(CNN) – Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning is maintaining his reputation for holding the most entertaining conference calls in Congress, telling reporters listening in to his latest teleconference Tuesday that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a "control freak."
"McConnell is leading the ship, but he is leading it in the wrong direction," Bunning said of his fellow Kentucky senator, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. "If Mitch McConnell doesn't endorse me, it could be the best thing that ever happened to me in Kentucky."
The embattled Bunning has openly butted heads with his party's leadership since declaring earlier this year his intention to seek a third Senate term. Both McConnell and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have been tepid on a reelection bid for Bunning, who narrowly escaped defeat in 2004 and is likely to face the same Democratic opponent next year.
In previous conference calls, Bunning has pledged to sue the NRSC if they support another Republican candidate, and that he doesn't "believe anything [NRSC Chairman] John Cornyn says."
Bunning, 77, has also hit back at reported statements from McConnell that the former baseball star is too old to seek another Senate term.
"Do you know Arlen Specter will be 80, has had four bouts with cancer and he still wants to run for the U.S. Senate?" Bunning told reporters on the call earlier this month. "And I'm being criticized at 77 and healthy for wanting to run for the U.S. Senate by certain leadership people in my party. Give me a break."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has signed on to the latest high-profile effort to re-brand the Republican Party - but don't expect to see him take a major leadership role for the National Council for a New America, or make a starring appearance at any of the events on the group's national tour.
Organizers of the effort, spearheaded by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, originally told reporters that Gingrich had not been included in the newly-launched group because his 527, American Solutions, was a partisan entity. (The organization describes itself as a "tri-partisan" network.)
Gingrich supporters dismissed that explanation, pointing out that Mitt Romney - a member of the NCNA's panel of experts - headed the explicitly partisan Free and Strong America PAC, which donates to GOP candidates.
(updated after the jump with Cantor camp response)
WHITE HOUSE (CNN) - A few of the world's streets are unquestionably sterling venues for celebrity watching: Rodeo Drive. Broadway.
And - at least since January - Pennsylvania Avenue.
On Tuesday, Pierce Brosnan, was the latest star seen walking through the West Wing doors. An inquiry to the White House Press office as to why the actor was visiting was not immediately answered. The former James Bond star's visit to the White House follows stops by several other famous guests, including Brad Pitt, George Clooney, singer Usher, and Tiger Woods.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The Senate on Tuesday voted 90-5 to approve a bill that will make it tougher for credit card issuers to raise fees and interest rates starting early next year.
The bill includes an unrelated measure that would allow people to carry concealed weapons into national parks.
The bill will now go to the House, which is expected to take it up on Wednesday and pass it before the weekend. The bill would get to President Obama's desk before Memorial Day, as he called for.
"This is a good moment for our country and a good moment for consumers," said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – It isn't often that Democrats and Republicans see eye to eye. But on the thorny question of whether photos of U.S. military personnel allegedly abusing Iraqi prisoners should be released, a new national poll suggests Democrats and Republicans appear to agree.
Nearly three out of four Americans questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday do not believe the U.S. government should release the photos.
The poll suggests that 87 percent of Republicans are against the public release of the photos, as are 62 percent of Democrats. Three out of four independent voters would also prefer for the photos to stay under wraps.
"Obama has been getting some pressure from the liberal wing of his party to release the photos, but six in ten liberals in the poll say that the photos should not be made publicly available," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
NEW YORK (CNN) – A former Democratic fund-raiser who contributed to the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has been convicted in federal court on four counts of campaign fraud - one for each year from 2004 to 2007.
Norman Hsu, 57, was indicted in 2007 after an investigation into his two investment companies. He was accused of running a massive fraud scheme.
Earlier this month, Hsu was found guilty on 10 counts of mail and wire fraud surrounding his investment practices. In convicting Hsu of campaign fraud, the same court court found that he was involved in illegal "conduit" campaign contributions from 2005 to 2007 that exceeded $25,000 - a finding that will be used to determine the length of Hsu's sentencing, which is scheduled for August 19.
Lev Dassin, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that Hsu not only swindled investors out of at least $20 million but, according to the indictment, also told some investors to make campaign contributions to the candidates he supported, and suggested that their investments could be jeopardized if they didn't do as he asked.
He "also asked victims to contribute to specific candidates for federal office, and then directly reimbursed the victims for their contributions from his fraud proceeds, in violation of federal campaign finance laws," the indictment said.
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) – Former President Bill Clinton has been named U.N. special envoy to Haiti, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
"I am confident that President Clinton will bring energy, dynamism and focus to the task of mobilizing international support for Haiti's economic recovery and reconstruction," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
The United Nations said that Clinton will help Haitian authorities "jump-start sustainable social and economic development."
"He will focus attention on the importance of new partnerships and efforts among the private sector, civil society, and donors, as well as strengthen local capacity, and create a more stable and prosperous future for the children of Haiti."
During his presidency, Clinton had been engaged in helping the impoverished Caribbean nation rebuild. Haiti, which the United Nations says is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has been badly hit by rising food and oil prices, devastating storms, and ongoing political instability.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - CNN has learned Senate Democrats will pull money to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison from a war funding bill instead of face an onslaught of criticism from Republicans, who argue it would be reckless to shutter the prison before the Obama administration has decided where to transfer the terrorism suspects who are detained there.
Democratic leaders made the decision this morning, according to two Senate Democratic leadership sources. It is a blow to President Obama who - in one of his first official acts as president - announced that he would close the base by next January 22.
The Senate war supplemental bill, which is scheduled to be voted on this week, included $80 million for the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice to begin the process of shutting down the prison.
Now, that money will be stripped out and replaced with language saying no funds can be used to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the United States, and no additional money will be approved, until 60 days after the president submits to Congress his plan to close the facility. That language is similar to a provision in the House bill.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The United States is sending $100 million in aid to Pakistan to help alleviate the plight of an estimated 2 million people displaced by recent fighting against Taliban extremists, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Tuesday.
The money comes on top of $60 million in assistance already provided by the United States to Pakistan since last August.
The assistance is "essential to the global security and security of the United States," Clinton said in a White House briefing. Much of the aid will be directed toward the purchase of Pakistani grain as part of a larger "investment in the people and economy in Pakistan."
The Pakistani government is helping to lead the fight against extremists threatening "our collective security" and therefore deserves to be supported, she argued.
Clinton called on individual Americans to support the relief effort in the form of $5 donations by texting the word "SWAT" to the number 20222.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A unit of the White House that was accused of misplacing perhaps millions of office e-mail's does not have to make its records public, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The decision was a victory for the Bush administration, which sought to shield its internal communications.
The three-judge panel here concluded the Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) over disclosure of its documents because "it performs only operational and administrative tasks in support of the President and his staff and therefore, under our precedent, lacks substantial and independent authority."
The latest opinion stems from a ongoing lawsuit by private groups over allegedly missing electronic messages, and allegations the White House failed to properly monitor its internal communications among staff.
The issue has been a thorny legal and political one for former Bush officials, who in the administration's final days in January were transferring more than 300 million e-mail messages and 25,000 boxes of documents to the National Archives.
Those officials acknowledged in court papers they had discovered about 14-million emails that were previously unaccounted for, and hundreds of thousands more that were later recovered on backup tapes.