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April 2012 Archives

WASHINGTON--Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who chairs the House political operation--the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hit Chicago over the weekend for fund-raisers to help challengers Tammy Duckworth, Bill Foster and Brad Schneider. Israel also did a briefing for donors of Rep. Mike Quigley and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, both Illinois Democratic incumbents.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.) hits Chicago for a meeting with fund-raisers on Monday, the first stop on a swing to Colorado, California and Washington State.

Sun-Times Political reporter Abdon M. Pallasch talked to Israel; his report is HERE.

The Chicago Host Committee released a study on Monday claiming the May NATO Summit will bring $128 million to the city. Sun-Times reporters Abdon M. Pallasch and Fran Spielman have the story HERE.

Does the study portray an overly robust scenerio? Perhaps. If all goes well, Chicago's reputation could well be globally enhanced. If protestors cause trouble, it's another story--one the folks who did the study wanted to ignore.

The 15-page study states: "In addition to the quantitative impacts described in this report, Chicago is likely to experience other,less tangible effects from the Summit. These include immediate and long term international attention, reinforcement of Chicago's brand as a world class city, and elevation of Chicago's role as host for future global events. At an international event of this scale, protests or other unscheduled disruptions may also occur, which could result in mixed media attention; however, the value of exposure is difficult to estimate reliably and was not within the scope of this analysis."

Read the Deloitte study...


WASHINGTON--The Obama re-election campaign released Monday a seven-minute video--making their best case for President Barack Obama and against the Republicans--portrayed as obstructionists--In advance of formal campaign kick offs in Ohio and Virginia on Saturday. Obama and First Lady Michelle hold rallies in Columbus and Richmond--at universities--as both the Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns step up the battle.

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Wolf Blitzer, Eva Longoria (photo by Lynn Sweet)

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WASHINGTON -- The White House Correspondents' Association dinner has swelled from a Saturday night affair to a multiday series of parties with Hollywood stars and celebrities of all types mingling with media executives, political powerhouses and reporters.

President Obama and first lady Michelle just show up for the dinner, which gets so much attention because the stars come and national news outlets whip up publicity -- this they know how to do -- as they compete for the big names.

In the line of duty, I sent tweets from parties, shamelessly took celebrity pictures (check photos out HERE) and lost 10 pounds so I could get in a little black cocktail dress last worn in 1999.

Most vivid image:
The dinner is over but the occupants of one of the best-placed tables -- George Clooney, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Steven Spielberg, Time's Richard Stengel -- aren't moving. Clooney -- who uses his superstardom to try to jolt the world to do more to stop the killings in Sudan -- is locked in animated conversation with Panetta.

They are ignoring the cellphone camera-wielding gawkers who have formed a semi-circle around them -- watching as if they were at a zoo.

A real mench:
That would be Diane Keaton, absolutely gracious.

Some stars who are used to being heavily managed when it comes to dealing with the press seem a little shocked to realize that at the dinner, they have voluntarily subjected themselves to being approached by journalists and celebrity hounds they have no control over.

Keaton -- dressed every inch as Annie Hall -- the hat, the pinstriped pantsuit, the man's tie -- was friendly, approachable and a good sport about posing for pictures and engaging in small talk with total strangers.

Eva Longoria of "Desperate Housewives" fame, in a knee-length white dress, walked over to hug Keaton.

Journalist Jodi Enda -- at the next table -- asked Longoria why she decided to attend the dinner.

Longoria -- an Obama campaign co-chair -- said, "I'm a political news junkie." And to that point, I came across Longoria at one of the pre-dinner receptions -- and she seemed -- in a bit of table-turning -- to get a kick out of posing for pictures with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

Just fun to watch them interact: Goldie Hawn and her daughter Kate Hudson.

The pre-party before the pre-parties: On Saturday the big pre-dinner event once again was the garden brunch hosted by a group of strategists and operatives: Tammy Haddad, Ted Greenberg, Kevin Sheekey, Hilary Rosen (who made some news recently with a remark about Ann Romney) Clarke Camper, Mark Ein, Alex Castellanos, Anita Dunn, Bill Knapp, David Adler, Steve McMahon and Franco Nuschese.

For the second year, Chicagoan Susan Axelrod -- wife of Obama chief advisor David Axelrod -- she is the founder of CURE --Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy -- was honored at the brunch, started by Haddad 19 years ago.

Rahm report:
When I ran into the tuxedoed Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the dinner, he was hanging out with California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Obama April 30, 2012 week ahead

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Diane Keaton (photo by Lynn Sweet)

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Wolf Blitzer, Eva Longoria (photo by Lynn Sweet)

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George Clooney in animated conversation with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (photo by Lynn Sweet)

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel with California Attorney General (photo by Lynn Sweet)

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California Gov. Jerry Brown (photo by Lynn Sweet)

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President Barack Obama (photo by Lynn Sweet)

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White House Correspondents' Dinner, table setting (photo by Lynn Sweet)

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Michelle Obama (photo by Lynn Sweet)

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Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson (photo by Lynn Sweet)

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Martha Stewart (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Video from 2011 White House Garden Brunch

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WASHINGTON--The White House Correspondents' Association Dinner is Saturday night and on Friday a lot of people were out late with pre-parties marking the weekend where show business celebrities mix with political figures and journalists. President Barack Obama and Jimmy Kimmel are headlining the dinner and I am told Obama's presentation includes video gags and the usual, well placed jabs at himself.

A small sampling of the spotted at the Google/Hollywood Reporter, Time/People, Our Voices, Celebrating Diversity in Media parties Friday night: Arianna Huffington, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, Obama finance chief Rufus Gifford, Romney top strategist Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney top legal counsel Ben Ginsburg, Romney spokesman Ryan Williams, Romney strategist Kevin Madden, White House communications chief Dan Pfeiffer, former White House Obama personal aid Reggie Love, CNN's Piers Morgan, fresh from an interview with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at Von Steuben High School earlier this week, actor Richard Kind, Panetta chief of staff Jeremy Bash, former Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley, Democratic strategists Anita Dunn and Hilary Rosen and a variety of MSNBC show hosts.

On Saturday the big pre-dinner event is the garden brunch in Georgetown (see video above) hosted by Tammy Haddad, Ted Greenberg, Kevin Sheekey, Hilary Rosen, Clarke Camper, Mark Ein, Alex Castellanos, Anita Dunn, Bill Knapp, David Adler, Steve McMahon and Franco Nuschese.

This year, Chicagoan Susan Axelrod--wife of Obama chief strategist David Axelrod--and AOL co-founder Steve Case and his wife Jean are being honored at the brunch, first hosted by Haddad 19 years ago. Susan Axelrod is the founder--and driving force-- behind CURE--Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy.

The brunch helps raise money for CURE and The White Ribbon Alliance.

Emanuel is attending the dinner; he is a guest of Bloomberg News.

Check out the White House Correspondents' Weekend Insider site HERE.

For a briefing on the parties, click HERE for the POLITICO story.

C-SPAN will be covering the dinner HERE.

WASHINGTON--The Obama re-election team is running a two-day issues conference with the Democratic National Committee aimed at female donors, with the top asks either raising $100,000 or contributing $75,800. Why an issues conference? Fund-raising pros know women like the pitch that they are attending a high minded conference, getting insider briefings doing high end networking--and not just paying to have their pictures taken with big shots for trophy walls.

The DNC has run a high-end women's fund-raising operation for years. This year marks the 18th annual national issues conference and it is being run in partnership with the Women for Obama Finance Committee. The sliding scale of price points offers a variety of perks at every level.

For giving $75,800 or raising $100,000, a donor, according to the campaign, gets "conference admission for five, premium seating, photo opportunity and admission to all special events for Chair, Friday small dinner for Chair and guest, campaign souvenir, special recognition."

President Barack Obama on Friday addresses the conference, which is big--at the convention center here. Obama on Friday night attends a dinner for the top fund-raisers at the home of BET's Debra Lee. On Thursday night, Jill Biden headlined a dinner for the elite givers or bundlers--people who tap into their own networks to get checks for the Dems.

Top females from Congress, the Obama administration and campaign will be at the conference, which started on Thursday. Speakers include White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, Obama Campaign manager and deputy Jim Messina and Jen O'Malley Dillon and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

(click below for an agenda)

Below, the perks and the price tags.....

Raise $100,000 or contribute $75,800
(includes Conference admission for five, premium seating, photo opportunity and admission to all special events for Chair*, Friday small dinner for Chair and guest, campaign souvenir, special recognition)

Raise $75,000 or contribute $40,000
(includes Conference admission, premium seating, photo opportunity and admission to all special events*, Friday small dinner, campaign souvenir, special recognition)
Raise $25,000 or contribute $15,000
(includes Conference admission, premium seating, photo opportunity and admission to all special events, campaign souvenir, special recognition)
Raise $10,000 or contribute $5,000
(includes Conference admission, premium seating, one special event*, campaign souvenir)
(includes General Admission for two)
(includes two day conference participation, select meals, campaign souvenir)
$250 (limited availability)
(includes two day conference participation, select meals, campaign souvenir)
*information on additional special events forthcoming

Almost a year since the death of Osama bin Laden, the Obama for America campaign produces a video featuring former President Bill Clinton touting President Barack Obama's tough call to approve the risky raid in Pakistan. A president has "one chance" to get things right, Clinton said in the video.

The video mocks Mitt Romney for saying he would not have spent vast U.S. resources to hunt down one man.


After this was posted, Romney campaign spokesman Andrea Saul said in a statement, "The killing of Osama bin Laden was a momentous day for all Americans and the world, and Governor Romney congratulated the military, our intelligence agencies, and the President.

"It's now sad to see the Obama campaign seek to use an event that unified our country to once again divide us, in order to try to distract voters' attention from the failures of his administration. With 23 million Americans struggling for work, our national debt soaring, and household budgets being squeezed like never before, Mitt Romney is focused on strengthening America at home and abroad."

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) is threatening to stop Metra "in its tracks" unless more African-Americans firms get work from a massive railroad construction project in his congressional district called the "Englewood Flyover."

"There is no way that this contract will fly," Rush told me in an interview.

Last October, Rush put on a hardhat and joined Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a groundbreaking ceremony at 63rd and State Street.

As LaHood wrote in his blog on Oct. 11, "the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago features one of the most hopelessly tangled railway bottlenecks in North America." Construction of the "flyover" bridge will "quickly put 1,500 men and women to work." Once built, the "flyover" will, LaHood said, "eliminate construction and backups" for 78 daily Metra commuter trains, 14 Amtrak trains and 46 freight trains.

Much of the money for the "flyover" comes from President Barack Obama's stimulus package -- the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- designed to pump money into the troubled U.S. economy by creating jobs on infrastructure projects.

Rush is quoted in an Oct. 10 press release from LaHood's shop about what he wants from the project: "The potential construction jobs and contracts from the Flyover arrive right on time" for residents of the impoverished Englewood community.

The total price tag for the "flyover" is $133 million, and Metra on April 10 accepted bids for the major portion of the construction -- worth, Rush said, about $86 million.

Metra is in the process of analyzing the bids and Rush told me when I interviewed him Thursday in his Rayburn Building office here that he got a tip from a Metra source on Wednesday that none of the major bidders included African Americans -- except for a security contract worth about $110,000.

Rush wanted to sound an alarm now, he told me, before Metra board members vote on the contract. While there is no date for a vote, Metra next meets May 11.

"I want Metra to rebid this contract. There is no way that this contract will fly," Rush told me.

"And there is no way that Metra's trains will run in the City of Chicago if this is the contract. We will stop Metra in its tracks, OK, on the tracks, cause we are not going to sit back and allow this mega-million-dollar project to come into our neighborhood, where unemployment is sky high," he said.

Englewood will get "all the dust, the delay, the dirt but none of the dough. We are not going to let it happen," Rush told me.

Metra spokesman Michael Gillis declined to comment on the accuracy of Rush's tip because, he said, the bidding process is not complete.

Gillis told me the transit agency did all it could to encourage minority bidders, working with Rush for two years to find companies that could be part of the project.

Metra held five events in Englewood to "educate" firms from the community and "team them up with prime contractors who could be bidding on the project," Gillis said. Metra also teamed with the state to help Englewood residents train for construction apprentice positions.

"We have done everything we can within the constraints of the law" and federal guidelines.

Said Gillis, "We cannot do more to create geographic, race or ethnic preferences under the law."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama made two revelations Thursday while talking to kids of White House staffers: she is a Cubs fan, unlike President Barack Obama who roots for the White Sox--and hinted the Obama family may not return to Chicago when Obama is out of office.

On coming back to Chicago, Mrs. Obama said she has been thinking more about her future and "I'm not sure whether the old life will be there. But that's a very profound question."

Mrs. Obama, a native South Sider, hosted an event for the children on the occasion of a "take your daughters and sons to work' event at the White House.

One child asked, "Are you as big of a White Sox fan as your husband? And did you congratulate Philip Humber after he threw the perfect game against the team."

Mrs. Obama replied, "I'm not as big a fan because I grew up a Cubs fan. We're a mixed marriage. And people always wonder, well, why are you a Cubs fan, because we live on the South Side. But I tell them, my dad was a Cubs fan from the time I was little. And that's one thing that he and I did -- when I would come home from school, the Cubs would be playing; they'd usually be just in the third inning by the time I got home from school at 3:30 p.m., and José Cardenal would be third man up to bat, and we'd sit and we'd watch the game. So there's sort of a sentimental connection that I have with the Cubs because of my dad. So I'm kind of always a Cubs fan. Although as a Chicagoan, I love all of our teams. We're on record there.

"And no, I didn't call the guy who pitched the game. No, I didn't. I saw that on SportsCenter but I usually stay out of the sports stuff. I leave that to my husband."

Another child asked, "Would you ever want to move back to your old life?"

Mrs. Obama answered, "My old life? I don't know if that's possible. We still have our house in Chicago, and it's there, and we go back and visit. But who knows what -- I don't know what the future holds. So one of the things I've learned growing up and being a grown-up is that you always look forward -- you look to where you're going to go, as opposed to looking back. So we're going to see how -- what the future has for us. Okay? Does that make sense to you? So I think more about what am I going to do in the future.

"And who knows. I've got two kids. They're going to be going to school. They're going to be going to college one day. There's a lot that's going to be going on. So I'm not sure. I'm not sure whether the old life will be there. But that's a very profound question. Thank you for that."

