just jumping into the race this quarter. Rival Mitt Romney is expected to report more than $10 million.

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), in new court filings, argues he is not a deadbeat dad and had a verbal deal with his former wife regarding child support. Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch has the story HERE.

WASHINGTON--The top Senate Democrat, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nv.) hits Chicago on Oct. 21 along with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) for a fund-raiser to benefit Cantwell and the Senate Democratic political operation. The event tab runs from $1,000 to raising or donating $10,000.

click below for the invitation...

Michelle Obama: No fat tax in U.S.

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WASHINGTON--Denmark will starting charging a fat tax on junk food. First Lady Michelle Obama was asked if it were a good idea for the U.S. and she said folks "don't d telling them what to do."

Mrs. Obama was asked about a fat tax by NBC's Al Roker at a "Let's Move" jumping jack event at the White House on Tuesday.

Roker: "We just had a story about in Denmark they're planning on instituting, like, a, quote, "fat tax," foods that are either high in sugar or high in fat. Do you think something like that is needed here?"

Mrs. Obama: "I think folks need information. You know, knowledge is power. And, you know, we're lacking that. I mean, people eat what they eat because they think it's OK. They don't need government telling them what to do. They just need good information and access."

Michelle Obama taking boxing lessons

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WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama revealed that her exercise routine includes "a little boxing."

She commented on her workout to NBC's Al Roker on Tuesday, when Mrs. Obama hosted a jumping jacks contest on the White House South Lawn as part of her "Let's Move" anti-obesity campaign.

"Are jumping jacks your exercise of choice?

"You know, I do everything -- I mean, jumping jacks, squats, lunges, you know, jump lunges, you name it. I have a trainer who's a little crazy, so ...we do a little bit of everything; a little boxing. So we mix it up, because, as you know, if you get bored with it, you don't stick to it. So we mix it up."

WASHINGTON--The photo of First Lady Michelle Obama shopping at Target made news because it was thought her retail forays were rare. Mrs. Obama told NBC's Al Roker she goes out more "than people realize."

Roker, in a Tuesday interview asked Mrs. Obama about the Target run at a suburban Virginia store.

"Quiet as it's kept -- although not so quiet -- I do that more frequently than people realize. And it's amazing how people don't recognize you. They don't expect to see me at Starbucks or at Chipotle or -- you know, I actually took Bo to Petco," Mrs. Obama said.

"And the cashier asked me, oh, what kind of dog is that? I said a Portuguese water dog. He didn't recognize us because he didn't expect that we would be in Petco. So, you know, my secret's out, but we try to sneak out as much as possible. And it helps to keep our kids' lives normal."

Roker asked, "Did the cashier look at the -- twice at the credit card?"

"He recognized me. But plenty of people -- I've been in Baskin-Robbins a number of times. You know how the kids aren't really paying attention? They're looking right through you. They don't know it's me."

Roker asked if she shopped at Costco--and bought bulk bundles of toilet tissue.

"You know, we pretty much have our supply stocked," she replied.

WASHINGTON--GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney picks up two major Illinois endorsements Wednesday, from former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Rep. Judy Biggert. On Tuesday, Romney won the backing of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

"I am happy to have the support of these important leaders in Illinois," said Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. "I look forward to partnering with them in our efforts to get America back to work."

Hastert and Biggert lined up with Romney as rival Rick Perry, the Texas governor, hits Chicago for fundraisers: Wednesday night in Lincoln Park and Thursday morning in suburban Carpentersville.

"During my years in the House, I was an advocate for balanced budgets and low taxes," said Hastert in a statement. "Mitt Romney stands up for these principles. President Obama has failed to get millions of unemployed Americans back to work. From his success in the private sector, Mitt Romney understands how to create jobs and turn around this economy. At this critical moment, our country needs his leadership in the White House."

Biggert said in a statement, "President Obama's spend-tax-and-regulate policies have only served to drive up the debt and create more uncertainty for struggling American families and job creators. Mitt Romney's plan to get America back to work is rooted not only in sound economic principles, but also in the extensive real-world experience that he brings to the table. I am proud to support him."

The Romney Illinois campaign is chaired by state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.

Former President Bill Clinton compared the Wall Street protests to the Arab spring during a Tuesday discussion at the Chicago Ideas Week conference. Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch has the story HERE.

From Pallasch: Clinton also weighed in on the protests on Wall Street, Chicago's LaSalle Street and other places: "It's kind of like the Arab Spring, which was profoundly moving to me: they knew what they were against but they weren't sure exactly what they were for."

GOP debate: Link is here

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Click HERE to watch the GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire sponsored by the Washington Post and Bloomberg News. The focus is on the economy.

View more videos at:

WASHINGTON--White House chief of staff Bill Daley said for the first time that he told President Obama he would serve only through the 2012 election when he took the job last January.

He made his comment on Friday to WMAQ channel 5 reporter Mary Ann Ahern.

"I made a commitment to the president through his re-election, which I am confident he will do, and then my wife and I will be back in Chicago," Daley said.

Daley took over from interim chief of staff Pete Rouse after now Mayor Rahm Emanuel left the chief of staff job last year to run for Chicago mayor. Daley told Ahern the job is "all consuming."

There have been several stories in recent weeks about struggles Daley has faced with Congress and within the White House. "Nobody can hit the ground running," Daley said.

WASHINGTON--White House Senior Advisor David Plouffe hit the Tuesday morning shows on NBC, ABC and CBS to argue for President Obama's jobs bill in advance of a Senate vote later today that is almost certain to fail. Plouffe was also asked about the swelling Wall Street protests across the country.

Sampling: NBC's Matt Lauer: Let's talk about Wall Street. I'm interested to get your take on this. We've got the Occupy Wall Street movement that is either growing or morphing, depending on your point of view. These people are out there and they're angry at Wall Street, the so-called fat cats. But you know what, David? They're also angry at Democrats and the administration for not taking them on and doing anything about it.

Do Democrats stand to take the biggest hit in the wake of these protests?

Plouffe: Well, I think what you're seeing in New York and in other cities around the country is mirrored in what you're seeing in just people's kitchens and living rooms all across the country, which is a deep frustration about the unfairness in our economy.

