In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Updated: Sept. 26, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

Conservative filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza's ex-wife alleged in a letter sent this week to the federal court that heard his criminal case that D'Souza was abusive, that he lied in his defense against the criminal charges, and implied D'Souza had manipulated the couple's daughter into making positive public statements about him.

D'Souza pleaded guilty in May to violating federal campaign finance law, admitting that he used straw donors to funnel money to New York Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long. He had also been accused of making campaign contributions in the name of other people -- namely, his ex-wife Dixie.

On Tuesday, he was sentenced to five years probation starting with eight months in a community confinement center. But he faced no prison time, despite prosecutors reportedly seeking at least a 10-month prison sentence.

On the day before D'Souza was sentenced, Dixie sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Richard Berman and, after outlining allegations of lies and abuse, urged him to "impose a just sentence." The letter was published by the Smoking Gun.

Read More →

Recent coverage of the North Carolina Senate race has said the trending topic is education. For Democrats, that means bashing North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R), the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, on his handling of the state's education budget. One conservative group, however, recently tried to counter those attacks by linking education policy to an all too familiar Republican target: Obamacare.

Read More →

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) is taking great offense to a new ad from his GOP challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner. The ad leads off with Gardner calling Udall "a real nice guy" before, all smiles, pointing to the Udall family's history of political service as a reason to oust him.

While the spot sounds as superficially congenial as any political attack ad that you're ever likely to see, Democrats are lambasting it as "disgusting" and "just low."

Read More →

Could peer pressure from other Republicans be the secret ingredient in the Obama administration's push to get the 20-plus states that have not expanded Medicaid under Obamacare to change their minds?

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell suggested to TPM on Wednesday that it might be. Some staunch conservatives like Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (above right) have entered into negotiations with HHS to craft their own Medicaid expansion plan; but others like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (above left) have steadfastly refused to even consider it.

Perhaps more than any argument from the Obama White House, the former group could help convince the latter that Medicaid expansion makes sense, Burwell told reporters at a Wednesday briefing in response to a question from TPM.

"People are influenced by people who are like them," Burwell said. "I think the more that we are able to attract conservative Republican governors, the more that those who have very strong feelings will perhaps listen. They all talk to each other."

The Obama administration is also putting out new estimates to make the case for Medicaid expansion. HHS is projecting that in 2014, hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid will save up to $4.2 billion on uncompensated care as more people are covered through Obamacare. Hospitals in non-expanding states, by comparison, are saving $1.5 billion.

Read More →

John Boehner is "all in" to be Speaker of the House again next year. But as usual, he has his share of dissidents who want to oust him — disenchantment remains strong with some of the Republican conference.

But for all the grumbling, they have a tough battle on their hands if they want a new Speaker in January.

A new article in The Hill points to stirrings a coup attempt by some members against the Ohio Republican, who has served in the House's top job since 2011. The piece centers around a less-than-organized push by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), who told the paper he's meeting with members to chart out "a new direction" for the House.

According to numerous conservative House lawmakers, as well as aides who declined to be named, Boehner's gavel is safe. Here are four reasons why.

Read More →

They wear camouflaged uniforms, bearing military-style insignia. They ride helicopters over the forests of Mendocino County, Calif., on the state's north coast, equipped with firearms, where they cut down illegal marijuana. But they aren't the army. They aren't even the police. They are Lear Asset Management, a private security firm that is attracting a lot of attention for the work it's doing -- and even perhaps some work it hasn't done

KCBS in San Francisco described them as "mysterious men dropping from helicopters to chop down" pot plants. Rumors swirl in the area's marijuana community about heavily armed men choppering onto their private land and cutting down their marijuana plants without identifying themselves or answering questions about who they are. Lear has become a boogeyman of sorts for a certain population in northern California.

But they aren't hiding. Paul Trouette, Lear Asset Management's 55-year-old founder, spoke with TPM for more than 30 minutes earlier this week to describe what his company does and why they do it. They see themselves filling a void that law enforcement cannot. Trouette at one point invoked the Pinkertons -- the private detective agency notorious for, among other things, violently busting unions and chasing Wild West outlaws -- to demonstrate the historical precedent for what they're now doing in this county of 88,000 on the edge of the California Redwoods.

"Law enforcement just doesn't have the means to take care of it any longer," Trouette told TPM. The 2011 murder of Fort Bragg, Calif. city councilman Jere Melo by an illegal trespasser tending poppy plants as Melo patrolled private land for a timber company made a big impression on Trouette, he said. Lear was incorporated the same year, and the company has worked with a non-profit founded in Melo's memory.

"That's when the hole began to be filled in my understanding of how to put together a cohesive, legal, organized private security firm that is now dealing with these types of issues," Trouette said, explaining that he sees Lear "on the cutting edge of citizens becoming involved in their communities and utilizing their legal rights to affect positive change in their communities."

Read More →

TPMLivewire