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Batman for Governor

First came the Terminator. Is Batman next?

Actor Val Kilmer may be the next action star-turned-governor, the Associated Press reports. Though he hasn't made an official decision, Kilmer, a New Mexico resident for more than two decades, told the AP that he's looking for ways to be "contributive" in the southwestern state.

"If that ends up being where I can make a substantial contribution, then I'll run," the registered Democrat said, who would replace Gov. Bill Richardson if elected. Richardson is term limited and can't run for reelection.

In addition to the Caped Crusader, Kilmer also appeared in the 1986 movie Top Gun and the 1991 Oliver Stone film The Doors.

But what is Batman's political leanings? To the left, it seems. He has only recently started to make political contributions and most of his money has gone to liberal consumer advocate Ralph Nader. He gave $4,600 to Nader's 2008 presidential campaign and $2,300 to favorite son Bill Richardson's presidential campaign, according to campaign data on the Center for Responsive Politics website. Nothing to Obama

(Reported by USA TODAY Intern Seung Min Kim)

For Blago, all the world's a stage

Blago After launching a media blitz that wound through daytime shows and late-night couches, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will finally make his way to the stage next week.

Or at least, a musical version of him.

The famous Chicago comedy troupe The Second City will premiere a rock opera titled Rod Blagojevich Superstar, according to NPR's All Things Considered. In one of the opera's pieces, the performers sing: "Rod Blagojevich Superstar, are you as nuts as we think you are?"

"It really fit into this sort of overblown, would-be messiah who's kind of just a naïve, arrogant and vain buffoon," Kelly Leonard, one of the show's creators, told NPR.

The Illinois Senate voted unanimously last month to oust Blagojevich, who was arrested in December on federal corruption charges. He says he is innocent.

(Reported by USA TODAY intern Seung Min Kim)

2012 Watch II: Huckabee raises money off the stimulus package

Mike Huckabee, a past and prospective contender for the Republican presidential nomination, is raising money today with an e-mail blasting President Obama's economic stimulus package as "a real stink bomb," just like the Wall Street bailout bill.

Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, said "a lot of legislation that gets submitted is like garbage. If it sits there long enough, it really starts smelling. Now, Congress knows that the so-called stimulus bill is garbage, that's why they are trying to ram it through. The quicker it gets through, the less chance we have to realize that this legislation really stinks."

Huckabee reports with sadness that he expects only more of the same from Obama and the Democrats, so Republicans need to "change the math" in Congress. How? Contribute to his political action committee, which supports conservatives.

This may be a case of where you stand depends on where you sit. State governments are reeling from the recession and many governors are lobbying hard for the stimulus. Some of them are Republicans.

Report: Bailed out companies spent $114 million on lobbying last year

How much of your hard-earned money did bailed-out financial firms use for lobbying? USA TODAY's Fredreka Schouten reports on a new analysis of the Troubled Assets Relief Program from the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.

Companies in the finance and auto industries that benefited from the $700 billion TARP bailout spent more than $114 million on lobbying in the past year and in contributions toward the 2008 election, according to the center. The companies received more than $300 billion in the taxpayer-funded rescue.

"Even in the best economic times, you won't find an investment with a greater payoff than what these companies have been getting," said Sheila Krumholz, the center's executive director. The company spending the most on lobbying and political donations: Bank of America at $14.5 million. That total also includes political spending by Merrill Lynch, the investment company Bank of America bought last year.

The analysis, along with a chart of the biggest political players and what they received in the bailout, can be found here.

Report: New lawmakers twice as rich as veterans

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics has released a new study of congressional wealth. The bottom line: New members of Congress are, on average, twice as rich as returning lawmakers.

USA TODAY's Fredreka Schouten reports:

The newcomers have a median net worth of $1.8 million, according to financial disclosure reports they are required to file. The median for incumbents: $815,000.

"The new blood in Congress is mostly blueblood," said Sheila Krumholz,  the center's executive director. "In this troubled and troubling economy, Congress remains short on lawmakers who can personally relate to what the average American is going through financially."

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., a telecommunications tycoon, leads the pack with an average net worth of $237.8 million, the center found. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who has founded several web-based companies, is second at $175.9 million.

The group looked at the finances of 52 new members of Congress, whose contests were decided by early November. The study doesn't include recently appointed lawmakers, such as Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill. Financial data for those members of Congress are not yet available.