And, you know, the president passed Wall Street reform. And what that means is we're going to have a more transparent financial system. Taxpayers will no longer be on the hook to bail out large banks. And you're going to see consumers protected in terms of credit card rates and mortgage rates and hidden fees.

Lauer: Yeah, but those young people out on the streets of New York and other places, David, they don't think enough has been done. And those are the same people who put Barack Obama into the White House three years ago. So are you worried that -- they're not going to vote Republican, but are you worried they're going to stay home in 2012?

Plouffe: We're not. We're obviously going to have to work hard to get the people out we need to win. But I do think that Wall Street reform is going to be a fundamental choice here in Washington and in the campaign next year, because all the major Republican presidential candidates, many Republicans in Congress, want to unwind Wall Street reform.

Former President Bill Clinton hits Chicago on Tuesday morning for Chicago Ideas Week; his talk at the Chase Auditorium in the Loop is sold-out. Clinton sits for an interview with Time Magazine Managing Editor Richard Stengel.

The pressure is on Texas Gov. Rick Perry Tuesday night in the Washington Post/Bloomberg News debate at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Perry hits Chicago on Wednesday for fund-raisers. Watch the debate at 8 p.m. est, Bloomberg Television, Bloomberg Radio and .

WASINGTON--President Obama's jobs bill faces a Senate vote on Tuesday; Democrats know they may not have the votes to pass. Obama's top strategist David Axlelrod, in a memo issued in advance of the vote, argues the Republicans have no plans to create jobs now and the public is behind Obama's proposals.

"Will Republicans put country ahead of party and pass this bill? Or will they oppose a bill that would create jobs now and that the American people support while standing by their proposals to extend tax cuts for large corporations, millionaires and billionaires while allowing Wall Street to write its own rules," Axelrod writes.

Watch for the Obama team to do a media blitz on Tuesday to emphasize Axelrod's points. In addition to Axelrod's memo, administration officials will be on morning TV, phone banks will be calling and messages will be sent out on Twitter.

Click below for the Axelrod memo...

WASHINGTON---GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney has an 18 point lead in New Hampshire, with pizza mogul Herman Cain running second, according to a Institute of Politics at Harvard University and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College poll released Monday. This puts more press on rival Rick Perry to outperform at Tuesday's Republican New Hampshire debate.

Key head-to-head in the survey of the first primary state conducted Oct. 2-6:

Mitt Romney .................................................................. 38%
Herman Cain ................................................................. 20%
Ron Paul ....................................................................... 13%
Newt Gingrich................................................................ 5%
Jon Huntsman ............................................................... 4%
Rick Perry...................................................................... 4%
Michelle Bachmann ....................................................... 3%
Gary Johnson................................................................ 1
Rick Santorum............................................................... 1%
Don't know .................................................................... 11%

Click below for poll memo....

WASHINGTON--A Chicago non-profit won a $3 million federal grant for "food desert" projects, with interest in making healthy food available in underserved areas ramping up as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and First Lady Michelle Obama headline an Oct. 25 food summit in Chicago.

Last month, the Treasury Department awarded IFF, a non-profit lender and real estate consultant in Chicago's Loop the $3 million grant to, according to an IFF release, "fund a pipeline of retail projects to improve access to healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods classified as "food deserts."

The IFF will use the money for "an initial emphasis on full-service, for-profit grocery stores in "food deserts" around Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City," the release said.

The money came from the federal Health Foods Financing Initiative, a funding stream championed by Mrs. Obama as part of her "Let's Move" campaign to end childhood obesity.

IFF President Trinita Logue served on Emanual's mayoral transition Government Reinvention and Budget committee. IFF Vice President Jose Cerda III was a domestic policy advisor in the Clinton White House, serving with Emanuel.

"We think we were awarded this grant because of the work we have already done on health food financing," Cerda told me, "and we are excited to work with the mayor and the governor on their initiatives. This will directly compliment their efforts."

"The summit will be an opportunity to share best practices and explore new strategies that mayors can implement to support communities that lack the food they need," said Mrs. Obama spokesman Hannah August in a statement.

Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell had the City Hall food summit scoop
. The gathering will include mayors from 10 cities, CEOS of groceries and pharmacies and urban agriculture experts. Emanuel told Mitchell that Mrs. Obama will visit Chicago communities to see the "different ideas and challenges."

If Mrs. Obama stops in any Chicago neighborhood, it will mark her first non-fund-raising, non-personal visit to the city since becoming First Lady.

Eddie Gehman Kohan, the founder of Obamafoodorama, the website of record on food and food policy in the Obama White House, first wrote about the IFF grant. She also had this additional scoop: The Chicago food summit day will "also include a seasonal, locally sourced luncheon for participants at a small restaurant, created by unidentified chefs."

From Kohan on the federal grant program: That's where the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) comes in. It is an interagency project involving the Departments of the Treasury, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services, which is now offering grants to inspire corporations that are willing to build in food deserts. On September 14th, the Treasury announced $25 million in grants for FY 2011, for 12 food desert projects in 9 states under its Community Development Financial Institutions Fund.

"HFFI represents the federal government's first coordinated step to eliminate "food deserts" by promoting a wide range of interventions that expand the supply of and demand for nutritious foods, including increasing the distribution of agricultural products; developing and equipping grocery stores; and strengthening producer-to-consumer relationships," noted the Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund when announcing the awards."

"...Emanuel's brother, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, did double duty as an advisor to the Let's Move! team while at the White House as a special health care advisor to the President. He departed earlier this year."

Rick Perry spot


WASHINGTON--GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney---for the moment a front-runner as rival Rick Perry falters--is being attacked from the right and the left on Monday--the day before another Republican presidential debate.

Perry released a hard hitting attack spot slamming Romney's record as Massachusetts governor on health care--using President Obama's praise of "Romneycare" to hit Romney.

From the Perry campaign: "Mitt Romney clearly supports government-mandated health care since he fought for his Massachusetts mandate, which provided President Obama with the blueprint for Obamacare," said Perry spokesman Mark Miner. "Romneycare has cost $8 billion and killed 18,000 Massachusetts jobs, yet Mitt Romney wrote in his book that his plan was a model for the nation. When it comes to government-mandated health care, there is no difference between Mitt Romney and President Obama."