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There is going to be a very heavy security presence in downtown Chicago starting next week,before the May 20-21 NATO Summit in Chicago and Sun-Times reporter Natasha Korecki has the scoop on the plans HERE.

The military-type security in place so soon surprised the chief of the Chicago NATO host committee. She said Thursday she was "blindsided." Chicago Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman has the story HERE.

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle kick off their first official campaign events May 5 with Ohio and Virginia rallies while Mitt Romney, with the primary over, pivots to the November battle for the White House, scrambling to build a national operation.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina and top strategist David Axelrod said in a Wednesday evening conference call with reporters plans for the battleground state stops at Ohio State University in Columbus and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond have been in the works for "a while."

Said Messina, "Welcome to the general election." Axelrod said Obama will "ramp up" as his schedule allows.

Shortly after the call, the Obama campaign sent out a text about the rallies with an offer: "Sign up the chance to join [Obama] backstage."

Obama's Chicago-based campaign has been running for a year, with hundreds on the payroll, part of vast field, digital, research, media and fund-raising operations, working in concert with the White House and the Democratic National Committee.

With primaries behind him -- capped by winning five states on Tuesday -- Romney's Boston headquarters is quickly expanding nationally. There is a formal vice presidential search process in place, more hires coming aboard and a formal partnership starting with the Republican National Committee now that Romney is officially the presumptive nominee.

Romney returns to the Chicago area on May 15 for fund-raising. Here's what I'm told to watch for in the days ahead as the Romney campaign goes national:

† A much bigger role for Ann Romney. Within the next few weeks, she will begin to have her own independent schedule. Most events she's done in recent days have been with her husband. At present, Mrs. Romney has no paid staff and one volunteer, Susan DuPrey, an attorney, whose husband, Steve, in 2008 traveled with GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

In contrast, first lady Michelle Obama has two staffs, one at the White House and another in Chicago.

† Romney will start to open fund-raisers to pool reporters. At present, Romney -- whose campaign does not even routinely reveal his fund-raising events -- closes everything to the press. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Mrs. Obama allow print pool coverage for "formal remarks," and I'm told so will Romney.

† Stepped up "bracketing" of Obama events, a tactic used to try to prevent Obama -- and the powerful pulpit of the presidency -- from hogging all the free media.

Bracketing is a term used to describe a political rival showing up at an opponent's event before and after to offer a "pre-buttal" or rebuttal. Romney's team cranked up the bracketing effort after Rick Santorum dropped out. For example, when Biden delivered a speech in New Hampshire earlier in the month, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu did a "welcome to New Hampshire" press call.

† In 2008, Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) battled for the White House with neither an incumbent.

To try to erode Obama's White House advantage, Republicans are complaining that Obama is campaigning on the taxpayer dime. RNC chair Reince Priebus on Wednesday sent a letter to federal authorities, asking them to investigate the Obama for America campaign.

The call for a probe I take as a bid to try to force the White House to stop branding battleground events as governmental -- as the lines between official and political by now are blurred.

Axelrod said he was not going to get "hot and bothered by RNC stunts."

For months, Obama, first lady Michelle and Biden have been focusing most of their official travel on the handful of key 2012 battleground states, combining government and political trips.

The official speech Obama delivered Wednesday to university students in Iowa was a stem-winder and in a setting that could well as been a campaign rally.

The DNC pays a portion of political travel, the price of a charter plane, which does not cover the vast expenses of a presidential entourage -- to which the president, always on duty -- is entitled.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush stumped for re-election on Air Force One.

And they won.

WASHINGTON--In advance of the May NATO Summit, two White House national security experts are in Chicago today for briefings as well as the ambassadors of the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Romania.

Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes and NSC Senior Director for European Affairs Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall are meeting with the Chicago Host Committee and are appearing at two events, one hosted by the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies, and the other hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Below, from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs...


Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, The White House
Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Special Assistant to President Obama, and Senior Director for European Affairs, National Security Staff

His Excellency Petr Gandalovič, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States
His Excellency Žygimantas Pavilionis, Ambassador of Lithuania to the United States
His Excellency Adrian Cosmin Vieriţa, Ambassador of Romania to the United States

At the May 20-21 NATO Summit in Chicago, President Obama will host leaders from more than fifty countries and international organizations to discuss pressing issues facing the transatlantic alliance.

The Obama administration has focused on the revitalization of alliances and partnerships as a fundamental element of its national security policy. Through NATO, the United States and Europe are bound by collective defense commitments and common values. Following its adoption of a new Strategic Concept at the 2010 Lisbon Summit and the successful conclusion of Operation Unified Protector in Libya, NATO must now make further progress in Afghanistan, address defense capability requirements - such as missile defense - in a time of declining defense budgets, and continue to enhance its cooperation with partners.

Please join The Chicago Council and a panel of White House officials and ambassadors from Central and Eastern European countries for a briefing on the outcomes of the April 18-19 meeting of NATO Foreign and Defense Ministers, a discussion of the issues on the NATO Summit agenda, as well as an assessment of the current trends in U.S.-CEE relations, and the future outlook for the transatlantic alliance.

Ben Rhodes is deputy national security advisor for Strategic Communications, overseeing President Obama's national security communications, speechwriting, and global engagement. Previously, he served as deputy director of White House Speechwriting, and as a senior speechwriter for the Obama campaign. Prior to joining Obama for America, he worked for several years as special assistant to Lee Hamilton at the Wilson Center, where he helped draft the Iraq Study Group Report and the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. He is the coauthor, with Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean, of Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission.

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall is special assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and senior director for European Affairs on the National Security Staff. Previously, she was the adjunct senior fellow for Alliance Relations at the Council on Foreign Relations, a senior research scholar at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation, and founding senior adviser to the Stanford-Harvard Preventive Defense Project. She previously served as deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia in the first Clinton Administration and as chief foreign affairs and defense policy advisor to Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
His Excellency Petr Gandalovič has been ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States since May 2011. From 2006 to 2011, he was a member of the Chamber of Deputies in the parliament of the Czech Republic and served on both the Foreign Committee and the Agricultural Committee. From 1997 to 2002, he served as the consul general of the Czech Republic in New York. Prior to this, he worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as director general of the Economic and Information Section and as an advisor to the foreign minister.

His Excellency Žygimantas Pavilionis has been ambassador of Lithuania to the United States since August 2010. Previously, he acted as ambassador-at-large and chief coordinator for Lithuania's presidency of the Community of Democracies and chief coordinator for transatlantic relations. From 2002 to 2004 he served as the head of the European Integration and Political Cooperation department. From 1999 to 2002 he worked in Brussels at the Lithuanian Permanent Mission.
His Excellency Adrian Cosmin Vieriţa is the ambassador of Romania to the United States. From 2006 to 2008, he served as state secretary for European Affairs at the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Between 2002 and 2006, he was ambassador of Romania to the Federal Republic of Germany. He has also held various other positions with the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

InterContinental Hotel
505 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611


5:00 p.m.
Registration and cash bar reception
5:30 p.m.
Presentation and discussion

7:00 p.m.
Members $10
Nonmembers $20
President's Circle, Corporate, Sponsor, Donor, and Student Members complimentary

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle kick off their first official campaign events May 5 with Ohio and Virginia rallies.

Obama Campaign manager Jim Messina and top strategist David Axelrod said in a Wednesday evening conference call with reporters plans for the battleground state stops at Ohio State University in Columbus and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond have been in the works for "awhile."

Said Messina, "welcome to the general election." Axelrod said Obama will "ramp up" as his schedule allows.

Shortly after the call, the Obama campaign sent out text about the rallies with an offer: "sign up the chance to join (Obama) backstage."

Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley acknowledged Wednesday that President Barack Obama has a "very difficult time" with the business community.

"They think he's like Marx or something," Daley said.

Daley made his comments in his first big speech since stepping down as President Barack Obama's chief of staff, giving a home town crowd insights into the White House and beyond. Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch was there and his full report is HERE.

Excerpts from the Pallasch report....

How does Obama get on with business people.?

"They think he's like Marx or something," Daley said. "It's like he's destroyed the world and the financial services industry as we know it. Most of the public today believes the president has been too light on the financial service sector. Nobody's gone to jail. He didn't nationalize the banks. The president has a very difficult time with the business community. Most people in business and most people who are successful are Republican that's just a fact of life."

"....The evidence that Osama bin Laden was really in that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was so thin, Daley said, that: "Trust me, if you went to 26th and California [the Cook County Criminal Courthouse] with the evidence that Osama bin Laden was in the building, no judge would have given you a search warrant. No way. They would have looked at you and said, 'bring me something real here.' "

"The crowd of business leaders at the Union League Club breakfast laughed at Daley's hometown spin on national and international events.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama is on a fund-raising swing this week, combining a few official stops along the way, as she did in Omaha on Wednesday, where super-investor Warren Buffett joined Mrs. Obama at a reception with the tab ranging from $250 to 10,000 per person.

In Omaha, Mrs. Obama also keynoted a lunch for Girls Inc., a charity whose board includes Buffetts' daughter Susie. The Buffetts have a special place in Obama history--and its not just because of the "Buffett Rule," the nickname for Obama's push for tax equity.

Susie Buffett was a very early Barack Obama supporter, starting with his 2004 campaign for Illinois senator.

The Omaha event was tiered, with a photo, preferred seating and a "greet" from Mrs. Obama available on a sliding donation scale.

The proceeds to go to the Obama Victory Fund 2012, a joint fund-raising committee of the Obama 2012 campaign and the Democratic National Committee and state parties in 10 battleground states.

On Friday, Mrs. Obama hits Naples, Florida--a battleground state-- for an afternoon fund-raiser at the Inn on Fifth there. The donation to get into the reception, organized by the Florida Finance Committee, is $1,000 per-person or $5,000 if you want a photo with Mrs. Obama.

Transcripts from Omaha a the click...

President Barack Obama slow jammed the news--about student loan rates--with NBC host Jimmy Fallon, taping the show Wednesday at the University of North Carolina. Obama this week is on a campus tour, pitching young voters--as Congress must act in order to prevent loan rates to rise.

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Sen. Mark Kirk (photo credit: The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago)

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), in the first photo released since his stroke last year, is sitting up and dressed.

Chicago Sun-Times political reporter Abdon M. Pallasch has the story about how Kirk is continuing to improve HERE. Kirk is being treated at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Kirk is taking part in a federal funded rehabilitation study; the research grant is is aimed at helping stroke victims improve their walking skills. Link to the study Kirk is part of is HERE.

WASHINGTON--Rahm Emanuel cites two stories about his biggest failures--getting bounced from a job in the Clinton White House and slicing off his finger-- in an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan taped Monday at Von Steuben High School, 5039 N. Kimball Ave., Chicago.

Emanuel's mother, Marsha, attended Von Steuben. I graduated from Von Steuben. The Emanuels moved to Wilmette when Rahm was a youth--giving him the opportunity to study at New Trier West.

Emanuel spoke at length about his two major travails in a 2009 George Washington University commencement address: Read my 2009 post with details about Emanuel's lost finger and how he got up after Clinton kicked him HERE.

Morgan asked Emanuel about his biggest failures on Monday and Emanuel said, "Well, I've had two. One is -- I can -- that I think are -- for me, one was I nearly lost my job working for President Clinton. And that was something I'd worked all my life to get to. And I faced a very critical juncture at a time in which I may not be there anymore.

"The other time is I'd cut my finger, but because of carelessness, I was in a hospital for seven weeks. And for a 48-hour period of time nearly died."

Click below for transcript....

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama may not be able to recreate the "youth movement" of his 2008 campaign in 2012--and has lost some student support--but is running ahead of presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, according to a new survey by Harvard's Institute of Politics released Tuesday.

"Over the last several months, we have seen more of the Millennial vote begin to solidify around President Obama and Democrats in Congress," said IOP Director Trey Grayson in a statement. "At the same time, there has been effectively no change in their support for Mitt Romney and Republicans in Congress. We will continue to track this demographic which we know is critical to success at the polls."


"Barack Obama has widened the gap over Mitt Romney. With the general election approaching, Barack Obama has grown his lead over likely Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to seventeen points (43%-26%), a six point larger margin than seen in IOP polling in late November/early December (37%: Obama; 26%: Romney).

"Obama leads Romney among 18- to 24- year-olds by 12 points (41%-29%) and 25- to 29- year-olds by 23 points (46%-23%).

"Although this generation is not as supportive of President Obama and Democrats as they may have been in the historic 2008 campaign, this in no way implies that the Republican Party has successfully captured the hearts, minds and votes of Millennials," said Harvard Institute of Politics Polling Director John Della Volpe.


"Web-enabled survey of 3,096 18- to 29- year-old U.S. citizens with a margin of error of +/- 1.7 percentage points (95% confidence level) conducted with research partner Knowledge Networks for the IOP between March 23 and April 9, 2012."

Click below for more...

President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney want to continue low interest rates for student loans--as they argue whose policies will better help pay for higher education. If Congress does not act, interest rates will increase later this year.

Obama on Tuesday is visiting state schools to the battleground states of North Carolina and Colorado.

Romney's campaign is holding a conference call Tuesday morning on Obama's "failed economic policies on young adults" featuring the youthful Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) on a conference call.


Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday will attend a variety of events connected with the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit in Chicago. His first stop will be Von Steuben High School, 5039 N. Kimball, where he will appear with former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and actor and philanthropist Sean Penn to speak with students.

He also has several interviews scheduled in connection with the summit, including one with CNN's Piers Morgan, for Morgan's show tonight.

Click below for Obama's public schedule.

WASHINGTON--Samantha Power--who won a Pulitizer Prize for her book on genocide and now advises the Obama administration on the subject--will chair President Barack Obama's new Atrocities Prevention Board, which gets down to work Monday as Obama delivers a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The White House released recommendations of the board; details HERE.

He will be introduced by Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and author who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Before his speech, Obama is touring the museum with Wiesel and Museum Director Sara Bloomfield.

Obama will speak about genocide prevention and the U.S. efforts to make sure mass atrocities never happen again.

The Obama White House efforts to address genocide is headed by Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights. Power won a Pulitizer Prize for her book, "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide"and worked briefly for Obama when he was a U.S. senator from Illinois.

