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April 22nd, 2012
04:44 AM ET

Early Bird morning research for Sunday, April 22

Good Sunday morning. The staff is in and we're preparing for today's program. Prepare along with us – read what we're reading this morning.

On our radar: the fine line between President Obama's "political" and "presidential" trips, the story of the Secret Service supervisor who set in motion the investigation into at least 11 of her agents, and the fragile ceasefire in Syria.

Check out what we're reading, and be sure to watch our exclusive interview with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and a live discussion with the Obama campaign's senior strategist David Axelrod. State of the Union airs today at 9am/12pm ET.


‘Presidential’ vs. ‘Political’ Trips: A Blurry Line, and Tricky Math

Since Mr. Obama filed for re-election a year ago, he has taken 60 domestic trips, of which 26 included fund-raisers, according to Mark Knoller, a White House correspondent for CBS News who for years has compiled such data.

Mr. Knoller’s count shows that since Mr. Obama took office, his most frequent destinations besides Maryland, Virginia and Illinois, his home state, have been fund-raising centers and swing states: New York (23 visits), Ohio (20), Florida (16), Pennsylvania (15), Michigan (11), California and North Carolina (10 each), Massachusetts (9), Wisconsin (8), Iowa and Nevada (7 each), and Colorado (6).

Big money in a big way for Obama’s reelection campaign

The Obama campaign has 533 people who have each raised at least $50,000 for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee, including 90 who joined the campaign in the last quarter. The total nearly matches the 558 people who were listed as volunteer fundraisers for the 2008 campaign.

Of this year’s bundlers, 117 are in the top echelon, raising at least $500,000 each, nearly double the number the campaign reported at the end of the 2011 and more than double the 47 who reached that level in 2008. ...

Overall, Obama has raised at least $53 million in California, including $21 million from the Los Angeles metro area or about 10 percent of the donations listed on his disclosure filings, according to a Washington Post analysis. That’s up slightly from less than 7 percent at the same period in 2008 while other areas, including the Washington and Chicago regions, have accounted for a smaller share of Obama’s total.

Pro-Romney super PAC to amend report

A super PAC supporting GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney plans to change its campaign-finance filings after linking a $400,000 contribution in March to a Florida company whose founder said he did not donate.

The super PAC, called Restore Our Future, made "a clerical error" and provided the "the wrong address for SeaSpray Partners LLC," the super PAC's spokeswoman Brittany Gross said Saturday in an email to USA TODAY.

"We will be filing an amended report in the coming days to reflect the correct address for the company," she added.


Rising supervisor set uncovering of misconduct in motion

Paula Reid, the new Secret Service boss for the South American region, was in Cartagena preparing for the president’s visit when she received an urgent report: A prostitute, upset because she had not been paid by a Secret Service agent, had created a disturbance in a nearby hotel, knocking on doors and yelling in the hallways at daybreak.

With roughly 24 hours left until President Obama was due to arrive in the Colombian town, the 46-year-old Calvert County native instructed her staff to swoop into the Hotel Caribe at midday April 12 and inspect hotel registration records for all Secret Service employees. Reid, who had been staying at a nearby hotel, swiftly rounded up 11 agents and officers and ordered them out of the country. She alerted her superiors that she found early evidence of “egregious” misconduct involving prostitutes and set in motion the public uncovering of the most wide-reaching scandal at the agency in decades, according to government officials involved in the case. ...

Those who know Reid said the move revealed a steely resolve that has marked her 21-year rise through the ranks of an agency whose macho reputation has again come under scrutiny. Her story offers a counterbalance to critics who contend the Secret Service has been slow to clean up its act from the “Mad Men”-era days when some agents joked that their off-duty mantra was “wheels up, rings off.”


U.N. Agrees to Send More Cease-Fire Observers to Syria

The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved increasing the number of cease-fire monitors in Syria on Saturday, and the battered Syrian city of Homs was calm for the first time in months as an advance team of those observers toured the city. ...

The new resolution established the number of observers at 300, as requested by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general. But Western ambassadors put Syria on notice that the unarmed observers would stay only briefly if there was no progress toward implementing a recent peace plan negotiated under United Nations auspices. ...

“The Syrian people, like us, know that the deployment of 300 or even 3,000 unarmed observers cannot on its own stop the Assad regime,” Ms. Rice said. “What can bring a halt to this murderous rampage is continued and intensified external pressure.”

Report: Iran begins construction of US drone duplicate

Iran has started to construct a duplicate of the US-manufactured unmanned aerial vehicle Tehran claims it downed last year when it was spotted flying over Iranian territory, Iranian news agency Mehr reported according to Revolutionary Guards commander.


French voters head to polls for presidential election

Voters in France cast ballots Sunday in a presidential race that pits incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy against nine other candidates, including Socialist Francois Hollande. ...

Last week, opinion polls suggested Sarkozy was trailing Hollande going into the first round of voting.

Earth Day 2012: Tips to help your family go green this year

1. Get your “glee on” out in Nature
2. Memory Lane Walk Down the Red Carpet “Favorite Earth Day Movies”
3. Spring Cleaning and Letting the Sun Shine In
4. Get “Down and Dirty”
5. Stand up to Climate Change

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