From the DNC: "The Democratic National Committee launched a new website today,, to help you figure out just "Which Mitt" you might get. The site allows voters to take the Mitt Quiz to see exactly how well they know the Republican front-runner's many and contradictory positions on a range of issues. Most voters know Mitt Romney as the ultimate flip-flopper -someone who sticks his finger in the political wind and changes his positions so often you need a
statistician to keep up."

On the debate, from Bloomberg: "Join us on Tuesday, October 11th at 7pm ET for the first economic debate of the Republican primary season. Bloomberg Television and The Washington Post, in partnership with WBIN-TV and host Dartmouth College, will present the first debate of the 2012 campaign focused exclusively on the issues voters consider most important - the economy, debt, deficits, taxes, trade and jobs. Moderated by Charlie Rose, The Washington Post political correspondent Karen Tumulty and Bloomberg White House correspondent Julianna Goldman."

From the Romney campaign: "Governor Perry Today Continued His Weeks-Long Pattern Of Splicing Quotes And Distorting Facts:

"Perry's Latest Video Again Deploys A Clipped And Misleading Version Of Governor
Romney's Words. RUSSERT: "Why, if it's good for Massachusetts and it's working
in Massachusetts, wouldn't you apply it to the rest of the country?" ROMNEY: "I
would." (NBC's "Meet The Press," 12/16/07)

"The Full Quote - Free From Perry's Selective Editing - Shows Governor Romney's
True Position. RUSSERT: "Why, if it's good for Massachusetts and it's working in
Massachusetts, wouldn't you apply it to the rest of the country?" ROMNEY: "I
would." RUSSERT: "A mandate?" ROMNEY: "No. Let me tell you what I would do, just
exactly as I described. I like what we did in Massachusetts. I think it's a
great plan. But I'm a federalist. I don't believe in applying what works in one
state to all states if different states have different circumstances." (NBC's
"Meet The Press," 12/16/07)"

WASHINGTON--Rosie O'Donnell's new "The Rosie Show," taped in Chicago--in Oprah Winfrey's studio--debuts today and its cool to see how she bought a house in Lincoln Park and is embracing her new city. O'Donnell seems delighted with Chicago and is looking for people to show her around. I have some suggestions for her below if she wants to see some politics in action. (Sun-Times reporter Kara Spak sat in on some Rosie show tapings, read her report HERE)

O'Donnell's observations about Chicago on her blog read like Carl Sandburg on Twitter:

i have fallen in love with this city
and it came as a surprise
shocking - really
i knew nothing of chicago

its beauty is startling
the wide clean streets
smiling hellos
the buckingham fountain took my breath away

The Rosie Show is asking fans to "Show me Chicago:"

"Hey Chicagoans! We need your expertise. Help us show Rosie (and the world!) what Chicago has to offer. Tell us what you think are the MUST-SEE attractions, the MUST-TRY restaurants, and the little-known gems that Rosie cannot miss out on while she's here."

My starter suggestions for a Rosie O'Donnell whirl around political Chicago:

*A stop at President Obama's re-election headquarters in the Prudential Building.

*A visit to City Hall on a City Council meeting day, to check out the City Council chamber, the green grass roof and see Mayor Emanuel presiding over 50 aldermen.

WASHINGTON -- When Mayor Rahm Emanuel was White House chief of staff, President Barack Obama would resist his urging to do "the quick political thing," Emanuel said in a Sunday interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The mayor also threw a punch at GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney, the Republican the Obama re-election team sees as one of the toughest to beat if he became the nominee. The show was taped at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art to help kick off "Chicago Ideas Week."

"I often advised the president about doing the quick political thing, and he looked at the long term," Emanuel told host David Gregory.

Obama, said Emanuel, "rejected the quick and political because it was in America's interest. That's both true about financial reform, health care, the big decisions. And he's never lost his fight for America."

Emanuel said Obama wanted his opinion, and he got it, even if he did not agree with him.

"To his credit, he wanted advice, unfiltered, 'Give it to me what you think' assessment. I gave it to him, and he made the decision he thought was in [America's] interest, and I think correctly," Emanuel said.

Emanuel's remarks come in his first months of his mayoral term, with multiple announcements daily to take credit for a quick turnaround from former Mayor Richard M. Daley regarding job creation in Chicago, streamlining city government and other matters of civic life.

Emanuel's comment about the "quick and political" seem in line with a picture Chicago native Jonathan Alter painted of a very pragmatic Emanuel in his book, The Promise: President Obama, Year One .

"Because Rahm viewed ideas primarily as weapons, he was rarely wedded to them. To him, they were interchangeable instruments of political will. He despised purists who couldn't see that something was always better than nothing," Alter wrote.

The "Meet the Press" interview focused mainly on the national economy. A discussion about the bailout of the auto industry led Emanuel to jab at Romney.

"There would not be an auto industry if Mitt Romney was president. He would have said, 'Let it go bankrupt,' " Emanuel said.

Chrysler and General Motors were propped up by former President George W. Bush and got an even bigger bailout under Obama.

Obama policies led to a revived U.S. auto industry and "we're a stronger country" for it, Emanuel said.

Plugging Obama's infrastructure spending in his jobs bill before Congress, which would likely pump millions of dollars to Chicago, Emanuel said, "I know, and I believe fundamentally, as a mayor or as a congressman or as chief of staff, that rebuilding America's infrastructure is right today and it's right for tomorrow."

OTHER RAHM NEWS: Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak heads to Chicago on Friday, the day after he is honored at aWhite House State Dinner hosted by Obama and first lady Michelle. Emanuel will throw a dinner for the Korean president at the Chicago Cultural Center. Emanuel as of Sunday was not planning on attending the State Dinner.

◆ Monday, Emanuel, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Gov. Pat Quinn, Sen. Dick Durbin, Reps. Bobby Rush and Dan Lipinski will announce federal funds for a South Side project.