Power announced creation of the board last August.

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

Mitt Romney raised $12.6 million in March for his primary, his campaign said Friday. Watch for the number to quickly jump. Now that Romney is the all-but-certain nominee, he is starting to raise money jointly with the Republican National Committee, which will allow him, under federal law, to collect much bigger donations from individuals.

Romney's campaign refuses to disclose their top bundlers, people who use their personal networks to help raise money. The gist I get from folks associated with the campaign--disclosure can only bring on endless stories about contributors. Better to take a hit about non-disclosure than deal with substantive stories about their donors and their connections.

Yet the Romney team and Republicans jump on negative stories--such as Solyndra-- about big bundlers for President Barack Obama that can only exist because Obama makes public his top fund-raisers.

The Romney campaign in Boston also declines to allow a pool reporter into fund-raisers where Romney or Ann Romney makes remarks.

Obama evolved on fund-raising disclosure from his days as an Illinois senator, perhaps Romney will too.

The May NATO Summit in Chicago will be the biggest ever, NATO's top official said Thursday in Brussels. Russia and China are being pressed to help pay for the international troop force in Afghanistan. For details, click over to the Chicago Sun-Times NATO blog.


Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) at a Chicago press conference on Thursday to mark the end of a child support lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, says he was no deadbeat dad. Democratic rival Tammy Duckworth, in reaction, looks at his finances, which Walsh said was not classy. Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch has the story HERE.

Democratic National Committee Video

WASHINGTON--GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney battled Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) unsuccessfully in 2008 for the presidential nomination. McCain is now backing Romney--but the videos of all his 2008 comments during the primary disparaging Romney are ripe pickings for the Obama team. And they are taking in a harvest.

On Friday, as Romney appears at a Republican National Committee State Chair meeting in Scottsdale, in McCain's home state, the Democratic National Committee released a video using McCain's "greatest hits" against Romney--criticizing him for flip-flopping and laying off people while a private business executive.

Melanie Rousell, the DNC National Press Secretary said in a statement, "Sen. John McCain will introduce Mitt Romney today at the RNC's unity gathering in Arizona and while we don't know exactly what he'll say, we thought it might help to look at what he's said over the past few years about Mitt Romney.

"The DNC released a new web video, titled John McCain on Mitt Romney, which takes a look at a few of McCain's greatest hits on Romney - from his record as governor, to his time in the private sector and his values.

"He's already said so much - we look forward to what he has to say next," she said.

WASHINGTON--GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney hits Arizona on Friday for a Republican National Committee State Chairmen's meeting in Scottsdale as the pivot towards the November general election is almost complete.

The GOP chairs are meeting in a state the Obama team is targeting as a potential pick-up, even if is the home of the 2008 GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain. Arizona is not an official battleground like Florida and North Carolina, but the changing demographics--a big Latino population--may swing to the Democrats favor.

Both the Romney and Obama camps stepped up their targeting of Latino voters last week and after the session with the GOP leaders, Romney holds a roundtable with Latino business owners in Tempe.

This will be Romney's first national gathering of Republican leaders since he laid claim to the nomination. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are still in the race, but all signs point to RNC leadership giving them respect--as they treat Romney as the nominee.

Romney has not yet collected enough delegates to be formally declared the primary winner at the GOP convention this August in Tampa.The RNC and the Romney campaign have formed a joint fund-raising committee, letting them collect mega donations that help bankroll Romney's presidential bid.

Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Delaware hold votes on Tuesday and Romney is expected to win.

WASHINGTON--Chatter about Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton replacing Vice President Biden on the Obama 2012 ticket persist no matter how many times she says it is "not going to happen." And now in a joint interview CNN's Wolf Blitzer did with Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta--Panetta did not throw cold water when Blitzer asked Clinton about 2016.

Clinton and Panetta were interviewed in Brussels, at NATO Headquarters, where they attended meetings to prepare for the May NATO Summit in Chicago. Clinton has said she if President Barack Obama wins a second term, she will stay at State only as long as it takes to get a replacement for her.

"She's been a great leader and she will be a great leader in the future," Panetta said.

Blitzer replied, aiming the comment at Clinton, "You know, they really want you. And a lot of Democrats and others, they would like to run in 2016. I just see you smiling."

"Look, I'm flattered. I am honored. That is not in the future for me, but obviously I'm hoping that I'll get to cast my vote for a woman running for president of our country," Clinton said.

Because of their positions, the Defense Secretary and Secretary of State do not campaign and officially stay out of politics. Clinton won't even attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., though her husband is all but certain to be there.

As for replacing Biden, she said, "That is not going to happen. That's like saying if the Olympic Committee called you up and said are you ready to run the marathon, would you accept? Well , it's not going to happen."

WASHINGTON--The Obama campaign is raffling off chances to meet George Clooney at his home, with only a $3 donation needed to be eligible a chance to meet the actor and activist.

The newest gimmick uses the popular star as a draw for low-end as well as the highest end donors.

President Barack Obama heads to Los Angeles for a May 10 event at Clooney's home, an event targeting the very high end donor. The funder benefits the Obama for American campaign, the Democratic National Committee and Democratic parties in key battleground states. The top price for the event is $40,000 per person; the first $5,000 goes to the Obama re-election campaign, the next $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee and the state parties.

An e-mail sent out by Deputy Campaign Manager Julianna Smoot on Thursday pitched the raffle this way in an e-mail:

"Want to meet George Clooney and Barack Obama -- at Clooney's house?

"He's hosting supporters at his home next month to help build support for this campaign and elect President Obama in November. And he's saving seats for two grassroots supporters like you and their guests. It's just not a chance most people get -- well, ever.

"For a chance to hang out with President Obama at George Clooney's house, donate $3 or whatever you can to be automatically entered to win.

"George Clooney is doing his part to help re-elect the President, but he also knows that it's folks like you who will decide this election. That's why we're reserving a few spots for grassroots supporters.

"If you donate $3 or whatever you can today, you'll be doing your part to support the campaign, and be automatically entered to join them in Los Angeles.

"If you ask me, this is far too good to pass up."

WASHINGTON--Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) announced Thursday--in a joint statement with his ex-wife Laura-- that the issues surrounding her child support claims have been worked out and a lawsuit she filed was dismissed. Walsh will hold a press conference in Chicago later today to discuss the case--which he needed to get behind him as he battles Democratic House hopeful Tammy Duckworth for the eighth congressional district northwest suburban seat.

The agreed order dismissing the case between Walsh and his former wife Laura was entered by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mark Lopez.

Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch disclosed last year that Walsh's former wife accused him in a 2010 lawsuit of failing to pay more than $117,000 in child support.

PDF of order FINAL_AO.4.19.12.pdf

The order uses Walsh's full name, William Joseph Walsh.

click below for Joe Walsh and Laura Walsh joint statement...


WASHINGTON--Never again.

Thursday is Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the genocide of six million Jews and others by Nazi Germany. The date is pegged to the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. There are a variety of activities surrounding the days marking what in Hebrew is called Yom HaShoah. On Monday, President Barack Obama is speaking at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Raoul Wallenberg is being honored here today.

Obama, in his speech at the museum, is expected to discuss genocide prevention and announce appointments to the Atrocities Prevention Board he created last year.

In a statement released on Thursday to mark Yom HaShoah, Obama said, "On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, I join people of all faiths across the United States, in Israel and around the world in paying tribute to all who suffered in the Shoah--a horrific crime without parallel in human history. We honor the memory of six million innocent men, women and children who were sent to their deaths simply because of their Jewish faith. We stand in awe of those who fought back, in the ghettos and in the camps, against overwhelming odds. And in the year of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, we are humbled by the rescuers who refused to be bystanders to evil.

"On this day, and all days, we must do more than remember. We must resolve that "never again" is more than an empty slogan. As individuals, we must guard against indifference in our hearts and recognize ourselves in our fellow human beings. As societies, we must stand against ignorance and anti-Semitism, including those who try to deny the Holocaust. As nations, we must do everything we can to prevent and end atrocities in our time. This is the work I will advance when I join survivors and their families at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday. This must be the work of us all, as nations and peoples who cherish the dignity of every human being."

Wallenberg was the Swedish business man and diplomat who, at great risk to himself, saved tens of thousands of Jews. This year marks the 100 years since his birth and the Swedish government is devoting the year to commemorate his life. In Washington, the Swedish Embassy is hosting several events today remembering Wallenberg's courage, taking place in connection with Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, Per Westerberg, Swedish Princess Madeleine and members of the Wallenberg family are part of a symposium on Wallenberg's life--how one man can make a difference--at the Swedish Embassy, co-sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the Lantos Foundation.

A related exhibit on Wallenberg's life, " To me there is no other choice" created by the Swedish Institute and the Living History Forum opens at the Swedish Embassy today.

State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal is in Sweden this week to honor Wallenberg and for other related activities.

From the State Department: "Rosenthal will travel to Sweden from April 23-26, 2011. This visit will include stops in Stockholm and Malmö to consult with Swedish officials and local Jewish communities, and to participate in an event honoring Swedish diplomat and Holocaust rescuer Raoul Wallenberg during this 100th anniversary year of his birth.
In Stockholm, Special Envoy Rosenthal will meet with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and representatives of the Jewish community. She will be a keynote speaker at a seminar on the changing face of anti-Semitism hosted by the Institute for Security and Development Policy."

"In Malmö, she will meet with Malmö Mayor Ilmar Reepalu and local Jewish leaders. She will also meet with the City of Malmö's Interreligious Dialogue Forum and participate in an event honoring Raoul Wallenberg hosted by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute at Lund University."

From the USHMM: "Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation's annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims. Holocaust remembrance week is April 15-22, 2012. The theme designated by the Museum for the 2012 observance is Choosing to Act: Stories of Rescue."

From the USHMM: "The Holocaust is the state-sponsored systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. Jews were the primary victims -- six million were murdered; Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), people with mental and physical disabilities, and Poles were also targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethnic, or national reasons. Millions more, including homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, and political dissidents, also suffered grievous oppression and death under Nazi Germany."

From the USHMM: "What you do matters.

"Remembrance not only obligates us to memorialize those who were killed during the Holocaust, but it also reminds us of the fragility of democracy and the need for citizens to be vigilant in the protection of democratic ideals. We remember because we recognize the importance of preserving freedom, promoting human dignity, and confronting hate whenever and wherever it occurs."

Carl Cannon at Real Clear Politics essay on Wallenberg is HERE.

Cannon excerpt: "Today the Swedish embassy in Washington is celebrating the Raoul Wallenberg centennial. Normally, this morning missive takes note of events in American history. But Wallenberg's fate has always been of great interest in the United States. And anyway, in death, as in life, the heroic Swedish diplomat became a citizen of the whole world.

"In 1944, the Third Reich began to meet its bloody and fiery fate. In Hungary, Raoul Wallenberg and his team bribed, threatened, and cajoled occupying German authorities while networking with Hungarian officials and any others who could be helpful to his cause.

"The yellow Star of David that Jews were forced to wear - and which meant a one-way ticket to the extermination camps -- were replaced with gaudy blue and gold ID "protective passports" with the Swedish crest. Safe houses were set up by the dozens, fortified only by Swedish flags. Hundreds of Jews were hired as Wallenberg's own staff. He personally helped turn back death trains at the border, and handed out food and medicine to Jews on forced marches north.

"In the end, most of Hungary's 750,000 Jews were murdered as the Third Reich crashed and burned. But of the estimated 120,000 who survived, most owed their lives to the frantic efforts that Raoul Wallenberg, his team, and their patrons in Stockholm, mounted between July 1944 and January 1945.

"...And his efforts did cost him his life. After Soviet forces rolled into Hungary, Wallenberg was arrested. He and his driver, Vilmos Langfelder, were never seen again. Although the truth didn't emerge for decades, Wallenberg was apparently taken to Moscow's notorious Ljubljana prison and shot in 1947 for no discernable reason."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama continues to score high favorability ratings as rival Ann Romney is still so unknown most people have no opinion about her, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday.

* Mrs. Obama gets a 60 - 22 percent favorability rating, higher that the 49 percent in September, 2010, 55 percent in July, 2010 and 50 percent in November, 2008.

* Ann Romney gets a 25 - 9 percent favorability with 64 percent who don't know enough about her to form an opinion.

Breaking this down:

Is your opinion of Ann Romney favorable, unfavorable or haven't you heard enough about her?

Tot Rep Dem Ind Men Wom Wht Blk Hsp

Favorable 25% 42% 11% 26% 27% 23% 29% 8% 19%

Is your opinion of Michelle Obama favorable, unfavorable or haven't you heard enough about her?

Tot Rep Dem Ind Men Wom Wht Blk Hsp

Favorable 60% 34% 85% 57% 53% 67% 56% 91% 57%

President Barack Obama on the Passing of Dick Clark

"Michelle and I are saddened to hear about the passing of Dick Clark. With "American Bandstand," he introduced decades' worth of viewers to the music of our times. He reshaped the television landscape forever as a creative and innovative producer. And, of course, for 40 years, we welcomed him into our homes to ring in the New Year. But more important than his groundbreaking achievements was the way he made us feel - as young and vibrant and optimistic as he was. As we say a final "so long" to Dick Clark, America's oldest teenager, our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends - which number far more than he knew."

WASHINGTON--Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton regularly swats down talk of her replacing Joe Biden as President Obama's runningmate and she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Wednesday it was a likely as her running in an Olympic marathon.

She made her remarks in a joint interview with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta from Brussels, where both of them were attending a meeting a NATO Headquarters in the run-up to the Chicago NATO Summit in May.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: If the President of the United States says, Madam Secretary, I need you on the ticket this year in order to beat Romney, are you ready to run as his vice presidential running mate?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: That is not going to happen. That's like saying if the Olympic Committee called you up and said are you ready to run the marathon, would you accept? Well, it's not going to happen.

BLITZER: I disagree.

CLINTON: Oh, well -

BLITZER: I think it is possible. It's unlikely. You will say that -

CLINTON: It's more than unlikely.

BLITZER: If he needs - if he sees in July that he's going down, he doesn't want to be a one-term president.

CLINTON: But he's - but this - you know, Leon and I are in this awkward position, because we were - we've both been in politics, and now we're in two jobs that are out of politics for the - all the right reasons. So I don't comment on politics any more.

