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Senator-Elect Mike Lee Attends Lobbyist-Run Retreat With Other Tea Party GOP Freshmen

“FreedomWorks is a pay-to-play corporate front group that has historically served as a service for corporate lobbyists to generate “grassroots” support for narrow special interest legislation. Dick Armey, after taking over the group, routinely used FreedomWorks to serve his corporate clients at his lobbying firm, DLA Piper. As the Washington Post noted, after ThinkProgress highlighted Armey’s use of FreedomWorks “organizing” to his own benefit, he resigned from DLA Piper. However, other corporate lobbyists, like Gray & Schmitz chief lobbyist C. Boyden Gray and Venable lobbyist James Burnley continue to oversee FreedomWorks (and continue to lobby for right-wing corporate interests). In the last two years, FreedomWorks has become known for its key role in organizing Tea Party opposition to President Obama and to reforms designed to help reign in corporate abuses.

On Thursday and Friday, FreedomWorks hosted a retreat for freshmen Republican lawmakers. Sen.-elect Mike Lee (R-UT), according to the New York Times, recalled almost breaking out in tears over the vast resources FreedomWorks dedicated to helping him get elected. However, the retreat occurred amidst new reports claiming that Republican insiders and GOP operatives are using events during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress to co-opt new “Tea Party” lawmakers.”

UN Torture Rapporteur: ‘Couldn’t Be More Clear’ That Waterboarding Is Torture, ‘Immoral and Illegal’

“In a interview with the Dallas Morning News published yesterday, former President Bush touted his authorization of waterboarding as a key accomplishment to “leav[ing] behind a firmer foundation for my successors.” “[W]e passed laws that Congress endorsed and embraced, like the Terrorist Surveillance Program, military tribunals and enhanced interrogation techniques. The enhanced interrogation techniques are available to presidents if they so choose to use them.” Bush’s comments come on the heels of the revelation, published in his memoir released this week, that he personally authorized the waterboarding of 9/11 suspects.

Bush has adamantly defended his use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” over the years, saying the practices saved lives, were completely legal, and were not torture — but many rightly disagree. On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union “joined a growing chorus in the human rights community calling for a special prosecutor to investigate” Bush’s use of waterboading to determine whether his administration “violated federal statutes prohibiting torture.” “[T]he former President’s acknowledgment that he authorized torture is absolutely without parallel in American history,” the ACLU wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

And yesterday, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez — who was himself tortured by the Argentinean junta in the 1970s — firmly stated that waterboarding is torture — “immoral and illegal.” In a radio interview with Mark Colvin of ABC News in Australia, Mendez said the legal memos authorizing waterboaring that Bush “hides behind” were “completely flawed,” and that there isn’t “any question” under international law that what Bush authorized was torture.”

Likely Armed Services Chairman And Defense Contractor-Funded McKeon Blasts Deficit Commission’s Defense Cuts

“On Wednesday, the co-chairs of President Obama’s debt reduction commission released their report outlining their recommendations to reduce the budget deficit. While many of the recommendations were met with criticism from leading progressives — like raising the Social Security retirement age — the commission also had some positive proposals, like recommending nearly $100 billion in cuts to the defense budget.

Yesterday, Rep. Howard McKeon (R-CA), the likely incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, responded to the proposed defense cuts in an interview with Bloomberg News. McKeon told Bloomberg that he is opposed to “cutting defense in the midst of two wars” and that he thinks the Department of Defense is not “in a position to absorb cuts“.”
(Editor’s Note: The linked article contains some eye-popping charts and facts on the influence of lobbying money from defense contractors)

Murkowski all but certain to win with Alaska write-in votes

“The Division of Elections has finished reviewing the write-in ballots for nearly three-quarters of the precincts, and the results show Lisa Murkowski on track to be the first write-in candidate elected to the U.S. Senate since 1954.”

NOT SATIRE: Banks expect more sympathy from GOP-controlled House

“Big banks opposed much of the Democratic agenda these past two years in Congress, and they could find a lot to like in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Already, the GOP has a lengthy, bank-friendly to-do list.”

Asia Leaders to Work for Freer Trade

“The leaders endorsed a blueprint for future growth that calls for pushing ahead with free trade agreements and rolling back protectionist measures.”

Indonesia Resists the Anti-Smoking Tide Elsewhere

“Indonesia is the fifth largest cigarette market in the world and a case study in the financial power of tobacco companies.”

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