◆ At Chicago Ideas Week, Emanuel will discuss technology and city government on a panel that includes New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

WASHINGTON--Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak heads to Chicago on Friday, the day after he is honored at the White House at a State Dinner hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle.

"I look forward to welcoming President Lee in Chicago," said Emanuel in a statement."President Lee's visit will highlight the strong commitment to education and innovation, close partnership and deep economic ties between Chicago and the
Republic of Korea. It will also be an opportunity to celebrate the rich bonds of friendship between Chicagoans and the Korean people."

Emanuel will host President Lee at a dinner at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Emanuel as of Sunday was not planning on attending the State Dinner.

marathon.jpeg (Sun-Times photo by John J. Kim)

The Chicago marathon was won Sunday in record time.

The Chicago Sun-Times: "Kenya's Moses Mosop ran the fastest-ever Bank of America Chicago Marathon Sunday, and Russia's Liliya Shobukhova won the women's portion to become the race's first three-peat winner.

"Mosop set a course record time of 2:05:37. The old record was the late Sammy Wanjiru's 2:05:41 from 2009. He died at age 24 in May after a fall from a two-story balcony in Kenya.

Shobukhova, 33, ran a time of 2:18:20. The track star gave her trademark sprint finish.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Bears White House.jpg
President Barack Obama looks at a headband presented by former quarterback Jim McMahon, in sunglasses, as he greets members of the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Oct. 7, 2011. The visit was a makeup trip for the Super Bowl XX champions, whose 1986 reception was cancelled due to the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

bears white house2.jpg
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended his former boss, President Obama, on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, broadcast from Chicago. And in an interesting admission, Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff, said Obama would resist his suggestions to go after quick political fixes.

"I often advised the president about doing the quick political thing. And he looked at the long term. And he rejected the quick and political because it was in America's interest. That's both true about financial reform, health care, the bigger decisions," Emanuel said.

Emanuel sidestepped making suggestions when host David Gregory asked what Obama has to do to "get his swagger back." But Emanuel did not dispute the premise of the question.

In an interview focused mainly on the national economy, Emanuel said the president made "the tough decisions, the right decisions," especially in the auto industry bailout.

"I believe the investment in rebuilding America (is)...good for the economy today, it is good for the economy long term," Emanuel said.

"Meet the Press" traveled to Chicago to kick off "Chicago Ideas Week."

Below, in reverse order (last to first) my Tweets sent out during Emanuel's segment. READ THE TRANSCRIPT HERE.

#Rahm @MTP Emanuel interview over. Spoiler alert: No questions Solyandra, Daley, Suskind book. Nice branding, promo for Chicago Ideas Week.

Gregory to @RahmEmanuel: What does Obama have to do to get his swagger up? #Rahm: "Rebuilding America's infrastructure" is right for America

@RahmEmanuel on @MTP #MeetthePress in Chicago lbragging his accomplishments. All since mid-May! He introduces his new budget on Wed.

On @MTP, @NBC's @MeetthePress in Chicago: Is Obama in trouble for re-election? Mayor @RahmEmanuel dodges direct answer.

@RahmEmanuel on @MTP says he advised Pres Obama--when he was chiief of staff--to go for short term gains; Obama wanted the larger view.

#RahmEmanuel on #MTP NBC's "Meet the Press" from Chicago. "He's now "The Boss," says host David Gregory. First questions on the economy.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been using her bully pulpit to bring grocery stores to underserved "food deserts-- a project embraced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel during his campaign--returns to Chicago on Oct. 25 for a food summit hosted by the mayor. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell has the food scoop. Mrs. Obama is also keynoting a fund-raiser for the Obama re-election drive that day at Plumbers Hall on the near West Side.

Mrs. Obama has been addressing the "food desert" issue via her "Let's Move" anti-obesity campaign.

My February post on Emanuel taking a page from Mrs. Obama's food desert playbook is HERE. The post also includes Emanuel's campaign policy proposals.

excerpt from Feb. 1, 2011 post: WASHINGTON--Chicago mayoral candidate and former White House House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel unveiled a food policy on Tuesday that mirrors First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign to bring more healthy and affordable food choices to urban "food deserts."

Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" campaign--a year old next week--identified problems that still need solving, even in her own Chicago back yard.

My February, 2010 post about Mrs. Obama and food deserts is HERE.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's former chief of staff, was eager to help Solyndra, the Washington Post is reporting Friday afternoon. Read the story about Emanuel and the failed solar company HERE.

Post lede: "White House staff discussed in e-mails that either President Obama or his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel were eager to help spotlight a solar company in early 2009, despite numerous internal warnings that the company could be financially unstable, according to newly obtained e-mails."

Obama 1985 Bears Super Bowl.jpg President Obama, center, holds up a team jersey as he stands with the 1985 Super Bowl XX Champions Chicago Bears football team during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Friday. | AP

WASHINGTON--A jubilant President Obama welcomed the 1985 Chicago Bears to a long delayed White House celebration on Friday, calling them "the greatest team in NFL history."

"This is as much fun as I will have as President of the United States, right here. This is one of the perks of the job, right here," Obama said.

A Marine band quartet struck up the fight song, "Bear Down, Chicago Bears," as the Bears, lugging their Super Bowl rings, flanked Obama on the South Lawn of the White House.

"I think it's safe to say that this is the only team in NFL history with a gold record and a Grammy nomination," Obama said, referring to the hit-in-its day team rap song, the Super Bowl Shuffle.

"So this team changed everything for every team that came on after, on and off the field. They changed the laws of football. They were gritty; they were gutsy; they were hardworking; they were fun-loving -- sort of how Chicagoans like to think of themselves. And Chicago has always been a diehard football town, but this team did something to our city that we've never gotten over.

"We love the Bears. And as much fun as it is to finally have these guys here, we want today's Bears to come home to the White House with a championship as well," Obama said.

Watching--wearing orange and blue Bears hats, ties and jerseys--was an audience of Chicagoans who were invited--or wrangled an ask--to the historic reunion. A Bears spokesman said more than 40 players attended and the entire party--coaches, team executives and other staffers--total 100. They arrived at the White House in three buses.

