Morning Briefing: February 23, 2012

No stranger to ethics controversies, Newt Gingrich’s campaign was warned for a second time about “widespread financial irregularities.” The Federal Election Commission says the campaign must explain why almost $1 million has been paid to Gingrich, his staff, and his fundraising consultants for questionable reimbursements.

With few rules governing their spending, Super PAC leaders are finding ways to profit from the organizations. A Los Angeles Times investigation found that, for instance, the Rick Santorum-allied Red White and Blue Fund super PAC “paid more than half a million dollars last month to a newly formed direct mail firm” owned by the PAC’s founder.

Another poll finds that a majority of Americans approve of President Obama’s contraception accommodation, suggesting that Republicans’ focus on the issue may backfire. The Quinnipiac survey found 54 percent approved, and only 38 percent disapproved. Meanwhile, 55 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood.

The Detroit News criticized Mitt Romney for selectively editing the paper’s endorsement of him in a press release. The Romney campaign edited out the paper’s criticism of his stance on the auto rescue before circulating its release. “They should have run the complete, original version,” an editor said. “It’s a bit inappropriate to edit out the mild criticism.”

The White House has proposed an online “bill of rights” that would give Internet users more online privacy protection and could give the government more authority to enforce the rules in large companies like Google and Facebook. President Obama said, “American consumers can’t wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online.”

An Indiana union has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) over the state’s new right to work law that Daniels signed last month. The suit alleges that the law contains several provisions that violate both the state and federal constitution.

Warren Buffett has voiced his support for the eponymous Buffett Rule, which has been introduced in Congress by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). “I have no problem endorsing any large step in the direction of greater fairness in the tax code,” Buffett wrote in a letter to senators.

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that BP and one of its partners are liable for civil penalties under the Clean Water Act for their roles in the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The judge said the oil rig’s owner Transocean also may be liable as an “operator” of the well. The move could make them subject to millions in lawsuits.

And finally: Finally appearing on The Colbert Report last night, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) struck a deal with Colbert, securing his endorsement for the DISCLOSE Act, which would increase campaign finance transparency. Pelosi had released a spoof ad earlier this month attacking Colbert’s super PAC.

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