Sarah Palin launches political action committee

Hillary, Caroline, Barack -- now there's another entry in the list of political figures instantly identifable by their first names. Sarah Palin, the Alaska governor and former GOP vice presidential nominee, has started a political action committee called SarahPAC.

The website, complete with the governor standing against a gorgeous Alaskan landscape, says contributions "will make it possible for Gov. Palin to continue to be a strong voice for energy independence and reform. By supporting SarahPac, you will allow Gov. Palin to help find and create solutions for America's most pressing problems; priority number one is building a strong and prosperous economy that recognizes hard work, innovation and integrity by rewarding small businesses and hard working American families. SarahPac will support local and national candidates who share Gov. Palin's ideas and goals for our country."

Hat tip: Ben Smith at Politico

Al Franken's inaugural to-do list: Raise money for Minnesota recount battle

USA TODAY's Fredreka Schouten reports that Democrat Al Franken is heading toward the capital this weekend not just for Barack Obama's inauguration, but also to raise money for his Senate recount battle with Republican Norm Coleman. Franken is ahead in the Minnesota recount but Coleman is contesting it in court.

Sunday's event at the upscale Willard Hotel is billed as an "Inaugural Brunch" and will feature The Grateful Dead's Bob Weir and Mickey Hart, according to an invitation posted on ActBlue, an online fundraising clearinghouse for Democrats. Tickets range from $1,000 to $12,300.

Members of the "host committee" include the Senate's top Democrats -- Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his deputy, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.

ActBlue said it has raised more than $1 million for Franken's recount fund to date. The former Saturday Night Live comedian had nearly $880,000 cash on hand on Nov. 24, the most recent Federal Election Commission records show.

Franken spokeswoman Jess McIntosh wouldn't discuss the fundraiser. She said Franken and his wife, Franni, would be on hand to see Obama take the oath of office on Tuesday.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Coleman's trial challenging Franken's lead in the Senate race could start Jan. 26.

Report: Figure in probe that led of Richardson's office gave money to Obama's campaign

Barack Obama's presidential campaign "took big money from a man at the center of a federal probe that has forced one of Obama's top Cabinet picks to withdraw," ABC News' The Blotter reports.

The blog adds that:

Financial records show the Obama campaign got more than $30,000 from California financier David Rubin, the target of an investigation into donations and possible "pay-to-play" deals involving New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Obama's pick for commerce secretary.

Richardson removed himself from consideration for the post Sunday, saying the ongoing grand jury investigation threatened to hold up his confirmation. Richardson and Rubin have both denied any wrongdoing in the matter, which involved contributions and state business in 2003 and 2004. ...

Reached by phone Monday, Rubin declined to answer questions. His firm's spokesman, Allan Ripp, said neither he nor Rubin would discuss Rubin's donations to Obama or his attendance at the fundraiser. Ripp said that Rubin sought nothing for his donation but to elect Obama.

Neither the Obama campaign nor the DNC responded immediately to a request for comment.

Who's given money to the transition? Search the database to see

The Obama-Biden Transition Project says its average donor (as of Dec. 15) had given $70.62. A searchable database is here. The bottomline: $3,803,222.48, from 53,853 donors.

Clinton foundation donors include foreign governments Hillary Clinton will deal with

Former president Bill Clinton has released a 3,000-page list of donors to his presidential foundation. The release fulfills a promise he made to the incoming Obama administration when his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, was nominated to be secretary of State.

USA TODAY's Fredreka Schouten says a substantial number of contributors are foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia and Norway. The Associated Press says foreign governments contributed at least $41 million to the foundation.

Other big donors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Hollywood producer Stephen Bing, and Fred Eychaner, a top Democratic donor who is president of Chicago-based Newsweb Corp., Fredreka reports.

You might want to wait a bit before clicking on the link for the foundation; the site appears to have crashed due to heavy traffic.

In the meantime, here's a description of projects funded by the foundation:

The seven initiatives include: the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Clinton Climate Initiative, the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative, the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, the Clinton Economic Opportunity Initiative, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The Foundation also funded the construction of the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, which was turned over to the people and government of the United States in November, 2004.

Update at 12:30 p.m. ET: The foundation's website appears to be overwhelmed. We haven't been able to get it to work yet. In the meantime, here's the statement that the foundation released.