"And in a sign that anything is possible, even in Washington, Coach Ditka and Buddy Ryan are here together,'" Obama said, a reference to a back story he assumed people knew. The Bears savvy audience applauded, because defensive Coach Ryan and Ditka had a falling out years ago.

Obama included a shout out to a player--Dan Hampton--who told WLS radio he was declining the invitation for a few reasons. He was not a fan of Obama and "it was 25 years ago. Let it go."

The president--looking just thrilled," went on about the power of the famed team. "I mean, there are guys who hit, and there are guys who hit. And these guys hit. Mike Singletary, Steve McMichael, Otis Wilson, Wilber Marshall, Dan Hampton, Gary Fencik, and Richard Dent, the Super Bowl MVP -- a guy I used to actually work out with in the gym and made me feel weak."

Punky quarterback Jim McMahon, now bald, wore a headband--it became his trademark during the run-up to the championship--and gave one with the letters "USA" to Obama. "I'm not wearing it," Obama joked.

In the one somber note of the afternoon, Obama noted the loss of two 1985 Bears who have died, David Duerson who committed suicide this year and Walter Payton.

"Even 12 years after we lost him to cancer at the too-young age of 45, Chicago still loves "Sweetness," Obama said. The president noted that Connie Payton and Duerson's former wife, Alicia were at the ceremony, still part of the 1985 Bears family.

No matter who the president, championship teams are almost always invited to the White House. The Bears 1986 visit was cancelled, coming just after the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

The make-good request came from the National Football League, Obama said. With a Chicago president--and Bears fan--in the White House, the Obama administration obliged.

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley was there; he recalled when we chatted that he was at the Super Bowl in New Orleans for that 1985 game--and flew home on the same plane as the late Mayor Harold Washington.

"We had just a glorious time," said Bears board member Mike McCaskey told reporters afterwards.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) Ald. Joe Moore (49th), state Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago) and state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) were among the elected officials at the event. The audience included staffers with Chicago ties, donors and some of the many who had friends in high places in Obama's Chicago White House.

West Wing Week

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WASHINGTON--White House chief of staff Bill Daley's best day on the job was the Sunday when Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces. The worse day was when negotiations failed for a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

Daley commented during a session at the "Washington Ideas Forum" at the Newseum sponsored by The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. Daley was interviewed Thursday Wednesday by Norah O'Donnell, CBS News chief White House correspondent.

On May 1, Daley was with Obama and other top officials in the White House situation room watching the raid by U.S. special forces of bin Laden's Abbottabad compound in Pakistan. Daley noted that he "may have been" the only person in the room who was not a national security specialist.

Daley revealed that on his first day on the job he learned about the compound in the "PDB"--a reference to the "President's Daily Brief," a top secret classified document.

A bi-partisan debt deal between Congress and the White House fell apart this summer. "We thought we were so close," Daley said. That was "probably the worse day" of his nine months on the job.

Daley also said that he talks regularly with the man who had the job before him--Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Daley was asked about reports in Ron Suskind's new book about the Obama White House about complaints of how top women were treated in the administration.

"I didn't even read the book, but I did hear that there were some issues early on under the predecessor of mine so I can dump on him for that," Daley quipped.

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WASHINGTON--Education Secretary Arne Duncan is the draw at a fund-raiser in Brentwood, traveling to Los Angeles for the Oct. 11 Obama re-elect team "Speakers Series" event. Mayor Rahm Emanuel kicked off the national speakers series in New York earlier this year.

Duncan's ticket price starts at $2,500 through $10,000 for hosts of the event at the home of Hollywood producer Peter Chernin and wife Megan.

Hat Tip: Ben Smith of Politico, who had this first.

Click below for invite....

WASHINGTON--Attorney General Eric Holder hits Chicago on Friday to deliver remarks to the Chicago Metropolitan Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives annual dinner at the Hyatt Regency Hotel
on Wacker.

Holder is the second Obama cabinet member in Chicago this week.

On Wednesday, HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius made three public appearences in Chicago: she keynoted a NARAL lunch, got a flu shot at a Walgreen's at 11 E. 75th and visited the University of Illinois-Chicago to speak with students about the new young adult health protections in the Affordable Care Act.

Holder and the Fast and Furious gun sting controversy:
Carol Felsenthal has perspective in her column in The Hill. Read it HERE.

WASHINGTON--Republican votes on Thursday blocked a bid by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) to condemn GOP White House hopeful Rick Perry because a racial slur was painted on a rock near the family hunting camp.

The C-Span video of Jackson on the House floor this morning is HERE.

Text of the Jackson resolution is HEREJACKJE_032_xml.pdf

The Washington Post scoop on the racial slur at the West Texas ranch is HERE

WASHINGTON--President Obama was asked at his Thursday press conference about the Wall Street protests: "Are you following this movement, and what would you say to its people that are attracted to it?"

Said Obama, Obviously I've heard of it. I've seen it on television. I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street, and yet you're still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place.

So, yes, I think people are frustrated. And, you know, the -- the protesters are giving voice to a more broadbased frustration about how our financial system works.

WASHINGTON-- President Obama is adding an 11 a.m. news conference to his Wednesday schedule. It will be in the East Room. The press conference was announced Wednesday morning.


Steve Jobs legacy

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Steve Jobs legacy summed up by the Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan in her obit:

"Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., who introduced simple, well-designed computers for people who were more interested in what technology could do rather than how it was done, died Wednesday at age 56."

Obama on the death of Steve Jobs

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WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel, I've learned, last weekend flew from Little Rock, Ark. to Nantucket Island to be a presenter Sunday at a conference seeking out big ideas from "thought leaders."

Emanuel was in Little Rock on Saturday for a 20-year reunion of staffers in Bill Clinton's presidential campaign. After that, Emanuel headed to the island off of the Massachusetts coast for "The Nantucket Project" symposium. Neither event was on Emanuel's schedule released by City Hall.

Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw on Wednesday--at the Washington Ideas Forum--said he saw Emanuel over the weekend and among the subjects they discussed was garbage collection.

The Boston Herald reported that Emanuel and Larry Summers, the former Harvard president who was President Obama's top economic adviser--during the time Emanuel was Obama's chief of staff --"held an "off the record" talk."
The Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror newspaper reported, "The Nantucket Project wrapped up Sunday with a closing discussion featuring Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and former Harvard president Lawrence Summers."

