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Monday, December 2, 2013

Daily Political Wire

George Wenschhof

Bank of America to pay $404 million to Freddie Mac to settle mortgage disputeBank of America said it settled all claims with Freddie Mac arising from residential mortgages sold to the government-backed housing agency through the end of 2009.

BofA will pay $404 million to settle claims related to loans sold to Freddie Mac from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2009, and to compensate for certain past losses and potential future losses relating to denials, rescissions and cancellations of mortgage insurance.The payments are fully covered by the company's reserves, BofA said in a statement on Monday.Last month, the U.S. government urged Bank of America to pay $863.6 million in damages after a federal jury found it liable for fraud over defective mortgages sold by its Countrywide unit. has more here.
Smith to Challenge Shaheen in New Hampshire - Bob Smith, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, decided to challenge incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) next year for his old seat. 
Smith told Manchester TV station WMUR that he previously stayed out of the race to allow room for other candidates. He said he gave into encouragement to run when no other major candidate materialized for the GOP. 
There are already two other Republicans in the race, according to WMUR: former state Sen. Jim Rubens and activist Karen Testerman. Prominent national Republicans also have been encouraging former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown to run for Shaheen's seat. has more here.
113th Congress Least Productive Ever - From the confirmation of a new Federal Reserve chairman to the expiration of dairy pricing rules, House and Senate leaders head into the final month of 2013 with a checklist that is short but critical. But even a final burst of activity would do little to change the historic arc of this calendar year under the Capitol dome.

According to congressional records, there have been fewer than 60 public laws enacted in the first 11 months of this year, so below the previous low in legislative output that officials have already declared this first session of the 113th Congress the least productive ever. In 1995, when the newly empowered GOP congressional majority confronted the Clinton administration, 88 laws were enacted, the record low in the post-World War II era.  The Washington Post has more here.
Online Voter Registration Expands to 15 States - To date, 15 states that have put in place online voter registration, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Five more states passed legislation allowing online registration, which Pew expects to be implemented in time for the 2014 midterms.
Wendy Underhill, program manager for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said she expects that by 2020 all states will allow online voter registration.
But when it comes to voting technology, the most important — and contentious issue — is whether to allow the delivery and return of ballots to and from voters electronically, either by fax or email or on a secure website.
According to NCSL, which is holding a panel on the Future of Elections at its annual meeting in D.C. this week, 32 states allow uniformed military service members and overseas citizens to return ballots electronically. The effort has been driven by the 2009 passage of the federal Military and Overseas Voters Empowerment Act, which requires states to have at least one electronic format to provide blank absentee ballots.
Alaska is currently the only state that allows all voters, not just those in the military or overseas, to return ballots electronically, and is the only state that has an online system to do so. has more here.

In the East China Sea, a Far Bigger Test of Power Looms - In an era when the Obama administration has been focused on new forms of conflict — as countries use cyberweapons and drones to extend their power — the dangerous contest suddenly erupting over a pile of rocks in the East China Sea seems almost a throwback to the Cold War.

Suddenly, naval assets and air patrols are the currency of a shadow conflict between Washington and Beijing that the Obama administration increasingly fears could escalate and that American officials have said could derail their complex plan to manage China’s rise without overtly trying to contain it. As in the Cold War, the immediate territorial dispute seems to be an excuse for a far larger question of who will exercise influence over a vast region.  The NY Times has more here.
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