But I'm very confident about the outcome of this election, and as I've said many times, I think, you know, Joe Biden, who's a dear friend of ours, has served our country and served the president very well, so I'm out of politics, but I'm very supportive of the team that we have in the White House going forward.

From the latest Quinnipiac University Poll released Thursday: (click HERE for all cross-tabs in survey)

* "President Barack Obama holds a thin 46 - 42 percent lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney."

* "New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan lead the guess list for possible Romney running mates."

* "Looking at personal characteristics, 81 percent of American voters think the president is likable, compared to 63 percent for Romney. Obama cares about their needs and problems, 57 percent say, compared to 44 percent for Romney."

* "Romney is seen as better on the economy 47 - 43 percent, better on creating jobs 45 - 42 percent, better on gas prices 44 - 31 percent and better on immigration 43 - 39 percent. The president is viewed 52 - 32 percent as better on women's issues and 46 - 40 percent on foreign policy. The two men are seen equally on taxes and health care."

* "The gender gap remains, with Obama leading among women 49 - 39 percent and trailing slightly among men 46 - 43 percent," said Brown. "The racial gap is even wider: Romney leads 52 - 36 percent among whites, while the president is ahead among blacks 94 - 3 percent and among Hispanics 64 - 24 percent."

* "More voters have an unfavorable opinion of the president, 49 percent, compared to the 45 percent who view him favorably. Romney is viewed favorably by 33 percent and unfavorably by 38 percent. "

From April 11 - 17, Quinnipiac University surveyed 2,577 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 1.9 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.

The Root--a web publication owned by the Washington Post--posted "Why Chicago Schools Brought Back Gym."

How others see us, via The Root: "Since 1997, most of the city's 675 schools have waived the physical education requirement for many of its 405,000 students because of budget shortfalls. But Chicago Public Schools plans to reinstate a physical education requirement for all high school juniors and seniors for the 2013-14 school year, said Frank Shuftan, a district spokesman. Recess will also return for all elementary schools next fall."

WASHINGTON--The Obama campaign has been wooing Latino voters since it launched a year ago in Chicago and on Wednesday, the targeting stepped up with the launch of "Latinos for Obama.

The campaign started running Spanish-language radio and television ads in Nevada, Florida and Colorado, key battleground states.

"It's no secret that Latinos will be the deciding factor in this election and the outcome will have an impact on the Latino community for years to come," said Jim Messina, the Obama campaign manager on a conference call.


WASHINGTON--Defense Sec. Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium for meetings to prepare for the Chicago NATO Summit.

This is the last major gathering of NATO and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) before the May 20-21 NATO Summit at McCormick Place. Click HERE for Clinton's schedule of meetings, press conferences and bi-lateral sessions at NATO HQ.

"We are just one month away from our Chicago summit. So this is the time to make sure our preparations are on track as we enter the final stretch," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the start of the series of ministerial meetings. (Click below for NATO release on two-day meeting.)

More from NATO on the defense package to be discussed at the Chicago Summit:

"NATO has already done substantial work on developing the Alliance's capabilities in areas such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. At the forthcoming NATO Summit in Chicago on 20-21 May, heads of state and government will lay the foundations for the Alliance's future forces to 2020.

"In Chicago, we will take the next steps, by approving a specific set of commitments and measures, and embracing the new approach we call Smart Defence," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

"The Smart Defence concept encourages nations to maximise the efficiency of their defence spending by focusing on greater prioritisation, specialisation and multinational cooperation in their acquisition of modern equipment.

"Leaders at the Chicago Summit are expected to approve a package of defence measures which includes specific multinational projects and a strong commitment to making Smart Defence the new way the Alliance does business. It will also include measures to sustain and increase the links between the armed forces of different NATO nations.

"In Chicago, we will adopt a series of measures in the fields of education and training, exercises and technology, to make sure that our forces maintain the strong connections they have developed during our operations. We call it the Connected Forces Initiative," the Secretary General said.


"NATO's firm goal is to complete the transition to full Afghan security responsibility by the end of 2014, within the timetable we all agreed. And NATO's firm intention is to continue supporting Afghanistan after 2014. Because our partnership with the Afghan people is for the long term."

WASHINGTON--A CBS News /New York Times poll put the Obama/Romney contest in a dead heat among registered voters.

From CBS: Obama and Romney each received support from 46 percent of registered voters when asked who they would vote for if the election were held today. In March, a CBS News/New York Times survey found that Mr. Obama held a slight advantage over Romney of 47 percent to 44 percent.

Romney video: Four years ago at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, then-candidate Barack Obama said that Democrats measure progress by whether people can find a job and provide for themselves and their families. In September, President Obama and the Democrats will meet for the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina, a state that has lost nearly 50,000 jobs since President Obama took office and has an unemployment rate at nearly 10%.

WASHINGTON--Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney hits Charlotte, North Carolina on Wednesday--the city where the Democratic National Convention will be held--to deliver what his campaign is calling a "prebuttal" speech to the one President Barack Obama will deliver in September, when he accepts his nomination for a second term.

For details, click below...

WASHINGTON--Former NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer speaks to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on Tuesday. Click to my post at the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES NATO BLOG HERE.

WASHINGTON--It's income tax filing day, a moth-to-flame peg for campaigns of all stripes to hold press conferences. The Mitt Romney Campaign is hosting a conference call Tuesday morning with GOP Reps. John Campbell, Jason Chaffetz and Jeff Flake "to discuss President Obama's failed tax-and-spend policies."

WASHINGTON -- The Secret Service has an extensive shopping list to fortify the Chicago NATO summit, from barriers to withstand a vehicle going 50 mph to 8-foot-high fences that can't be climbed.

The specifics are contained in a bid request from the Secret Service, a document called "sensitive but unclassified." The proposals for equipment rental and project management are due April 24 for the May 20-21 summit.

Many world leaders are expected to arrive in Chicago on May 19 or a few days earlier -- and so are protesters and an international press corps.

The Secret Service document sheds light on the massive security operation that is supporting the summit, which will draw up to 50 heads of state plus associated foreign and defense ministers, military attaches and other high-level personnel in national delegations.

The summit itself is at McCormick Place. Other events are taking place at Soldier Field, Navy Pier and the Field Museum. The official delegations will be staying mainly at downtown hotels. First lady Michelle Obama is taking spouses of world leaders to the Gary Comer Youth Center on the South Side.

The U.S. government --footing the security bill -- is looking for a single vendor to deliver a variety of goods and services at a fixed price, starting on May 14, including:

♦ Portable high-security vehicle barriers to withstand the impact of a 15,000-pound vehicle hitting it at up to 50 mph. The barrier needs to be installed within one hour or less.

The Secret Service is looking for between 10,000 and 20,000 linear feet of standard road-side concrete barriers.

♦ Crowd control "barricade systems": 8-foot-high steel fences with 1/8-inch steel mesh "to mitigate/disperse thrown liquids." The barricade must be "environmentally sensitive" but strong enough to not be pulled or pushed down, "taken apart, set on fire and easily climbed on."

The "anti-scaling" fencing order is for between 20,000 and 25,000 linear feet.

The selected contractor can borrow up to 3,600 linear feet of anti-scale fencing from the government -- but they have to pick it up and return it to a suburban Washington location.

♦ Between 10 and 20 portable light towers for Secret Service checkpoints.

♦ Sand bags, with no specific number.

♦ A variety of tents for various sites, porta-potties and mobile office trailers.

♦ Between five and 10 golf carts.

The Secret Service declined comment.

I understand that the equipment request is considered routine for an event of the magnitude of the NATO summit, with significant potential targets.

The Department of Homeland Security designated the NATO summit as a National Special Security Event; that puts the Secret Service in charge of the overall security plan.

The bid request was posted online April 10. The bid was first disclosed by Government Security News and Paul Merrion at Crain's Chicago Business.

The contractor needs experience in three other high-security events within the past 36 months. All employees must be U.S. citizens and anyone with warrants or felony arrests cannot be part of the work force. All workers will have to undergo a background check by the Secret Service -- so the vendor must supply personnel who can "succefully pass the background investigation."

WASHINGTON--After President Barack Obama added a gas price crackdown event to his schedule, the spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner wondered what happened to Obama's probe last year of soaring gas prices.

"Can someone forward me the reports from the President's "Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group" - you know, the one that launched a year ago under AG Holder and has "met only a handful of times and has never reported to the public." I can't find the report online, but surely they uncovered some fraud given today's announcement," said Brendan Buck, Boehner's Press Secretary, in an e-mail.

Link to the April 21, 2011 press release on the Holder task force announcement is HERE.

WASHINGTON--Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, told ABC's Diane Sawyer that he launched his vice presidential search over the weekend and tapped long-time advisor Beth Myers to lead the review and vetting process.

Sawyer interviewed Romney and his wife Ann in Boston at Fenway Park on Monday morning for ABC World News wit Diane Sawyer and Nightline.
.Based on Mrs. Romney's comments, she is also involved in the vice presidential search.

Excerpts from Sawyer/Romney interview:<

"I have selected someone who has been an counselor of mine for a number of years, Beth Myers, she was my Chief of Staff when I was governor," said Romney.

"I've asked her to be the person who oversees the process of the vice presidential selection and vetting an analysis and so she's begun that process and is putting together the kinds of things you need to do to vet potential candidates," said Romney.

Asked if there was a deadline for choosing his running mate, Romney said he does have a deadline in mind but would not reveal the specifics.

"It would certainly be by the time of the convention," he said. "I don't think we've chosen the time we'd actually make an announcement."

Mrs. Romney said that this past weekend, which the couple spent in Florida fundraising, was the first time they had actually spoken seriously about a vice presidential pick.

"You know its been interesting this weekend was the first time we seriously really talked about it and there are some wonderful people out there," said Mrs. Romney. "So we're thinking about it now and we haven't allowed ourselves to go there yet and I think this is a time when we realize it's very important and it's time to think about it."

WASHINGTON--Three Illinois House Democratic candidates--Tammy Duckworth, Bill Foster and Brad Schneider--band together on Monday for a press conference to try to pierce the Chicago media market. On Monday, they are calling for passage of the Buffett Rule, taking a page right out of the national Democratic playbook.

The Democrat-controlled Senate has a symbolic, procedural vote scheduled for Monday on the Obama tax equity measure called the Buffett Rule. The Obama team has been pushing heavily for Congress to pass it--even though it has no chance for the GOP-run House to even call it for a vote. The Obama White House and campaign made it their main coordinated message last week: millionaires are not paying their fair share in general and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney is not in particular.

Duckworth is running against Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.)
Foster is running against Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.)
Schneider is running against Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.)

WASHINGTON--Watch for the Romney campaign to continue to up the profile of Ann Romney--finally--with the latest example a web video featuring her kids and grandchildren, pegged to her birthday. She was born on April 16, 1949

from the Romney campaign...

Governor Romney has the following event today:
· 7:35 pm EDT: Mitt Romney Addresses the Tri-State Tea Party Caucus Philadelphia, PA

And he and Mrs. Romney will tape a joint interview with Diane Sawyer.

Additionally, today is Mrs. Romney's birthday! Watch our new web video here:

click below for the video script

WASHINGTON--The Obama team raised about $53 million in March, with the proceeds funding the Obama for America campaign, the Obama Victory Fund, the Democratic National Committee, and the Swing States Victory Fund. The different funding streams all go towards the Obama/Biden re-election drive.

The web video released by the campaign on Monday only mentioned the grassroots donors as if its big major dollar donor operation didn't exist. That would be off message.

The Obama team has always been reluctant to tell the whole story when it comes to major fund-raising without some prodding. Having said that, let's compare to the Romney campaign: no disclosure of fund-raising events, no disclosure of bundlers and no pool reporter allowed in for even a portion of a fund-raiser featuring Romney.

My post here on Romney fund-raising in secret.

March Obama fund-raising highlights, as released by the campaign in the web video:

*190,000 first time donors. That's an important number because it shows that even with talk of an enthusiasm gap, the Obama team can bring in new blood. No breakdown on what states the donors are from.

*567,000 March donors

*97 percent of donations were $250 or less.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina in the video says, "We are all going to have to dig even deeper."

WASHINGTON -- This weekend, top Lithuanian diplomats posted in the U.S., Canada and Mexico meet in Oak Brook -- because the Chicago area has the most Lithuanian Americans in the U.S.

Discussing the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago is just one of several purposes for the gathering, which will include Lithuanian consul generals and honorary consul generals in North America, Lithuania's ambassador to the U.S., Zygimantas Pavilionis, told me when we chatted on Friday.

Lithuania is ramping up for the May NATO summit in Chicago. Lithuania joined NATO in 2004. It seceded from the Soviet Union in 1991. While much of the attention of the Chicago meetings at McCormick Place will be on the Afghanistan conflict, Lithuania wants to make sure NATO fighter jets continue to patrol the airspace of the Baltic Nations: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

On Saturday, the Lithuanian diplomats also will mark the 50th anniversary of the Lemont-based Lithuanian Foundation, which helps keep alive Lithuanian culture in the U.S.

And on Sunday, the Lithuanian embassy and the Consulate General of Lithuania in Chicago are part of a program seeking improved relations with Lithuanian Jews and their descendants.

Most of the Jewish population in Lithuania was wiped out by the Nazis in the Holocaust. The nation has been coming to terms with its past.

Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, told me, "With the leadership of Lithuania's Prime Minister, Andrius Kubilius, many things have happened recently in Lithuania that have been important steps towards historical justice and reconciliation."

In the U.S. a reconciliation effort is being led by the Sunflower Project, founded by Harley Felstein, 65, who lives in a Washington suburb -- and who has Lithuanian-Jewish roots.

Besides the Lithuanian diplomats, local participants at the Oak Brook session will include Michael Kotzin, senior counselor to the president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago; Steve Dishler, director of international affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Chicago; Dan Elbaum, director of the Chicago office of the American Jewish Committee; Eugene Steingold, a Chicago lawyer born in Vilnius; Alexander Domanskis, active in the Lithuanian Foundation, and Stanley Balzekas Jr., president and founder of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago.