Other presenters included Chicagoans Mellody Hobson, the president of Ariel Investments, Redmoon Theater artistic director Jim Lasko and Morgan Hartley, of Moneythink.

The gathering of about 300 took place at the White Elephant Resort on Nantucket Harbor. The event was billed as an opportunity for participants "to be enlightened and entertained in a setting that will satisfy all of their senses in unique and interesting ways

This must be the ideas season. Chicago Ideas Week kicks off Monday.

Michelle Obama's fall harvest

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First Lady Michelle Obama helped picked produce Wednesday at the third fall harvest of her White House garden. Some of the yield will be used for the Oct. 13 state dinner honoring South Korea's President Lee and First Lady Kim Yoon-ok.

The garden was planted on March 16,
the day the East Wing announced Crown announced that Mrs. Obama will author a book about her signature project. Mrs. Obama, who will have a ghostwriter help her, accepted no advance for the book and the proceeds will go to charity.

"In her book, Mrs. Obama will tell the story of the garden she has established on the South Lawn of the White House and explore how improved access to fresh, locally grown food can promote healthier eating habits for families and communities," Crown said in a release.

from the White House....

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama was joined by a big group of helpers for the third annual White House kitchen garden fall harvest. Students from Bancroft and Tubman Elementary Schools got their hands dirty picking produce from the garden and then had a chance to try some of the vegetables that they picked on grilled garden pizza.

White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford shared the recipe for grilled garden pizza:

Serves 4

* 1 12 inch pizza dough, can use freezer dough
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 1 eggplant, cut into coins, ½ inch thick
* 1 sweet potato, peeled, sliced thinly
* 1 red pepper, sliced, ¼ inch thick
* salt and pepper to taste
* 6 oz. tomato sauce, your favorite brand
* 6 oz. shredded mozzarella, lowfat
* chopped fresh basil, for garnish.

Toss the vegetables in olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill until softened but still a bit crunchy. Set aside.

Flatten the pizza dough until about 1/8 inch thick. Brush with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill on both sides for about 2 minutes on each side. Top with the tomato sauce, mozzarella and grilled veggies. Garnish with basil. Serve immediately.

The food from the harvest didn't all go to grilled garden pizza, it will also be used in the upcoming State Dinner and will be donated to Miriam's Kitchen in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel guests on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday when the show broadcasts live from Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art. The show will be taped at 8 a.m. central time but televised in the Chicago area at 11 a.m., delayed because of the Chicago marathon.

Other guests booked are Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.).

Betsy Fischer, "Meet the Press" executive producer tells me the Chicago stop is in connection with the Oct. 10 kick off of the Chicago Ideas Week. Emanuel's former boss, former President Bill Clinton is a featured Ideas Week speaker on Oct. 11.

WASHINGTON--Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is not out on the Obama 2012 fund-raising stump--her job precludes her participation in that department--but the popular Clinton on Friday will tackle a domestic issue critical to Obama's re-election--job creation.

On Friday, Clinton will host the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness for a Listening and Action Session at the State Department. The topic: "Increasing Inbound Direct Investment in the United States to Help Create Jobs and Grow the Economy."

Clinton will be joined by Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank---a former Northwestern University economics professor---and GE Chairman Jeff Immelt, CEO of Kodak Antonio Perez, UBS Investment Bank President Robert Wolf and others.

From the White House: "Investments by foreign-based companies as well as increasing domestic investment create well-paid jobs, contribute to economic growth, boost productivity, and support American communities. In June, President Obama signed an executive order creating SelectUSA - the first-ever government-wide initiative to attract and retain U.S. business investment."

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Incoming White House Chief Usher Angella Reid. (Photo from Ritz Carlton web site)

WASHINGTON-- First Lady Michelle Obama makes a rare visit back home to Chicago on Oct. 25 for a fund-raising event for the Obama re-election drive. Sun-Times columnist Stella Foster had the scoop in her Tuesday column. The reception will be at Plumbers Hall on the near West Side. The cheap tickets start at $100.

Foster reported earlier this year that Mrs. Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia made an under the radar visit back home over the Memorial Day weekend.

"Everyone knew it was a bad debt," said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee probing the $535 million federal loan to Solyndra, the failed solar energy company. He made the comment during a FOX Business News interview.

WASHINGTON--Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), the dean of the Illinois House members, will not seek re-election in 2012, opening up a seat in a Downstate district. Costello was first elected to the House in 1988 from the 12th district and is a national player in aviation and airport policy.

In June, I posted on how Republicans were going after Costello. Read it HERE.

Republicans think they have a chance in the new 12th district, despite Illinois Democrats drawing the new lines.

Here is a GOP analysis of the new district:

McCain 2008: 44%

Bush 2004: 49%

Cook PVI: D+2

Kirk 2010: 54%

Brady 2010: 53%

Not so fast, Democrats say....

DCCC Chairman Steve Israel said "This is a strong Democratic district that both President Obama and Senator Kerry won and we look forward to electing a Democrat next November who will represent middle class families and fight to create local jobs and grow the economy."


WASHINGTON--GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry is dropping in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll. Pizza mogul Herman Cain is rising. The slide of the Texas governor is to the benefit of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. All this doesn't matter if New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie jumps in the 2012 primary field.

The next Republican presidential debate is Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. est, sponsored by Bloomberg News and the Washington Post.

Washington Post graphic

WASHINGTON--President Obama tells ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Monday he worries about how to give daughters Sasha and Malia their "space" to grow up and make mistakes--even though there is a security detail with them all the time.

Said Obama, "They-- they-- they don't-- they don't-- they know who their daddy is. And-- and they're not worried about that. The thing I do worry about is trying to figure out that balance of making sure they've got space to make mistakes, be teenagers, et cetera. But obviously, they're not-- typical-- in some ways. So they're still having sleepovers. And they're still going to the mall. And they're still going to movies. But they've got this guy with a gun following them around! And-- and-- and so just-- just trying to make sure that that space is maintained. We've been able to do it so far. Our secret service detail is terrific about it. But it-- it's a balance that has to be struck."

