Morning Briefing: August 31, 2011

Tea Party organizing group FreedomWorks is planning to protest a Mitt Romney (R) appearance in New Hampshire this week that is aimed at appealing to the Tea Party. FreedomWorks had been working alongside other Tea Party groups to organize events along a bus tour but dropped out when the Romney event was planned. Said a lead organizer: “We have to defend our brand against poseurs.”

“Hurricane Irene will most likely prove to be one of the 10 costliest catastrophes in the nation’s history,” say analysts. The cost of the storm is expected to be “$7 billion to $10 billion.”

FEMA Director Craig Fugate brushed off House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) call for offsetting any additional funding for disaster relief with spending cuts elsewhere, saying his agency has enough money to deal with Hurricane Irene for the moment.

A USA Today review of legislative and campaign records finds that several House freshman “are pushing legislation that could benefit some of their most generous campaign contributors.” Though freshmen like Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) respectively introduced bills benefiting financial industries, his spokesman insists these donors “don’t give because he is doing what they ask.”

The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to report that as much as “$60 billion has been wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The commission will release its report today to Congress.

The Communications Workers of America has launched a campaign targeting 25 House Republicans for the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration over union rights disagreements. In a mailer, CWA blames Republicans for sneaking anti-union provisions into the bill before taking off on vacation and shutting down the FAA.

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s longtime aide and chief of staff, fights back against the portrayal of his old boss in former Vice President Dick Cheney’s book that comes out today. In an interview with ABC News, Wilkerson said Cheney “fears being tried as a war criminal” and calls him a “very vindictive person.”

Speaking at the American Legion’s annual convention yesterday, President Obama vowed to protect federal veterans’ programs from cuts by Congress. Noting that “far too many of our veterans are unemployed,” he said he directed the federal government to hire 100,000 more veterans and called for his Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credits to be “at the top of the agenda” for Congress when it returns next week.

And finally: It looks like love and Hurricane Irene has given “30 Rock” actor Alec Balwdin second thoughts about running for mayor of New York City, as he told David Letterman last night, “Would I rather be handcuffed to the emergency command center in Maspeth during a hurricane holding down the fort…or would I rather spend some of that ’30 Rock’ money traveling the world with my girlfriend?”

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