The Note

ABC's Linda Douglass reports: "The House Ethics Committee has opened a formal inquiry into allegations that Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) was offered money for his son's congressional campaign if he would vote yes on the Medicare Rx bill last November. Smith still voted no. He said publicly that another member later threatened to hurt his son's campaign once it was clear he wouldn't change his vote. Smith later tried to backtrack on his story, but the Ethics Committee began looking into it anyway. Today the Committee made it clear that it has found sufficient grounds to ratchet up the probe, announcing that it will appoint an investigative subcommittee consisting of Ethics Committee members and other members. The Committee's statement says: "The investigative subcommittee will have jurisdiction to conduct a full and complete inquiry into alleged communications received by Representative Nick Smith linking support for the congressional candidacy of his son with Representative Smith's vote on that legislation."

The Washington Post 's Babington reports on the formal inquiry. LINK

David Broder says AARP's credibility remains at stake. LINK

"The inquiry into Rep. Nick Smith's allegations marks the first time in 20 months that the ethics panel has publicly announced such a 'formal inquiry' into reports of questionable behavior by House members. Smith, who has never identified the lawmakers he said tried to influence his vote, promised to 'cooperate fully with the inquiry.' He and the ethics panel — formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — declined further comment."

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate races:

Highlights from an interesting e-mail written by Senator Bill Frist to his VOLPAC list. "The Senate races are now in high gear and it is time for us all to focus. Jack Ryan won the Primary in Illinois last night, and we have a real shot there. As we saw in Colorado, things are still in flux, but I thought I'd give you my take on 10 Senate races that I hope you have at the top of the radar screen. Print this out for future reference. VOLPAC will be taking a position on these races as we get through the Primaries. We are strongly supporting all of the Republican incumbents right now."

"[Alaska:] Recent polling shows it's a dead heat. Murkowski's challenge is to overcome the nepotism allegations (Her dad preceded her as Senator) by becoming a credible US Senator in her own right. This race is critical to us."

"[Colorado:] Senator Ben Campbell's retirement makes this a competitive race. Neither Republican nor Democrat candidate is certain at this point. Dems have a multi-millionaire candidate. Colorado leans Republican but it could be a swing state in the presidential race."

"[Florida:] The Republican Primary race is proving to be competitive with McCollum leading in public polling because of name ID, but Martinez is moving up. The Democrat Primary race is dominated by Deutsch's money and Castor's populist appeal. In the end Deutsch's money will out last Castor's appeal."

Dean's New Group:

It'll be called Democracy For America, and, as we've reported, its principal goal will be to use the 600,000-strong Dean e-mail list to promote candidates who share the values associated with Gov. Dean. LINK

It hopes to become a potent, grassroots fundraising force for Democratic candidates and work with groups like Meetup to promote local, progressive political and community networking.

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