Click below for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Senate floor speech slamming Bank of America on new debit card fees imposed in the wake of the reduction of "swipe" fees, a measure Durbin has championed. "The banks are in an uproar!" Durbin said


WASHINGTON--White House Senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and others raised flags about President Obama visiting a failing solar energy company, Solyndra, according to e-mails released by Democrats on the House GOP-controlled panel investigating the U.S. loan to the now bankrupt California firm.

Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee released a report about the e-mails in order to try to switch the storyline the Republicans are pushing, that the loans were related to campaign donations. Rather, there was internal debate and it turns out the White House did not realize the Department of Energy was bungling administering and monitoring the loan.

Read the PDF of the Democrats' report Democrat Energy Commerce.pdf

CONCLUSION from the report.... "The documents produced Friday, like the other documents received by the Subcommittee to date in the Solyndra investigation, do not contain evidence that government decisions relating to Solyndra were influenced by considerations relating to campaign donations. Rather, the documents show that there was internal disagreement within the Administration about Solyndra's viability and the effectiveness of the loan guarantee program throughout the process. According to the documents, the decisions relating to Solyndra were made on the merits after vigorous debate and with awareness of the risks involved."

WASHINGTON--Mike Ditka. Richard Dent. Otis Wilson. Gary Fencik. Jim McMahon.

Some of the biggest names of the 1985 superbowl Chicago Bears will receive a belated honor on Friday--a White House reception hosted by Bears fan President Barack Obama.

The Bears organization confirmed for me some of the champions who are scheduled to attend the ceremony--postponed in 1986 because of the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the death of its crew.

Some of the stars of Super Bowl XX in New Orleans headed to the White House are: Head Coach Mike Ditka; Jim McMahon, Quarterback; Willie Gault, Wide Receiver; Jim Covert, Left Tackle; Richard Dent, Defensive End; Otis Wilson, Linebacker, and Gary Fencik, Free Safety.

Members of the McCaskey family will also be on hand, including Bears Chairman George McCaskey and Mike McCaskey, the former Bears president, now a Bears board member.

I'm told William "Refrigerator" Perry may have health issues preventing him from attending.

The team is set for a tour of the White House, a reception and remarks to the team and invited guests by Obama. A charter plane will take Chicago area members of the 1985 team to Washington for the daytrip.

Defensive end Dan Hampton told WLS radio he was declining the invitation because wives and children were not included and "Secondly, I'm not a fan of the guy in the White House, and third, it was 25 years ago. Let it go."

WASHINGTON--Leslie Fox has been tapped to run the host committee for the NATO/G-8 summits to be held in Chicago next May, I have learned. Fox is a veteran events executive who managed the Chicago host committees for the 1996 Democratic National Convention and the 1994 World Cup.

The G-8 economic sessions will run May 15-22 and the NATO meetings overlap May 20-21. I'm told that the McCormick Place complex is a likely main venue in part because of the ability to secure the location.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is lining up a host committee to help bankroll and plan activities related to the summits -- a chance to showcase the city to heads of state and their spouses. The events present the city with massive security and logistical issues.

Fox will be Chicago's key liasion to the White House, State Department, Secret Service and other U.S. entities involved in the meeting of global leaders. In later phases, she will also be the city's link to representatives of NATO and the G-8 involved in planning the May sessions. Fox is close to Emanuel and to White House chief of staff Bill Daley.

Fox worked with Emanuel in former Mayor Richard M. Daley's 1989 campaign. Bill Daley was a co-chair of the 1996 Chicago convention when Fox ran the host committee.

Last Friday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen laid out four NATO goals for the Chicago meeting in a speech at the European Policy Centre in Brussels.

The four Chicago goals are dealing with Afghanistan, finding NATO's right balance of "conventional, nuclear and missile defense," identifying "a package of specific military capabilities" and bolstering missile defenses without antagonizing Russia.

"So in Chicago, I am confident that you will see a NATO alliance demonstrating its strong solidarity even in difficult economic times. An alliance that is committed -- capable -- and connected," Rasmussen said.

While the situation could well change by the time of the summits -- especially in regards to Afghanistan and Libya -- Rasmussen in his "look ahead" said, "The backdrop to our NATO summit in Chicago is the global economic crisis."

WASHINGTON--President Obama and First Lady Michelle marked their 19th anniversary early on Saturday with a dinner out at a suburban Alexandria restaurant. Today is the actual anniversary.

They were wed on Oct. 3, 1992 by the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Their reception was held at the South Shore Cultural Center.

In 2010, the Obama's did not mark their anniversary with any public outing.

Here is a recap of a round-up I did on how the Obama's marked other anniversaries....

2009: The Obamas motorcaded from the White House a few miles to Washington's West End neighborhood for a meal at the Blue Duck Tavern, housed in the Park Hyatt Washington. The restaurant staff only had a few hours' notice that the First Couple was headed their way. ...The First Couple had an intimate dinner by themselves in a private area of the restaurant where they did not mix with the public.

2008: Obama spent the beginning of his 16th anniversary on the campaign trail in Abington, Pa., stopping at a flower shop after a rally. My Chicago Sun-Times colleague Abdon M. Pallasch reported that Obama spent $45 for a bouquet of flowers. The campaign made a photo op of it, with the photogs ready at the counter when Obama was in the store. Obama walked out with white roses and baby's breath, worried the bouquet would wilt on the two-hour flight to Chicago.

After a haircut and a workout, the Obamas dressed up and headed to one of Chicago's best known upscale eateries, Spiaggia, the Italian restaurant on Michigan Avenue.

2007: Obama started his 15th wedding anniversary stumping in Iowa for his Democratic primary presidential campaign and jetted home for an anniversary date night with his wife.

2006: The Obamas marked their 14th anniversary during a time when Obama was mulling a presidential run. He was on a book tour for "The Audacity of Hope," in which he revealed that his political career had put a strain on their marriage. The couple married at Trinity United Church of Christ in a ceremony presided over by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose videotaped controversial sermons would end up threatening Obama's presidential campaign.