WASHINGTON--Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen accepted, then cancelled a Sunday booking on NBC's "Meet the Press" after she touched off a controversy with her comment that Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life"

Rosen apologized, but going on the Sunday show--paired with former presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Mn.) could have re-ignited the controversy about stay-at-home moms the Obama team wants to be left to whither on its own.

If it can.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has been booked in Rosen's place.

Rosen issued a statement on her decision to not appear on "Meet the Press."

Statement from Hilary Rosen
Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:04 PM EDT
Below is a statement from Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen explaining her decision to cancel her scheduled appearance on Meet the Press this Sunday:

From Hilary Rosen

"I thank David and the folks at MTP for offering me the chance to participate in the Roundtable. It will be an important political discussion, as it always is on Meet the Press. But I have said enough and while I have unfortunately made the Producer's job tougher today, I don't have anything more to say. I apologized to Mrs. Romney and work-in-home moms for mistakenly giving the impression that I do not think their work is valuable. Of course it is. I will instead spend the weekend trying to explain to my kids the value of admitting a mistake and moving on."

Earlier, Rosen tweeted:

"I deeply apologize again to work-in-home moms, Mrs Romney & the POTUS. Not going on #MTP this weekend. I'm going to be a mom who stays home"

WASHINGTON--Mit Romney and wife Ann filed for an automatic extension of time to submit their tax return for 2011, certain to fuel the Obama team's two criticisms of Romney when it comes to income taxes:

*the "Buffett Rule" should be enacted so wealthy folks like the Romneys pay more in income taxes.

*Romney needs to release multiple years of taxes for public scrutiny.

Romney campaign spokesman Andrea Saul said "sometime in the next six months and prior to the election, Gov. Romney will file and release the 2011 return when there is sufficient information to provide an accurate return."

The Romneys' filed a form 4868 which grants the routine extension to which everyone is entitled. They listed their estimated tax liability at $3,226,623 of which they made payments in 2011 of $3,434,441.

They sent in a payment of $887,000 to be applied to their estimated tax.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michlle made public their 2012 return for 2011 income on Friday. My post HERE on the Obama current and previous returns.

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle 2012 federal income tax returns showed adjusted gross income of $789,674 on which they paid $162,074 in taxes. They had an effective federal tax rate of 20.5 percent, which Obama has been arguing should be higher for high earners like himself.

The Obamas' also filed an Illinois income tax return and reported paying $31,941 in state income tax.

Once again the Obamas' used the Chicago accounting firm of Wineberg, Solheim, Howell and Shain at 180 N. LaSalle in the Loop; Certified Public Accountant Michael Solheim prepared the return.

The Obamas donated $172,130 to 39 charities; the biggest single donation, $117,130 went to the Fisher House Foundation which helps disabled veterans.

The Illinois charity donations include:

$1,000 Illinois Head Start Association
$1,000 Illinois Reading Council
$1,000 Central Illinois Food Bank
$1,000 Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy
$ 500 Midtown Educational Foundation

Link to 2011 return is below:

Link to my 2010 post about the Obama 2009 income tax returns is HERE.

Link to my 2009 post about the Obama 2008 income tax returns is HERE.

Link to my 2008 post about the Obama 2007 income tax returns is HERE.

Link to my 2007 post about the Obama 2006 income tax returns is HERE.

Link to my post about Obama tax returns 2000-2006 is HERE.

WASHINGTON -- Never, ever suggest that being a stay-at-home-mom is not work.

Trying to douse a firestorm that dominated the political news cycle, Democratic strategist and CNN political analyst Hilary Rosen apologized Thursday to Ann Romney, mother of five, for her comment that she "never worked a day in her life."

"Let's put the faux 'war against stay-at-home moms' to rest," Rosen said in her statement.

First lady Michelle Obama -- in what for her was an extraordinary move since she tries to be militantly non-controversial -- jumped in to help with damage control on Thursday after Rosen made her remarks on CNN Wednesday evening about the wife of the presumptive GOP nominee.

Mrs. Obama waded in via a tweet on the Obama campaign re-election site: "Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected," she said. President Barack Obama was more blunt, telling an interviewer, "It was an ill-advised statement," adding Mrs. Romney "seems like a wonderful woman."

The dust-up comes as a gift to the Mitt Romney campaign, facing the general election battle against Obama with polls showing women favoring Obama.

Rosen's comment overshadowed the Obama White House/Obama campaign messaging theme of the week: pushing the Buffett Rule, or tax equity, using the issue to highlight Romney's enormous wealth and relatively low tax rate.

The Rosen flap also turned attention away from a Romney campaign misstep on a conference call that happened earlier on Wednesday, concerning women and equal wages.

In a matter of hours, the tables turned. Rosen's comments opened a new front in the Obama/Romney battle fought on TV, Twitter and press statements.

Romney's campaign, on offense, found an opening to have Ann Romney -- one of her husband's most effective but not well known surrogates -- up her profile and appeal to women. My profile on Mrs. Romney is HERE.

Ann Romney made her first Twitter tweet on Wednesday saying, "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."

On defense, Obama's team swung immediately into action. "Also Disappointed in Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive," Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, posted on his Twitter feed.

Jim Messina, Obama campaign manager, said, "I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly. Her comments were wrong and family should be off limits. She should apologize."

In her apology statement Rosen said, "As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen.

"In response to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail referring to his wife as a better person to answer questions about women than he is, I was discussing his poor record on the plight of women's financial struggles.

". . . I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance."

Fox News Greta Van Susteren stuck her neck out to defend Rosen, a friend, offering sane commentary on her Gretawire blog.

She wrote: "I did not read Hilary's comments to in any way take away from the hard chore of raising children or staying at home and raising them and not working outside the family. I read it to mean that raising children without financial pressure is easier than having financial pressure."

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel is unveiling a Chicago export strategy Friday morning at a national conference of the Export-Import Bank meeting here.

From the Emanuel plan: "Establish a new partnership with Export-Import Bank. Chicago will be the Export-Import Bank's newest City partner to help facilitate increased usage of the Bank for all Chicago businesses, specifically targeting our small- and medium-sized businesses. The Export-Import Bank will work with the City and World Business Chicago to train staff in best practices in export assistance, and conduct joint outreach campaigns and local conferences to increase Chicago's SME awareness and participation in Export-Import Bank service"

click below for Emanuel plan....

Democratic strategist and CNN political analyst Hilary Rosen apologized Thursday to Ann Romney, mother of five, for her comment that she "never worked a day in her life," adding "let's put the faux 'war against stay at home moms' to rest."

Rosen made her apology as her remark--made first on CNN Wednesday night--dominated much of the political news cycle on Thursday as the womens vote may be key to President Barack Obama's re-election in November. My post on Ann Romney, Rosen and First Lady Michelle Obama helping with damage control is HERE.

"Let's put the faux 'war against stay at home moms' to rest once and for all. As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen," said Rosen in a statement.

"In response to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail referring to his wife as a better person to answer questions about women than he is, I was discussing his poor record on the plight of women's financial struggles. Here is my more fulsome view of the issues:

"As a partner in a firm full of women who work outside of the home as well as stay at home mothers, all with plenty of children, gender equality is not a talking point for me. It is an issue I live every day. I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance."

Rosen is a managing director of SKD Knickerbocker.

FOX News anchor Greta Van Sustern, a friend of Rosen, provides the best context of what this spawned-in-a day controversy is about. Van Sustern has a unique perch--she knows newsmakers such as Sarah Palin-- and does not care if people she likes are left or right.

Wrote Van Susteren on her blog, Gretawire, "I did not read Hilary's comments to in anyway take away from the hard chore of raising children or staying at home and raising them and not working outside the family. I read it to mean that raising children without financial pressure is easier than having financial pressure."

Van Sustern's complete take: "I also speak up - even at risk of getting trashed, too - if I think someone is being misunderstood or mischaracterized. It doesn't matter to me if the person is all the way to the left or all the way to the right. My close proximity to many of the news makers (knowing them) can give me a different perspective about people in politics and what they might say than others who don't know them.

"Now having written the foregoing, I know that what Hilary said is now being weaponized by her political opponents. That IS part of Washington. Everything you say can become a WMD. Both parties do it to each other. It can be wicked.

"In making that remark about Mrs. Romney and her choice to raise a family and not work outside the home simultaneously, I know Hilary knows raising children is hard work, really hard work...the absolute hardest work. Hilary has children. That is the best way to know the challenge of raising children - have them! Hilary is not anti-stay-at-home mom.

"I did not read Hilary's comments to in anyway take away from the hard chore of raising children or staying at home and raising them and not working outside the family. I read it to mean that raising children without financial pressure is easier than having financial pressure. This is not to take away from Mrs. Romney - she has done an absolutely spectacular job raising 5 great sons - but to face the reality that financial pressure does make it harder to raise a family. This is also not to say that the Romney family success is anything to be ashamed of...the family should be very proud of its success. I admire success, don't you?"

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama--in what for her is an extraordinary move--jumped in to help with damage control on Thursday after a Democratic strategist said Ann Romney, the mother of five, "never worked a day in her life."

Mrs. Obama waded in via a Tweet on the Obama campaign re-election site: "Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected," signed with her initials to show that she sent the message--and not a staffer.

The dust-up comes as a gift to the Mitt Romney campaign, facing the general election battle against President Barack Obama with polls showing women favoring Obama. UPDATES Rosen apologizes to Ann Romney.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush weighs in for Romney campaign HERE. END UPDATES

This ball got rolling on Wednesday by Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, a CNN political contributor and a working mother, while Rosen was appearing on a CNN show. Rosen does not work for the Obama campaign or the Democratic National Committee. As are many partisan pundits, she is well connected.

After Rosen's remarks, the Romney and Obama campaigns swung into action.

Romney's team found an opening to have Ann Romney-- one of her husband's most effective--but not well known surrogates--up her profile and appeal to women, while the Obama team played defense.

"Also Disappointed in Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive," Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, posted on his Twitter feed.

Jim Messina, Obama campaign manager said, "I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly. Her comments were wrong and family should be off limits. She should apologize."

Rosen brushed up against an unwritten rule: Never, ever, suggest that mothers don't work and expect a spanking if you do.

Appearing on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" on Wednesday, Rosen, talking about the economy and Romney said, "What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country, saying, 'Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and when I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing.' Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life."

"She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority off the women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future," Rosen continued, adding that Romney "just seems so old fashioned when it comes to women."

Those comments opened a new front in the Obama/Romney battle fought on TV, Twitter and press statements.
Ann Romney made her first Twitter tweet on Wednesday saying, "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."

Then appearing on Fox News, Mrs. Romney said, "Other women make other choices to have a career and raise a family, which I think Hilary Rosen has actually done herself. I respect that. That's wonderful.

"But you know there are other people that have a choice. We have to respect women in all those choices that they made."

Rosen defended and explained her comments in a series of tweets on her Twitter feed.

"When I said @AC360 Ann Romney never worked I meant she never had to care for her kids AND earn a paycheck like MOST American women!," Rosen wrote.

She added, "I've nothing against @AnnRomney. I just don't want Mitt using her as an expert on women struggling $ to support their family. She isn't."

Much of the 2012 presidential campaign will be fought over Twitter. As Rosen noted in a tweet, "oh and @AnnDRomney welcome to Twitter. You will find it a very exhilarating and often unforgiving place!"

follow on Twitter: @lynnsweet

Obama picks Jay-Z over Kanye

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President Barack Obama--hip to cool culture whether it be music, sports or other stuff--prefers Jay-Z to Kanye, though he likes both, reports David Samuels over at The Atlantic.

Samuels got the scoop while reporting on a profile of Kanye West.

Excerpt from The Atlantic story, "American Mozart" when Obama is asked, "Kanye or Jay-Z?"

"The president smiles. "Jay-Z," he says, as if the answer should be obvious. When it comes to the most meaningful pop-cultural divide of the moment, the question of whether you prefer Kanye West or Jay-Z--the top two hip-hop artists in the world, who recently joined forces for a national mega-tour called Watch the Throne--Barack Obama is clearly a Jay-Z guy. Jay-Z is about control ...

"Although I like Kanye," Obama continues, with an easy smile. "He's a Chicago guy. Smart. He's very talented." He is displaying his larger awareness of the question, looking relaxed, cerebral but friendly, alive to the moment, waiting for me to get to the heart of the matter.

"Even though you called him a jackass?," I ask.

"He is a jackass," Obama says, in his likable and perfectly balanced modern-professorial voice. "But he's talented." The president gives a wink, poses for a few more pictures, and then glides away to meet with the rich Manhattan lawyers in the other room, leaving behind a verdict that he intended to be funny, and also entirely deliberate: even before an audience of one, the leader of the free world is still not letting Kanye West off the hook."

follow on Twitter: @lynnsweet

First Lady Michelle Obama guested with Stephen Colbert on his "Colbert Report" on Wednesday, her first time with Colbert as first lady. During the 2008 campaign Mrs. Obama debuted on the Colbert show, and they talked about it during her segment--with a Colbert punchline.

The Obama campaign is killing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with kindness in a video released Thursday to mark the sixth anniversary of the passage of the Massachusetts health care law--a then signature achievement for Romney. As a presidential candidate, Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee, has made repeal of the Obama health care law--Republicans call it "Obamacare"-- a major issue. Recently--they waited too long to do it--the Obama team has tried to embrace the term Obamacare to try to turn the phrase from a negative into a positive reference about the president.

Vice President Joe Biden stumps for the Obama/Biden ticket Thursday in battleground New Hampshire, where he makes income tax equity--the Buffett Rule, in shorthand--a centerpiece of his speech, where he goes after presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

This is the fourth is a series of what the campaign calls issue "framing speeches" for Biden. After the town hall in Exeter, N.H., Biden heads to Scarsdale, New York for a fund-raiser. Meanwhile, in Washington, President Barack Obama at the White House--does a series of broadcast interviews with battleground state stations to talk up the Buffett Rule.

The Obama White House/Obama 2012 campaign in Chicago have ramped up the Buffett Rule issue this week not because there is a realistic chance the Senate will pass it anytime soon--but because they believe they have an issue--tax fairness--that attracts independents, appeals to the middle class and portrays Romney--without exactly saying it--as a super-rich rival not only out of touch--but who does not personally pay his fair share.

