Morning Briefing: March 2, 2012

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed a marriage equality bill into law yesterday, making it the eighth state to do so. O’Malley said the law represented a “greater respect for the equal rights of all” Marylanders, though the law won’t go into effect until January and will likely be challenged via referendum in November.

One of Boston’s leading Jewish charities assailed yesterday a full-page ad in The New York Times” that smeared the Center for American Progress and Media Matters as “anti-Israel extremis[ts].” The ad was paid for by the Emergency Committee for Israel, a neoconservative attack group. “It’s a shame because the ad really badly distorts the reality,’’ the president of the combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston said.

Mitt Romney has pilloried Rick Santorum for seeking congressional earmarks, but a new video from 2002 unearthed by ABC News shows the former Massachusetts governor laying out an aggressive strategy to get federal funds for his state. “I want to go after every grant, every project, every department in Washington,” Romney says in a presentation.

The mega-donors funding the 2012 candidates are already reaping the benefits, as campaigns push the pet causes of big Super PACs funders. Whether it’s combating Sharia law, taking strong stances on Israel, or embracing a unique brand of libertarianism, the donors seem to be getting their messages heard.

Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) won’t run for the Senate seat vacated by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), he said yesterday. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), his more progressive colleague, is likely to run in the key race.

Skills like engineering and health care are in high demand, but they’re also some of the most expensive subjects for colleges to teach, leading some public colleges to eliminate entire programs because of budget constraints, just as more students seek the training, the New York Times reports.

President Obama again pushed Congress to end federal subsidies to the oil industry yesterday, escalating a fight between the two parties over rising gas prices. “Every time you fill up your gas tank, they’re making money,” Obama said in a speech in New Hampshire.

The Federal Reserve ignored warnings from the FDIC and allowed Wall Street banks to pay billions to shareholders in 2010, despite questions about their overall health in the wake of the financial crisis. The 19 largest banks paid $33 billion in dividends and stock buybacks, money they won’t have to bolster themselves and the economy should Europe sink into recession or other crises emerge.

With the defeat of the Blunt Amendment, Republicans in Congress have yet to coalesce around a single strategy on how to move forward on birth control, though the next step is the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said he will move a bill to fight the Obama administration’s new rule.

In the latest indication that the US economy is heading in the right direction, the housing market is showing early signs of a sustainable rebound, Bloomberg reports.

And finally: R&B crooner John Legend told President Obama last night, “don’t steal my job” at a New York fundraiser they both attended after Obama said, “I will not sing tonight,” noting Legend’s presence. Obama made a splash after singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at the Apollo Theater last month.