In "Audacity of Hope," Obama wrote about how the Obamas adjusted to each other in the beginning.

"Michelle liked to wake up early and could barely keep her eyes open after ten o'clock. I was a night owl and could be a bit grumpy (mean, Michelle would say) within the first half hour or so of getting out of bed," Obama wrote.

Chris Christie: Will he run?

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WASHINGTON--New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is on the verge of a decision of whether he will jump in the crowded Republican 2012 presidential primary contest.

From a homestate newspaper....
Star-Ledger background story on Christie and his politics is HERE.

The well-informed Maggie Haberman over at Politico writes on the obstacles Christie may face--and why he may take a pass. Her report is HERE.

But if Christie jumped in, he would shake-up the race. The AP analysis is HERE via

My take on Christie on WGN radio Monday morning is HERE (along with Friday's visit by the 1985 Super Bowl Bears to the White House).
Remember, Christie once said he is not ready to be president ...

follow on Twitter: @lynnsweet

garden 2011.jpg
At the March, 2011 White House garden spring planting. (photo by Marian Burros)

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama presides over the fall harvest of her White House garden on Wednesday. The last planting was June 3. New this year: The first "Let's Move!" Tweetup. Some folks will be invited to attend, selected via applications submitted at the White House Tweetup site.

From the East Wing's Let's Move: "On Wednesday October 5th, First Lady Michelle Obama will host local students at the White House for the 2011 Fall Garden Harvest. The Garden Harvest will also mark the first ever Let's Move! Tweetup, an opportunity for @LetsMove followers on Twitter to come to the White House to watch the garden harvest, meet the White House chefs, tour the kitchen garden and engage in a conversation on the First Lady's initiative to end childhood obesity."

follow on Twitter: @lynnsweet

WASHINGTON -- After first lady Michelle Obama was photographed shopping at Target, her right-wing critics -- including Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh -- pounced Friday as if she had done something wrong, which of course she had not.

Such hostility!

Mrs. Obama spent about 40 minutes at a Target in Alexandria, Va., on Thursday, wearing sunglasses and Nike cap. She walked the aisles fairly unnoticed. It's very rare for Mrs. Obama to pop into a retail outlet, so the Target trip was newsworthy.

The outing was not on her schedule -- personal stuff never is. The news broke through pictures shot by veteran Associated Press White House photographer Charles Dharapak.

Was it a photo op? Was AP tipped off by a White House official who wanted the picture out to bolster a storyline of Mrs. Obama as an "everywoman?"

I asked AP spokesman Paul Colford how AP knew to be at the Target -- miles from the White House -- and he replied, "Charlie Dharapak is a well-wired AP White House photographer with good sources."

I take from that answer there was some kind of a tip.

President Obama and Michelle carefully manage their images. Almost every photo you see of them has been staged in some way --from the people around them to the scenery in the background.

At least an AP photographer was there to record it no matter what got him to that Target on Thursday. There have been times where I have learned about Mrs. Obama's whereabouts only through an official White House photo or someone's Tweet.

Limbaugh on his show said, "It has gotten so bad, they had to send Mooochelle out there in a Lady Gaga-type getup. She went shopping at Target. Have you seen the pictures?"

One of the pictures clearly shows a Lysol product, but one can't be 100 percent certain from the photo if it was Mrs. Obama's purchase. That did not stop Limbaugh from a rant on why she was buying the product.

Mrs. Obama has very high-end, elite, expensive shopping tastes and has taken some lavish vacations. But fair is fair. She also likes to shop at Target and has talked about the loss of her ability to just roam the aisles of one of her favorite stores.

Mrs. Obama's other purchases on her Thursday Target visit, I confirmed with a White House source, included treats for Bo, the family dog: dog food and dog toys.

Beck, of course, is entitled to his opinion, but should frame his arguments without making up stuff. Beck went on a tirade against Mrs. Obama over the Target outing and said, "I don't believe you were shopping at Target when you were not first lady."

Mrs. Obama has talked about her fondness for Target -- including the one on Roosevelt Road in Chicago. It's an easy fact check, but Beck didn't bother.

In a January 2010 interview with a group of print reporters -- I was one of them -- Mrs. Obama, asked about what she missed in Chicago, said "going to the Target on Roosevelt Road and going to the Dominick's. I mean, small things."

In a March 2011 symposium on first ladies sponsored by American University, former first lady chief of staff Susan Sher reflected on Mrs. Obama wishing she could go out and shop. I wrote then, "Mrs. Obama has talked about missing being able to shop at the Roosevelt Road Target in Chicago, a place Sher said the first lady can visualize 'up and down every aisle."'

President Obama on Friday told Michael Smerconish, a radio talk show host, that if there is one thing his wife loves to do, it is to "go shopping at Target."

Said Kristina Schake, Mrs. Obama's communications chief in a Friday statement, "It is not uncommon for the first lady to slip out to run an errand, eat at a local restaurant or otherwise enjoy the city outside the White House gates."

Obama Oct. 3 week ahead

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Obamas' celebrate 19th anniversay

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WASHINGTON--Barack and Michelle Obama celebrated their 19th anniversary early, heading to a posh suburban restaurant Saturday night after the president delivered a speech at the Human Rights Campaign annual dinner.

The First Couple, married Oct. 3, 1992 in Chicago, arrived at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria about 8:30 p.m. and were back at the White House by 10:30 p.m.

Over at Obamafoodorama, Eddie Gehman Kohan has a complete post on the Obama's date night.

WASHINGTON--President Obama bashed GOP presidential hopefuls on Saturday for "being silent" when a gay soldier was booed during a Republican debate. Obama took on the duel issues--respect for the U.S. military and gay rights--during a speech before the Democrat allied Human Rights Campaign's Annual National Dinner.

Said Obama in one of his strongest frontal assaults to date in his 2012 re-election contest: "We don't believe in a small America. We don't believe in the kind of smallness that says it's okay for a stage full of political leaders -- one of whom could end up being the President of the United States -- being silent when an American soldier is booed. We don't believe in that. We don't believe in standing silent when that happens. We don't believe in them being silent since. You want to be Commander-in-Chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it's not politically convenient."

Click below for the transcript.....

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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