The campaign advised Biden's speech this way: "Today, Vice President Joe Biden will deliver remarks at the Exeter Town Hall in Exeter, New Hampshire on the President's efforts to promote tax fairness by ensuring millionaires and billionaires do not pay less in taxes than middle-class families. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, believes we should keep giving tax breaks to the wealthiest two percent of Americans instead of taking steps to help reduce our deficit and investing in things that will grow our economy and keep us secure: education, research and technology, a strong military and retirement programs like Medicare and Social Security."

To watch the event live at 12:15 PM EDT, please click here:


So now we are faced with a choice:

Do we pay down those deficits, cutting wherever we can, while we invest in the things we know we must to grow our economy and good, middle class jobs--education; research and development; clean energy technology?

Or do we continue to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on these tax windfalls for millionaires--windfalls they do not need and haven't asked for.


It's not the American way.

We're not supposed to have a system that's rigged. We're not supposed to have a system with one set of rules for the wealthy and one set of rules for everyone else.

Middle class Americans are willing to stand up and do their part. But they don't want to be played for a sucker.

When you pay your taxes next week, you ought to be able to know that everyone else is paying their fair share too.


Just look at what Governor Romney wants to do.

The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, the ones that were intended to expire, the ones that will expire this December--he wants to extend them.

That will cost about a trillion dollars over the next ten years. And $800 billion of that trillion will go to people who make a minimum of a million dollars a year.

And to add insult to injury, he proposes to give another $250,000 in tax cuts to the average millionaire.

That's another trillion dollars to the top 1 percent--on top of making permanent the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Look, these are tax cuts to people who didn't ask for them, who don't need them, and who know the nation can't afford them.

And it matters. There's a stark choice we have to make.

The Buffett Rule says that multi-millionaires should pay at least the same percentage of their income in taxes as middle-class families do.

The Romney Rule says the very wealthy should keep the tax cuts and loopholes they have, and get an additional, new tax cut every year that is worth more than what the average middle class family makes in an entire year.


Mitt Romney is the GOP presumptive presidential nominee; Rick Santorum who was running second dropped out to clear the way for Romney. Newt Gingrich persists, with a new theme showing up in a web video released Wednesday, "last conservative standing." Maybe this helps Newt fund-raising; his campaign is in debt.

WASHINGTON--The May G-8 meeting was switched from Chicago to Camp David--as planning ramped up for the relocated summit on Wednesday, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with her counterparts at the Blair House here. Most of these Foreign Ministers will also move on to Chicago for the NATO Summit on May 20-21, just after the G-8 session.

click below for transcript....

Mayor Rahm Emanuel hits Washington on Friday to deliver a keynote address at the Export-Import Bank 2012 Annual Conference

"Mayor Emanuel knows how important U.S. exports are to improving the nation's economic well-being," said Fred Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, nicknamed Ex-Im Bank.

"Chicago, and other major regional economic hubs, plays a critical role in contributing to the continued growth in U.S. exports that at the current pace will see us meeting President Obama's goal of doubling exports in the five years ending in late 2014," Hochberg said in a statement. The theme of the conference is "Made in the USA: Your Competitive Edge".

From the Ex-Im Bank: "Others speaking at the Conference include President Bill Clinton, founder of the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative; Samuel Allen, Chairman and CEO, Deere & Company; Scott Davis, Chairman and CEO, UPS; Ellen Kullman, Chairman of the Board and CEO, Dupont; Andrew Liveris, President, CEO and Chairman, Dow Chemical Company; David Rhodes, President, CBS News; David Rubenstein, Co-founder and Managing Director, The Carlyle Group; Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University; Richard J. Tobin, President and Chief Executive Officer, Case New Holland; and Robert Wolf, Chairman, UBS Americas.zzz'

While President Barack Obama and his team continue this week to press the Senate to vote for income tax equity for the very rich--a cause Obama's messengers have labeled the "Buffett Rule," Mitt Romney's campaign brings out its economic policy advisors--CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder, Romney Economic Policy Adviser Kevin Hassett, Ph.D., and Romney Campaign Policy Director Lanhee Chen--for a tele-press conference Wednesday morning on "Obama's failure on the economy."

The May NATO summit in Chicago is bringing delegations from some 40 countries--leaders from NATO countries and nations who are contributing troops to the Afghanistan conflict--a major topic of discussion at the summit. Presidents or Prime Ministers, Defense Secretaries and Secretaries of State or Foreign Ministers will be feted at a series of dinners on May 20.

Last month, the White House announced President Obama will host what is being billed as a "working dinner" with the NATO heads of state on May 20 at Soldier Field, not far from the McCormick Place complex which is the headquarters for the the summit.

First Lady Michelle Obama will also be throwing a spouse dinner that night--with one possible location the Symphony Center complex associated with the Chicago Symphony.

The Sun-Times has learned exclusive details about more NATO Chicago entertaining the NATO Chicago Host Committee is organizing:

*Also on May 20, a dinner will be held at the Field Museum for the national leaders whose troops are part of the NATO force in Afghanistan--but whose countries are not members of NATO. This group is known as ISAF--International Security Assistance Force.

*Also on May 20, a reception will be held at Navy Pier for diplomats who are not at the ISAF or heads of state dinner.

*On May 21, after the NATO Summit has wrapped up, the Chicago NATO Host Committee is sponsoring a press party--possibly at the Lucky Strike bowling alley downtown.

The NATO/ISAF countries

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Czech Republic
El Salvador
New Zealand
Republic of Korea
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United State

Celebs from Hollywood are expected at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington. Comic Jimmy Kimmel is hosting the black tie event. POLITICIO is keeping track of the stars invited by news organizations:

UPDATE THE HILL is also tracking the celeb guest list--and the pre and post dinner parties. END UPDATE


Rosario Dawson

José Andrés

Darren Star

Stacey Snider, co-chairman and CEO of Dreamworks Studio

Nancy Ann DeParle, White House deputy Chief of Staff for Policy

CBS via Politico

Christine Baranski, The Good Wife

Claire Danes, Showtime's Homeland

Shaun Donova, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Daniel Dae, Hawaii Five-O

Sen. Amy Jean Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

Susan Rice, Ambassador to the United Nations

Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger III

via Politico

Sandra Fluke
Dakota Fanning
Daniel Day Lewis
Rebecca Miller
True Blood's Anna Paquin and Steven Moyer
Glee's Darren Criss
Saturday Night Live's Nasim Pedrad
Attorney General Eric Holder
Sen. Rand Paul
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer

ABC NEWS via Politico

Modern Family's Sofia Vergara,
Jesse Tyler Ferguson,
Julie Bowen,
Eric Stonestreet
Cougar Town's Christa Miller and Bill Lawrence
Paul Rudd
Hunger Games's Elizabeth Banks
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie
David Axelrod
Tom Donilon
General Ray Odierno

TIME via Politico

George Clooney

Stacy Keibler

Steven Spielberg

Kate Capshaw
Sec. Leon Panetta


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Sen. Susan Collins
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer
Rep. Carolyn Maloney
Gov. Jerry Brown
Gen. David Petraeus
Sec. Janet Napolitano
Reese Witherspoon
Viola Davis
JR Martinez
Melanne Verveer
Bob Barnett

President Barack Obama, devoting more and more time to major donor fund-raising, heads to Los Angeles for a May 10 event at the home of George Clooney. Clooney and Obama became acquainted when Obama was an Illinois senator--on the issue of the genocide in Darfur. Entertainment Tonight had the scoop.

The funder benefits the Obama for American campaign, the Democratic National Committee and Democratic parties in key battleground states. The top price for the event is $40,000 per person; the first $5,000 goes to the Obama re-election campaign, the next $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee and the state parties.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina took presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney to task on Tuesday for Rick Santorum's decision to drop out of the presidential primary contest. Messina, not missing a chance to take a shot at Romney blamed Romney's negative ads--not Santorum's performance in a statement where he did not mention Santorum's name.

"It's no surprise that Mitt Romney finally was able to grind down his opponents under an avalanche of negative ads. But neither he nor his special interest allies will be able to buy the presidency with their negative attacks. The more the American people see of Mitt Romney, the less they like him and the less they trust him. While calling himself the 'ideal candidate' for the Tea Party, he has promised to return to the same policies that created the economic crisis and has alienated women, middle class families, and Hispanic Americans. Americans value a President who will fight every day to rebuild an economy in which hard work will pay, responsibility is rewarded and everyone plays by the same rules. And that President is Barack Obama," Messina said in a statement.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is in Chicago on Tuesday to talk to students at the Lindblom Math & Science Academy, 6130 S. Wolcott Ave., about the May NATO summit in Chicago. Albright is an honorary co-chair of the Chicago NATO host committee.

The Lindblom students are partnering with a school in Kabul--in Afghanistan, where NATO has troops--in order to learn more about the summit.

The Chicago NATO host committee--which does not make all its activities public--is also briefing at lunch today for the Chicago Central Area Committee while the private security firm, Hillard/Heintze hired for the summit is briefing the Near South Planning Board.

Also interesting, though not disclosed by the Chicago NATO host committee, is that Albright is also speaking to Chicago's large counselor corps and the Chicago NATO "welcome committee." The event is at the Union League Club.

Rick Santorum is folding his GOP presidential bid, multiple news outlets are reporting Tuesday, bowing to the reality that rival Mitt Romney has all but clinched the nomination.

Read the New York Times story HERE

Read the Washington Post story HERE

Santorum is making the announcement to suspend his campaign (suspending rather than closing allows a candidate to continue to raise money) after taking a few days off the campaign trail for Easter and for the hospitalization of his daughter, Bella. Santorum bows out before the April 24 Pennsylvania primary--which would have been a last-chance homestate stand for the former Pennsylvania senator.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been pushing for longer school days--and after a lot of negotiations with parents and the teachers union, a compromise deal is yielding a 7-hour school day for elementary students and a 7.5-hour day at high schools.

Read the Chicago Sun-Times story HERE.

Click below for details from City Hall.....

Obama Easter 2012.jpg
The Obama Family attending church on Easter Sunday, 2012 (AP photo)

First Lady Michelle Obama--First Lady of the United States, FLOTUS for short-- joked about how fast one of her daughters, Malia, is growing up while talking to pool reporters at the Monday White House Easter Egg Roll.

From the pool report: "On her way back to the East Wing at about 12:20pm, FLOTUS stopped to say hi to print poolers, who noted that her daughters did a great job of reading. FLOTUS remarked on how quickly they are growing up. Malia Obama, 13, is now five-foot nine, just two-inches shorter than her mother, who joked that she plans to guard those last two inches carefully."

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Washington Post graphic

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President Barack Obama is ahead of probable GOP nominee Mitt Romney, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News national poll. Obama is ahead on womens, middle class, health care and international issues--even deemed more likable and inspiring--but the contest is competitive when it comes to who is best handling the economy.

From the Washington Post: "This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone April 5 to 8, among a random sample of 1,103 adults. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York. Numbers may not add to 100 percent because of rounding or "no opinion" not shown.. The Washington Post. Published on April 10, 2012, 12:01 a.m."

Read the entire poll HERE.

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From the White House: "President Barack Obama, joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia, reads "Where the Wild Things Are" during the 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn, April 9, 2012. Bo, the Obama family dog, sits with them. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)"

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Obama playing basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters (Official White House photo)

bella .jpg
Recent picture of Bella Santorum released Monday by the Santorum campaign

Rick Santorum is backing stumping in Pennsylvania in advance of the April 24 primary in his native state. His hospitalized daughter, Bella returned home on Monday and Santorum dropped off the campaign trail a few days while she was in the hospital and for the Easter holiday.

Hogan Gidley, Santorum National Communications Director, said: "Rick and Karen are happy to announce that their daughter Bella has been discharged from the hospital and returned home earlier Monday evening. The Santorum's are truly overwhelmed by the prayers and support they've received - and wanted to attach a picture of their daughter Bella so everyone could see their precious gift from God."

The Mitt Romney campaign has pulled an ad attacking Rick Santorum's record--as his daughter, Bella, remains hospitalized. The negative Romney spot was running in Pennsylvania in advance of the April 24 Pennsylvania primary.

"We fired him as senator," the ad voiceover said of the former Pennsylvania senator. "Why promote him to president?"

Bella Santorum, 3, suffers from a condition known as Trisomy 18, a genetic disorder. The Santorum campaign announced Friday she was in the hospital. Santorum and his wife, Karen, are not holding any campaign events on Monday so they can be with their daughter.

Romney is the presumptive GOP nominee; Santorum remains in the primary contest. Romney's team--with Bella's illness--sees no reason to continue to go negative on Santorum in his native state at this time.

"This morning, our campaign has instructed all TV stations to pull our current ad on Sen. Santorum's record ASAP and until further notice," Romney spokesman Andrea Saul said in a statement.

"We have done this out of deference to Sen. Santorum's decision to suspend his campaign for personal family reasons. While this was the earliest we could let them know due to station closures over the holiday weekend, stations will comply with this request as soon as they are technically able."

Saul said "Romney has no public events today but will be the first guest on Gov. Mike Huckabee's radio show at 12:20pm EDT."

Click below for Saul state-of-the-campaign memo.

The Republican National Committee is targeting a very specific group--disenchanted Obama 2008 voters, who voted for Barack Obama after being energized with the "hope" and "change" themes of his campaign.

In a video out Monday and in a memo by RNC communications chief Sean Spicer, the Republicans are working what they see as an Obama soft spot, dishing up a hard hitting jab, "From Hope to Hyprocrisy."

President Barack Obama, for his part, has been addressing the "disappointments" in speeches--especially at campaign fund-raisers--where he talks about how long and hard it is to bring about change.

Spicer writes in his memo, "We will work relentlessly to expose Barack Obama's broken promises and hypocrisy. In the coming months you will see us drive this message on all fronts--advertising, web videos, social media, mobile technology, rapid response, blog posts, opinion pieces, grassroots outreach, and more. Voters will not be duped again.

"....Millions were inspired by Obama in 2008. But now that they see who he really is, they are dispirited and disappointed. The college sophomore, the independent soccer mom, the disenchanted voter--they didn't sign up for self-serving desperation.

"Obama misled America once. We won't let him do it twice."

Click below for entire Spicer memo.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton--a Chicago native--taped a message in advance of the April 23 Nobel Peace Laureates summit in Chicago. The State Department is sending teachers and students from developing, conflict-stricken nations to Chicago to observe the proceedings as well as arranging for, on the morning of the summit, visits to 17 Chicago public schools by the peace prize winners.

