Inside Politics: Prosecutors want limits on talk of Edwards’ health

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NORTH CAROLINA

Prosecutors want limits on talk of Edwards‘ health

GREENSBORO — Prosecutors have asked a federal judge in North Carolina to bar those in the upcoming trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards from mentioning his poor health because of concern it could create sympathy among jurors.

Mr. Edwards‘ trial was delayed in January after his lawyers said the Democrat needed treatment for a serious heart condition. Jury selection is to begin April 12.

Prosecutors also asked for an order limiting any mention before the jury of possible pending contempt charges against former Edwards‘ aide Andrew Young stemming from a lawsuit over possession of a sex tape made by the candidate’s mistress. Mr. Young is expected to be a key witness for prosecutors against Mr. Edwards, who has pleaded not guilty to charges related to campaign finance violations.

NEW YORK

First lady Michelle Obama visits Letterman show

NEW YORK — First lady Michelle Obama said she thought for sure her cover was blown during an undercover visit to a Target store last year when a woman approached her in the detergent aisle.

But the first lady told David Letterman on Monday the woman only wanted help with a package she couldn’t reach.

During Mrs. Obama’s visit to CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman,” her host held up a picture of her after she put on sunglasses and a baseball cap to try to visit a Washington-area store last September.

Mrs. Obama said the woman apparently was oblivious of the fact she had asked a favor of the first lady and said “you didn’t have to make it look so easy” after the detergent was retrieved.

TREASURY

Government sells off $225B in securities

The Treasury Department has sold off the final portion of $225 billion in mortgage-backed securities it purchased during the height of the financial crisis.

Treasury said Monday that the sales of securities issued primarily by troubled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have netted the government $25 billion in interest. The government began selling its securities one year ago. The final sales were completed last week.

“The successful sale of these securities marks another important milestone in the wind down of the government’s emergency financial crisis efforts,” said Mary Miller, Treasury’s assistant secretary for financial markets.

Even with the sales, the government still has heavy losses from the rescue of the two mortgage giants in September 2008.

Taxpayers have spent more than $150 billion to rescue Fannie and Freddie, the most expensive bailout of the 2008 financial crisis.

It could cost nearly $200 billion more to support the companies through 2014 after subtracting dividend payments, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the government regulator that oversees Fannie and Freddie.

FED

Banks fined for alleged foreclosure abuse

The Federal Reserve said Monday that it plans to fine eight additional U.S. bank holding companies for improperly foreclosing on homeowners.

The financial firms — EverBank, Goldman Sachs Group, HSBC Holdings PLC, PNC Financial Services Group, MetLife, OneWest Bank, SunTrust Banks and U.S. Bancorp — were not part of last month’s settlement over alleged foreclosure abuses.

Suzanne G. Killian, a senior associate director at the Federal Reserve, called the fines “appropriate” during a congressional hearing in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ms. Killian offered few details about the size of the fines or when they will be levied.

The nation’s five biggest lenders Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Ally Financial last month agreed to a $25 billion settlement with state and federal government agencies last month after a 16-month probe.

As part of that settlement, the five banks agreed to reduce mortgages for about 1 million homeowners.

They also will pay into a fund that will send $2,000 to 750,000 homeowners who were improperly foreclosed upon.

Separately, government regulators last April ordered 14 mortgage lenders and servicers to reimburse homeowners who were improperly foreclosed upon.

Since then, letters have been sent to 4.3 million borrowers who were at risk of foreclosure during 2009 and 2010.

The deadline for borrowers to seek money under the orders is July 31. So far, nearly 122,000 homeowners have asked for an auditor to review their foreclosures.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama raised $45M last month; new total $300M

Picking up the pace, President Obama raised $45 million for his re-election bid in February, bringing his total to about $300 million for this election cycle, his campaign said Monday.

Mr. Obama stepped up fundraising efforts during the month, collecting nearly twice as much as the $23 million per month average he raised during the final three months of 2011 and more than the $29.1 million he raised in January. The money was spread among Mr. Obama’s campaign, the Democratic Party and two campaign funds.

Mr. Obama’s campaign said nearly 350,000 people contributed in February and the average donation was about $59 for the entire election cycle. Nearly 98 percent of the donations were $250 or less.

With Republicans locked in an extended primary campaign, Mr. Obama’s team has tried to build a large 50-state operation that will help it register new voters, bring back past supporters and boost turnout. Mr. Obama’s campaign had about $75 million in the bank through the end of January but a bank total for February was not immediately available.

Campaign officials have implored supporters to donate money and get involved, pointing to Republican-leaning super PACs expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat the president. Mr. Obama’s campaign said earlier this year that it would bless big-money super PACs supporting Democrats as a way of countering the Republican effort.

In an email to donors last week, campaign manager Jim Messina cited a poll showing Mr. Obama trailing against Republican Mitt Romney and asked them to get involved.

LOUISIANA

Santorum gives Christian preachers personal pitch

CENTRAL — When an influential evangelical leader gathered dozens of preachers at his home church to hear from a presidential candidate, he had a simple message. Rick Santorum, he said, is one of us, and your parishioners should vote for him.

Nearly a hundred pastors from throughout Louisiana and from as far away as Texas and Colorado accepted Family Research Council President Tony Perkins’ invitation to hear a personal pitch Sunday from Mr. Santorum.

Spending more than an hour with the church congregation, Mr. Santorum was courting the religious conservatives who are keeping him in a drawn-out fight for the GOP nomination.

Mitt Romney leads the race for delegates but has long struggled to win over a conservative GOP base that still questions his flip-flops on social issues.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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