Morning Briefing: March 19, 2012

Occupy Wall Street protesters are planning to ramp up activities with the return of warm weather, now focusing on the 2012 elections. Yesterday, hundreds of protesters returned to Zuccotti Park in New York City for the six month anniversary of the beginning of the movement, leading to dozens of arrests when police broke up the demonstration.

“In the latest sign of the government’s gradual retreat from financial-crisis-related programs,” the Treasury Department is expected to announce today that taxpayers reaped a $25 billion profit on mortgage bonds purchased at the height of the meltdown. The bonds were part of the government’s assistance to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and “the profit is the Treasury’s biggest for any program” from the 2008-2009 interventions.

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the American soldier who allegedly killed 16 Afghan civilians, is set to be charged for the recent massacre, and prosecutors may seek the death penalty. He is currently being held in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants the names of people who purchase political ads and the cost of those ads to be published online, but some broadcasters are fighting the move, saying it would be a burden for them. The information is currently maintained by local stations, but not easily accessible to the public.

The Wisconsin Judicial Commission formally filed ethics violation allegations against embattled Republican state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, who reportedly put his hands on the neck of a colleague.

President Obama raised $45 million in February for his re-election effort and for the Democratic National Committee, up from $29.1 million in January.

Mitt Romney won the Puerto Rican primary on Sunday, helping to solidify his lead in the delegate count over Rick Santorum. Romney is expected to claim all 20 of the territory’s delegates. The Romney campaign is hoping the victory will provide momentum heading into Tuesday’s Illinois primary, where 69 delegates are at stake.

Gas prices have become a key talking point on the campaign trail, with all of the Republican presidential candidates hitting President Obama for rising costs. But studies show that while voters are concerned about the cost of fuel, the issue plays very little role in determining who voters will ultimately support.

And finally: Grand Forks Herald restaurant critic Marilyn Hagerty’s glowing review of The Olive Garden may earn her a dinner with Michelle Obama if Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) has his way. “Conrad took it upon himself to broker a lunch” between the first lady and the elderly food critic, whose review of the chain restaurant went viral and landed her spots on talk shows.