Below, with more details, the text of Clinton's message.....

I am delighted that this year's World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates will be hosted by Chicago, a city with a history as rich as the Nobel Prize itself, and a place that is dear to my heart, since that's where I started life.

Some of the world's greatest thinkers, leaders, and human rights activists will be meeting in Chicago to discuss the most pressing issues of the day. They come from all corners of the world, where they are making efforts every day to build peace, stand up for those who need an advocate, help more people realize their full potential. They are heroes for the underprivileged and underrepresented.

The Department of State is proud to be an active partner in this event. Working with our Embassies, we have identified 16 high school students and four teachers from Bangladesh, Burma, Liberia, and Yemen to travel to Chicago to participate in the summit. We are also using video conferencing to link students from Chicago to young people from several countries to discuss the themes of the summit, to find ways they can work for change and to discover their own common bonds.

But you can get involved as well. Teachers can visit the World Summit's website to find educational resources, and students can participate in our virtual exchanges by submitting questions and ideas to Twitter using the hashtag: #Nobel. And you can stream the events live on the Internet.

So I urge you to get involved in this unique opportunity to connect with some of the world's leading champions of human rights and freedom. And to think about how you can make a positive difference in your life and for the world. Thank you all very much.

The Obama 2012 White House seder.
ID's for those facing the camera in the picture: At the far head of the table Eric Whitaker, Alison Silber, Eric Lesser, Neil Cohen, Susan Sher, President Barack Obama, Arun Chaudhary, Laura Moser, Jarrod Bernstein, Herbie Ziskend, empty chair for Elijah, and Hildy Kuryk on the far right head of the table.
(White House photo)

To complete the Obama 2012 seder story, here are details from President Obama's fourth White House seder Friday night.

To recap: Obama's Passover Seder tradition started during the 2008 presidential campaign by a group of staffers who found themselves in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for the primary as the first seder loomed. That 2008 hastily organized seder was led by Eric Lesser, now a Harvard Law School student who served stints in the campaign and at the White House as David Axelrod's assistant and at the White House Council of Economic Advisors. The campaign staffers invited then Sen. Obama, used the Maxwell House haggadah because that's what they could get on short notice and created a tradition that has endured.

The menu: Kosher style, not kosher, with the White House doing most of the cooking. "The menu largely consists of family recipes provided by the staff. Among those family recipes: chicken soup with matzoh balls, braised beef brisket, noodle kugel, carrot soufflé, and matzoh chocolate cake. It will also include a charoset recipe that Jewish author and chef Joan Nathan brought to the White House last week.

Attendees included a core group from the 2008 campaign, growing some with the addition of spouses through the years. The following family, friends, and current and former staff as well as a few of their family members were invited:

· President Barack Obama

· First Lady Michelle Obama

· Malia Obama

· Sasha Obama

· Jarrod Bernstein, White House Jewish liasion and wife, Democratic National Committee Finance Director Hildy Kuryk.

· Arun Chaudhary, 2008 campaign staffer, now former WH videographer and wife, Laura Moser.

· Valerie Jarrett, 2008 campaign advisor, White House senior advisor.

· Lisa Kohnke, 2008 campaign staffer, Obama 2012 re-election campaign director of scheduling and advance. Former Director of Special Events for the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House.

· Eric Lesser, 2008 campaign staffer, former White House director of strategic planning, Office of Economic Advisors and wife, Alison Silber.

· Cookie Offerman, Deputy Associate Director, Office of the Social Secretary

· Avery Robinson, son of Michelle Obama brother Craig Robinson.

· Susah Sher, former chief for staff for First Lady Michelle Obama and her husband, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Neil Cohen.

· Samantha Tubman, 2008 campaign staffer, deputy White House social secretary

· Eric Whitaker, friend of the First Couple

· Melissa Winter, 2008 campaign staffer, Mrs. Obama deputy chief of staff

· Herbie Ziskend, 2008 campaign staffer, Office of the Vice President

My 2012 Obama seder preview is HERE.

My post on the Obama 2011 Passover Seder is HERE.

My post on the Obama 2010 Passover Seder is HERE.

My post on the Obama 2009 Seder is HERE.

Obama White House 2012 Passover recipes post is HERE.

The Obama family attended Easter Sunday services at St. John's Episcopal Church.

From the pool report:

"Happy Easter, everybody," the president said as he strolled past the pool. He was wearing a dark suit with a light-blue tie. The first lady was wearing a magenta-colored dress with a black shrug.

A long line of people waited outside the church. They were being admitted through a side door.

Background from the White House....

This morning, the First Family was honored to celebrate Easter Sunday with the congregation of St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. The pastor of St. John's is Rev. Luis Leon.

The President and First Family have enjoyed worshipping with a number of D.C.-area congregations. They have attended services at 19th Street Baptist Church, the Washington National Cathedral, Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, Shiloh Baptist Church, Zion Baptist Church, and multiple services at St. John's Episcopal Church and Evergreen Chapel at Camp David. They most recently attended St. John's on March 18th, 2012.


My March 18 post on the Obama family attending church is HERE

sun-times cubs opener bill murray.jpeg (Sun-Times Photo by Jon Kim)
Bill Murray throws out ceremonial pitch at Cubs opening day at Wrigley Field.

Passover is about the retelling of the story of the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. My post on President Barack Obama and the history of his White House seders--and the use of the Maxwell House Hagaddah--is HERE.

Click below for a transcript of Obama's 2012 Passover message.

WASHINGTON--Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) has a 3 p.m. CST press conference today in the Urbana City Council Chambers, his office told me this morning, as multiple Illinois news outlets outlets are reporting that he is folding his bid for re-election.

Johnson won re-nomination in the March 20 Illinois primary and was facing weak Democratic opposition in November.

Rich Miller's Capitol Fax Report on Johnson is HERE.

Bernie Shoenburg at the Springfield Journal Register report is HERE.

WASHINGTON -- Probable GOP nominee Mitt Romney's central argument for his candidacy, his experience as a private-sector CEO, was shredded Wednesday by Bill Daley, President Barack Obama's former White House chief of staff -- a business executive and former Commerce Secretary.

"Being president is not analogous to being CEO," Daley told me in an interview. "That's a fallacy that some people like to continue."

Especially with an independent-minded Congress, the CEO resume "just has no relevance whatsoever to the modern presidency and the way the government has been structured by the different branches over the last 40, 50 years."

Daley, in our interview, also for the first time reacted to assertions by Senate Democrats in the new book by journalist David Corn, Showdown, that he was free-lancing in his dealings with GOP House Speaker John Boehner during the 2011 fiscal battles. "I wasn't ceding anything that wasn't authorized by the entire White House," Daley said.

Romney's tenure at Bain and Company is part of his stump speech; he accuses Obama of being a failed president in part because he lacked private-sector experience before he got the job.

"For 25 years, I lived and breathed jobs, business, and the economy. I had successes and failures but each step of the way, I learned a little more about what it is that makes our American system so powerful," Romney said in Schaumburg on March 20 in a speech marking his decisive victory in the Illinois primary .

Aiming at Obama, Romney continued, "You can't learn that teaching Constitutional law. You can't learn that as a community organizer. The simple truth is that this President just doesn't understand the genius of America's economy -- or the secret of our success."

No matter what a presidential -- or for that matter a congressional -- candidate promises in a campaign, the reality is governing is not a solo act. The White House, Congress and Supreme Court are co-equals -- and not business partners at Bain.

To this point, Daley -- a co-chair of the Obama re-election campaign -- told me, "The CEO has control of your company . . . You don't have that with the president, the Congress and the Supreme Court."

"Congress doesn't view itself as a board of directors of the president. They are equal branches in the eyes of the Constitution. That's a little different from a board and senior management of a company," Daley said.

Corn's Showdown -- a behind-the-scenes inside account of the Obama White House after Republicans won the House in 2010 -- dramatically illustrates the governing challenges Obama faced last year over debt-ceiling and budget negotiations with Congress.

"At the same time, Senate Democrats were worried that a free-lancing Daley might hand Boehner more cuts than they fancied and undermine their negotiating posture," Corn wrote.

"They may have been worried that I was ceding territory, but I wasn't ceding anything that wasn't authorized by the entire White House," Daley told me. "That's not my style." It was "ill-founded worry by people who worry too much about the White House and free-lancing."

WASHINGTON--An international child malnutrition summit is piggybacking on the May NATO summit in Chicago, meeting at the Chicago History Museum at a time global leaders, press and other organizations are gathered in the city.

The event is one of many being organized by non-profits in the run-up to and during the NATO summit, to be headquartered in McCormick Place, with the heads of state of some 40 nations expected.

Planning is accelerating for NATO; last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the NATO Chicago Host committee threw a reception at the Museum of Science and Industry for the more than 500 NATO advance staffers who have been in Chicago working on arrangements for the massive event.

The May 21 session on malnutrition will be hosted by the "1,000 Days Summit," a public/private group created by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and others in 2010 to focus on the health of pregnant women and youngsters under two years old.

The 1,000 days is a reference to a critical time in child development: the nine months of pregnancy and the first two years of life.

"Whether it is the strength of our schools or the safety of our streets, every child deserves a good start and a fair shot at life," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement

""Addressing nutrition for pregnant women and children before age 2 is critical for building healthy populations, and prosperous societies," said Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Womenʼs Issues at the State Department. "Nutrition for women and children, especially during the 1,000 day window, supports long term economic growth, and has been a top priority of Secretary Clinton."

The Summit partners include Concern Worldwide, Feeding America, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, the World Food Programme, the City of Chicago and World Business Chicago.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, partnering with the host committee and local and international groups is running a speakers series in April and May on various NATO related topics.

On May 2, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright--an honorary co-chair of the host committee --with speak on What Prague's Past Means for NATO's Future
 at the Auditorium Theater.

CST Cubs opening day.jpg

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama next week marks the first anniversary of her "Joining Forces" program--helping military families--with a Wednesday spot on the Stephen Colbert show and stops in the swing states of Pennsylvania and Florida, as well as Louisiana.

In a conference call on Wednesday, Mrs. Obama said, "Today, 11 companies are coming together to pledge more than 15,000 jobs for military spouses -- 15,000 jobs. And the vast majority of these jobs are ones that the spouses can do at home from anywhere in the country."

One of the companies is QCSS Inc., based in the northwest Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove, whose top executives are Karin Hall and Catherine Karabetsos. QCSS Inc. is, according to the White House, "ensuring that a minimum of 10% of the forecasted 200 new hires from now through 2014 will be veterans and their families." The firm originally made the pledge in a January, 2012 announcement.

Mrs. Obama continued, "What we're trying to do with this announcement is that we're trying to meet these spouses where they are. And for those of you on the call who are managing families -- because we all deal with this issue, particularly as working parents -- you know what kind of difference it makes to be able to have job opportunities that you can do from home. This will make such a huge difference for our military spouses. Just think of it, when the next set of orders comes in for these families and they have to move across the country, this is -- they'll be able to move these jobs with them. When it's time to usher the kids off to soccer practice and you're home alone because a spouse is deployed, it will be helpful to have this kind of flexibility.

"Whatever comes up in life along the way, these types of jobs will help give them the kind of flexibility and portability they'll need to succeed not just in their careers, but in the rest of their lives as well."

Click below for more details from the White House and information on the 11 companies....

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's wins in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia on Tuesday thrusts his campaign into the general election mode, having to catch up to the Obama re-election operation while keeping an eye on Rick Santorum.

The Obama White House and the re-election team have been gradually dropping any pretense about the obvious escalation of campaigning, stepping up attacks on Romney while framing November messages. That was evident in President Barack Obama's Tuesday address before a group of news executives and three recent speeches by Vice President Joe Biden about the auto industry recovery, Medicare and manufacturing.

The Obama campaign on Monday started running an anti-Romney spot in six battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, hitting Romney for having "stood with Big Oil -- for their tax breaks, attacking higher mileage standards and renewables."

The March 20 Illinois primary proved to be the pivot point where Romney's decisive win tamped down talk of a brokered or contested convention, finished off Newt Gingrich and made it much tougher for Santorum to argue he's got any chance to clinch the nomination.

Romney's Tuesday trifecta victories mean Romney's Boston-based campaign will transition from just running in primaries to putting together a national organization.

The Romney campaign, I'm told, will be opening more field offices, hiring more people and, most important, start raising money for November. Almost all of the money Romney has collected has been just for the primary -- an enormous expense the Chicago-headquartered Obama team did not have.

I'm also told that after Tuesday, wealthy Romney backers will be asked to start making big donations to SuperPACs backing Romney -- where there are no limits to giving -- as the campaign itself directly starts to partner with the Republican National Committee to land the kind of mega-donations Obama's team has been collecting for months in a partnership with the Democratic National Committee.

After Romney's Tuesday wins, watch for Republicans to continue to coalesce around Romney while Santorum is making what could be his last stand in his home state Pennsylvania, with an April 24 primary.

Santorum plans to spend most of the weeks before that primary in Pennsylvania -- he has no other choice -- freeing Romney to concede a home state advantage and focus on Delaware, New York and Rhode Island, states that also have April 24 votes. Santorum has said he will stay in the race until Romney gets the 1,144 delegates needed for the nomination, which still could be months away.

The methodical Romney camp will not ignore Santorum, and Santorum said in his Tuesday concession speech from Pennsylvania that he is braced for more negative hits.

While Santorum runs a lean operation, especially compared to Romney, the reality is Romney is building a national campaign; Obama's troops have been camped in battleground states for months while Santorum's election world has shrunk to Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, the Romney team -- in some very discrete precincts -- has started pondering vice presidential picks, with the names most often mentioned, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Dakota Sen. John Thune and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Maxwell House haggadah 2012.jpeg
(photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON---President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle, with daughters Malia and Sasha host their fourth Passover seder at the White House on Friday and I confirmed Tuesday morning that the Maxwell House Haggadah will again be used.

Obama's Passover Seder tradition started during the 2008 presidential campaign by a group of staffers who found themselves in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for the primary as the first seder loomed. That 2008 hastily organized seder was led by Eric Lesser, now a Harvard Law School student who served stints in the campaign and at the White House as David Axelrod's assistant and at the White House Council of Economic Advisors. The campaign staffers invited then Sen. Obama, used the Maxwell House haggadah because that's what they could get on short notice and created a tradition that has endured.

