TPM News

The death penalty in California could be on its last legs.

A bill that passed out of committee in California's Assembly last week would create a ballot measure in the next statewide election that asks voters to decide whether to end the death penalty.

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Seems like a certain candidate in the Sunshine State got Sen. Jon Cornyn's (R-TX) memo about dissing Democrats and President Obama for allegedly using Social Security scare tactics as leverage in the debt talks and is repeating it almost verbatim.

Former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, who is running for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) next year, wasted no time in repeating the contents of the Cornyn memo almost verbatim Tuesday, criticizing President Obama for threatening to stop sending seniors their Social Security checks if the government defaults on its loans and has to stop paying for some government functions.

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A Republican on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission tried to get his colleagues to help House GOPers repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, according to documents released by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee.

Democrats released their report on the evidence uncovered by congressional investigators on the same day that Rep. Darrell Issa scrapped a hearing on the FCIC that was supposed to take place. Issa cancelled the hearing because, Democrats said, Republicans uncovered some evidence which didn't fit their narrative.

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TPM spoke with Bob Vander Plaats, the Iowa conservative activist and former gubernatorial candidate who has pitched the "Marriage Vow" pledge for presidential candidates competing in the state caucuses. And while he's not too perturbed that Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty are not signing it (at least not yet), he's got some pretty strong words for Mitt Romney.

Tuesday night, Romney's campaign slammed the pledge, saying that it "contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign.

"One of the reasons we put the pledge together was for a person or candidate like Gov. Romney," Vander Plaats told TPM, "because it's been well documented that Gov. Romney has been all over the board when it comes to marriage, or abortion, or universal health care."

Vander Plaats also added: "These types of no-commitments on my part to marriage and family, I don't think that's going to do his campaign any favors in the state of Iowa.

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A new survey of Utah from Public Policy Polling (D) shows longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch vulnerable for the Republican nomination, trailing his potential opponent Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

The numbers: Chaffetz 47%, Hatch 43%. The survey of Republican primary voters was conducted from July 8-10, and has a ±4.9% margin of error.

Chaffetz, who was first elected to Congress in 2008 by defeating an incumbent in the GOP primary, has been considering a challenge against Hatch. The poll gives Chaffetz a favorable rating of 61%, to 17% unfavorable. Hatch's approval rating is actually a very similar 60%, to a disapproval of 28%.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) the strong frontrunner in the first contest of the Republican 2012 presidential nomination race? Believe it, baby.

A new poll of likely caucus goers in Iowa by the Republican-leaning Magellan Strategies shows Bachmann with 29% of the vote. Next place finisher Mitt Romney has 16%. The Magellan field did not include Jon Huntsman, who is skipping Iowa, or the (so far) non-running Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani or Rick Perry.

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Congressional Democrats introduced a bill today that would take some of the sting out of last year's controversial Citizens United decision by empowering shareholders to weigh in before a corporation makes any political contribution.

The Shareholder Protection Act is a last ditch-effort by Democrats to stem the tide of unlimited political expenditures that corporations will surely use to influence the 2012 election, and one wisely crafted on the conservative premise that shareholders' wallets ought to have the same level of free speech protection as the corporations they helped create.

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So after acceding Tuesday that they'll raise the debt limit one way or another, Republicans are now accusing President Obama of holding the debt limit hostage. Fine. It's pretty clumsy as rhetorical jiu jitsu goes, but fine.

For this argument to be persuasive, though, these same Republicans must omit the fact that they were using the debt limit as a weapon in an ideological fight just 24 hours ago.

But that's exactly what Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) -- an articulate freshman, beloved by conservatives -- just did. Specifically, he told a scrum of reporters outside a GOP steering committee meeting that President Obama's the mustache-twirling villain of the debt limit wars...just after lamenting the GOP's loss of leverage in its pursuit of a Balanced Budget Amendment.

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Tim Pawlenty is the newest Republican presidential candidate to refuse to sign an Iowa religious right group's "Marriage Vow" pledge -- but he's being really nice about it.

"I deeply respect, and share, Bob Vander Platts' commitment to promoting the sanctity of marriage, a culture of life, and the core principles of the Family Leader's Marriage Vow Pledge," Pawlenty said in a statement. "However, rather than sign onto the words chosen by others, I prefer to choose my own words, especially seeking to show compassion to those who are in broken families through no fault of their own."

The "Marriage Vow" involved a candidate pledging personal fidelity to his or her spouse, that he or she would change divorce laws to make "quickie divorces" more difficult, and would oppose gay marriage, pornography, and "Sharia Islam," among other things. Two Republican candidates, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, signed the pledge, and then immediately encountered controversy due to the resolution's original preamble language on slavery -- which has since been edited out -- stating, quite contrary to the facts, that African-American families were more secure under slavery than they are today, under an African-American president.

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