The first night of Passover is Friday and seders everywhere will use a Haggadah--a book outlining the order of the elements of the seder. Haggadah's can be long or short, classic or customized, traditional or modern, relate to current events or not, have a lot or a little Hebrew.

The Maxwell House Haggadah--published in various editions since 1932 by Maxwell House Coffee--covers all the basics, is very short and is easy to obtain--free at supermarkets. (Maxwell House is now part of Kraft Foods, Inc. headquartered in the Chicago suburb of Northfield.) I broke the news in 2009 that the Obama seder used the Maxwell House Haggadah and there has been some interest in what Haggadah the Obama seder uses ever since.

Obama was asked a few weeks ago by Jeffrey Goldberg--at the end of an interview about the Mideast--about a Haggadah for the 2012 seder. Goldberg wrote: "Two weeks ago, after I finished interviewing President Obama on the subject of Iran and Israel, I handed him a copy of the New American Haggadah, the Passover user's guide edited by Jonathan Safran Foer, which includes commentary by Goldblog.

"...When I handed him the Haggadah, President Obama, who famously stages his own seders at the White House, (which is a very nice philo-Semitic thing to do, IMHO) spent a moment leafing through it and making approving noises. Then he said (as I told the Times): "Does this mean we can't use the Maxwell House Haggadah anymore?"

No, it does not and the Maxwell House Haggadah has a White House home Friday. Perhaps guests will bring others. The White House sent out invitations for the seder on March 5 and the seder was announced by the White House last Friday. The small number of guests remain basically the same: the staffers and advisors who were at the 2008 seder in Pennsylvania. This year, I am told, there will be a few additions, including Jarrod Bernstein, the White House liaison to the Jewish community, and his wife Hildy Kuryk finance director at the Democratic National Committee.

On Wednesday, a different Haggadah--The "Food & Justice Hagaddah" will be used at a seder sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with participants including Max Finberg, Director, USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture and Alan van Capelle, CEO, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, the "Food & Justice" Haggadah publisher.

Leading the USDA Seder will be Rabbi Sydney Mintz and Rabbi Jack Moline (Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended Moline's synagogue when he lived in Washington as Obama Chief of Staff.)

Usually the Obama Passover seder features a traditional menu of brisket, kugel and matzoh balls.

My post on the Obama 2011 Passover Seder is HERE.

My post on the Obama 2010 Passover Seder is HERE.

My post on the Obama 2009 Seder is HERE.

Obama White House 2012 Passover recipes post is HERE.

2009 Obama Seder.jpg
The Obama White House 2009 seder (White House photo)
בָּרוךְּ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַמוֹּצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ the blessing before the meal

WASHINGTON--Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia vote today and polls show Mitt Romney is poised for a Tuesday trifecta win. Still, Rick Santorum could pick up delegates in some congressional districts in the states. For the latest on polling, check out Real Clear Politics HERE.

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama slams the GOP proposed budget as a "thinly-veiled Social Darwinism," --hear that, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.)-- later Tuesday in a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Calling the fiscal plan a "Trojan Horse," Obama will say, "by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that's built to last - education and training; research and development - it's a prescription for decline."

The White House released excerpts from the speech:

"Whoever he may be, the next president will inherit an economy that is recovering, but not yet recovered, from the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. Too many Americans will still be looking for a job that pays enough to cover their bills or their mortgage. Too many of our citizens will still lack the sort of financial security that started slipping away years before the recession hit. And a debt that has grown over the last decade, primarily as a result of two wars, two massive tax cuts, and an unprecedented financial crisis, will have to be paid down."
"In this country, broad-based prosperity has never trickled-down from the success of a wealthy few. It has always come from the success of a strong and growing middle class. That's how a generation who went to college on the GI Bill, including my grandfather, helped build the most prosperous economy the world has ever known. That's why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so they could buy the cars that they made. That's why studies have shown that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run."
"This Congressional Republican budget, however, is something different altogether. It's a Trojan Horse. Disguised as deficit reduction plan, it's really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It's nothing but thinly-veiled Social Darwinism. It's antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who's willing to work for it - a place where prosperity doesn't trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class. And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that's built to last - education and training; research and development - it's a prescription for decline."


WASHINGTON-House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told Charlie Rose on his PBS Show that she would like to see Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton run for president again.

Below, the exchange....

Charlie Rose:

Whoever's president, would you like to see the secretary of State, who is leaving office, run for president again?

Nancy Pelosi:


Charlie Rose:

I thought so.

Nancy Pelosi:

Yes. That would be so exciting. And isn't she a magnificent secretary of State?

Charlie Rose:

And do you believe she will?

Nancy Pelosi:

I have no knowledge of that, but --

Charlie Rose:

But she would be the instant frontrunner in the Democratic Party?

Nancy Pelosi:

You know what? You're talking about 100 years from now. We can't even predict who is going to win the election.

WASHINGTON--The Obama White House and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are highlighting Google--the expanding will provide on-line tours of the White House and the Art Institute of Chicago.

From the White House..."The Google Art Project, which launched in February 2011, uses Google technology to allow users to view museum objects in high resolution and explore institutions through Google Street View. The new White House tour is part of a global expansion of the Google Art Project - today Google announced the project has new partnerships with 29 partners in 16 cities across the country."

From the City of Chicago: Mayor Emanuel will deliver remarks at an event hosted by Google on Tuesday, 11:00 AM CST at the Art Institute of Chicago, Stock Exchange Room.

WASHINGTON--The Obama re-election drive kicked into higher gear on Monday, with an ad hitting Mitt Romney directly running in five battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia.

The 30-second spot re-inforces a message President Barack Obama has been making in speeches: that under his tenure, domestic oil production is at an 8-year high and "Big Oil" is bankrolling Republicans because he wants to end their tax breaks and bolster renewable energy programs.

The announcer says in the spot, "In all these fights, Mitt Romney's stood with Big Oil-- for their tax breaks, attacking higher mileage standards and renewables."


"It's no surprise President Obama is spending his soon-to-be $1 billion war chest to attack Mitt Romney and deflect blame for his failure to control gas prices. His own Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, said in 2008 that we have to find a way to get the price of gas up to the level in Europe. It looks like he's succeeding, and, unfortunately, the American people are worse off for it." - Andrea Saul, Romney spokesperson

"Good evening, more evidence Obama is on defense on gas prices - the president's reelection campaign is up with a new ad in five general election battleground states. This is the campaign's second ad and second one on energy... Note, if the president is worried about Iowa, a state he won by nearly 10 points in 2008, or Nevada which he won by nearly 13 points, things aren't looking good in Chicago. See the following comment from the RNC:

"Obama is panicked because his none of the above energy strategy has failed to do anything about soaring gas prices that are hurting families across the country. From standing in the way of common sense energy initiatives like the Keystone Pipeline to wasting taxpayer dollars with the Solyndra scandal, Obama has failed to address America's energy problems. Instead of implementing solutions, the president is once again trying to mislead voters with a negative attack ad in an attempt to get re-elected. So much for the hope and change the president promised."

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama gets jabbed routinely by Republicans who charge--incorrectly--that Obama is not promoting "American exceptionalism." Obama was asked about that during a press conference Monday with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper and he brushed the assertions aside as GOP primary campaigning.

"It's still primary season for the Republican Party. They're going to make a decision about who their candidate will be.

"It's worth noting that I first arrived on the national stage with a speech at the Democratic Convention that was entirely about American exceptionalism, and that my entire career has been a testimony to American exceptionalism. But I will cut folks some slack for now because they're still trying to get their nomination."

click below for entire transcript.....

rahm youth violence forum.jpg
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--"Every morning I wake up to a report by Felicia," Mayor Rahm Emanuel told a national forum on youth violence on Monday--a somber recap from first deputy chief of staff Felicia Davis of overnight shootings and homicides in Chicago.

Even as crime in some areas of Chicago remains pervasive, Emanuel attended the forum to report on progress in general during his tenure and at Fenger High School, 11220 S. Wallace, in particular.

The Department of Justice convened the "National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention," a conference stemming from the 2009 murder of 16-year-old Derrion Albert, a Fenger senior. He was beaten to death by at least four teens a few blocks from the school.

In October, 2009--when Emanuel was President Barack Obama's White House chief of staff--Obama dispatched Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan--the former Chicago public schools chief--to Chicago to meet with local officials and students.

"The very school that was the original impetus behind this conference, has shown great progress," Emanuel told the group, meeting in a hotel here. Emanuel took no questions--no presenter did-- and departed shortly after he delivered his remarks, remaining as Davis did a powerpoint presentation on how city government relates to various private and public crime-fighting partners.

Fenger violence--even false fire alarms--decreased, as did suspensions and drop out rates, Emanuel said.

Programs that worked at Fenger--including much closer cooperation with police-- have been expanded to 14 high schools in Chicago, the mayor said.

Emanuel also touched on taking 1,000 Chicago police out of offices and into the streets, implementing a new curfew policy, and adding money for youth summer programs--jobs and park district camps.

Government programs should be the last, not the first firewall when it comes to youth violence, Emanuel said--in a more perfect world.

"Give me a good parent, a good pastor, a good principal and good peers" and you "don't need everything government is talking about." Government is needed to "supplement" when family and civic resources are not in the picture, Emanuel said.

Much of Chicago's gang violence occurs in Englewood and Garfield Park, Emanuel told the group.

The conference Emanuel attended, the National Forum on Youth Violence and Prevention, was organized by the Department of Justice and included the Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and Education.

Besides Chicago, representatives from Boston, Detroit, Memphis, Salina, Calif., and San Jose, Calif., were also at and spoke at the conference on their "best practices."

Other participants from Chicago, according to the program, included Deborah Gorham-Smith, director of the Chicago Center for Youth Violence; Prof. David Henry, UIC; Jadine Chou, Chief Safety and Security Officer, Chicago Public Schools and Andrew Fernandez, the city's Director of Youth Services.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus--from Wisconsin--pens a memo saying President Barack Obama doesn't have much of a chance in Wisconsin come November. The June 5 recall of GOP Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be a dress rehearsal for November, Priebus writes.

Excerpt from Priebus memo, re Walker recall.. "So far in 2012 our volunteers have made over a million calls to Wisconsin voters. They're collecting voter ID information and helping voters see this special interest interference for what it is. We're opening new victory centers across the state each month; we're making more investments into our data; and we've set the wheels in motion on a sophisticated and aggressive turnout program that will leave no stone unturned.

"By June, when Governor Walker is victorious again, we'll have a confident and battle-tested ground organization with four straight victories under our belts. That organization will be ready to pounce on the president and other Democrats on the ballot with him in November."

Click below for entire memo...

WASHINGTON--Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner hits Chicago on Wednesday for an Economic Club of Chicago speech followed by a question and answer session with John A. Canning, Jr., chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners and a member of a variety of boards of directors. The morning event is at the Hilton Chicago on South Michigan Avenue.


The Treasury Department announced Monday afternoon that Geithner will also tour Ford's Chicago stamping plant in south suburban Chicago Heights.

WASHINGTON--Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius on Monday delivers remarks at a National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention Summit here--where Mayor Rahm Emanuel is also on the program.

On Wednesday, Sebelius hits Chicago to deliver a speech at the Fraud Prevention Summit at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile

Michelle Obama delivered a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award to Taylor Swift on Saturday night in Los Angeles. Daughters Malia, 13 and Sasha, 10 were with her--and they got a bit "slimed" during the show.

Justin Bieber, Halle Berry get slimed at Kids Choice ceremony: Read about it HERE.

Click below for Mrs. Obama transcript....

OFFICE of mayor logo.jpeg

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's press office is marking April Fool's Day with a funny release, a fake announcement that Emanuel filed a Freedom of Information Act for documents to "learn more about himself."

The release, written by Emanuel's City Hall press office, cleverly mocks Emanuel on several fronts: his incessant brags on job creation, his constant use of the F word and the resistance of City Hall to grant some FOIA requests from reporters.

The Emanuel press office even mocks its penchant for repackaging old announcements and calling it news, saying at the end of the faux release that the announcement of the plan for Emanuel to FOIA himself was first made two weeks ago.

"Thought we'd have a little fun on April Fool's Day," Emanuel communications chief Sarah Hamilton told me Sunday morning.

With heavy doses of self-deprecation--the best form of political humor--the release stated, "Emanuel's administration said this is the first time a Mayor has ever FOIA'd himself, and this is the largest self-FOIA in city history. Given the scope of the documents, the FOIA response will create up to 500 jobs.

"According to Emanuel, "It's a new me. The only four-letter F-word I use now is 'FOIA.'"

Below, the Emanuel April Fool's Release....


Mayor is "Very Interested in Learning More"

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today that he has filed a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to learn more about himself, a topic that he considers to be extremely relevant and interesting to Chicagoans.

"I look forward to receiving a response from the City of Chicago within the five business days prescribed by law," Emanuel said. "I have cleared my schedule for next weekend and look forward to doing a deep dive into the documents. I plan to learn everything I can about myself, and I believe I will enjoy this greatly."

Emanuel's administration said this is the first time a Mayor has ever FOIA'd himself, and this is the largest self-FOIA in city history. Given the scope of the documents, the FOIA response will create up to 500 jobs.

According to Emanuel, "It's a new me. The only four-letter F-word I use now is 'FOIA.'"

"I've Google'd myself before," Emanuel said. "Who hasn't? Other than Rick Santorum. I Google'd myself while I was riding the Brown Line to work this morning. But I consider Googling myself a down-payment on what I'm going to do now."

Emanuel hopes to receive emails, phone records, pictures, text messages, holiday cards, lunch receipts, discarded chewing gum, autographed photos of Ald. Ameya Pawar, and other documents.

The Mayoral self-FOIA was met with widespread acclaim from the city's transparency leadership.

"The Better Government Association fully supports Mayor Emanuel in this objective, and we have committed to FOIA'ing the Mayor's FOIA immediately," said Andy Shaw, of the Better Government Association.

There was no indication from Emanuel's staff as to how the new findings would be used, if the FOIA is even approved. The Mayor's plan to FOIA himself was previously announced by the Mayor two weeks ago.


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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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