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Branded as a revelatory scoop uncovering previously unknown donations from George Soros to NPR, James O'Keefe's latest sting on NPR was debunked as a non-story within hours of its release.

The news that O'Keefe purports to "break" -- that Soros had previously donated to the public broadcaster via grants from Soros' Open Society Institute -- had, in fact, long been publicly known through tax records and even press releases.

"We believe that journalism is a pillar of an open and democratic society and a critical tool for transparency and accountability," a spokeswoman for OSI, Laura Silber, told TPM after sending over a list of previous grants to NPR and affiliates. "A free and independent press serves as a watchdog of both government and the private sector. NPR, which is a respected national news organization, provides an excellent vehicle for regional and national analyses of the most critical issues facing our country."

The new audio recording features NPR director of institutional giving Betsy Liley talking with one of O'Keefe's actors, a member of a phony Muslim group claiming to want to donate $5 million to NPR. In their conversation, Liley discusses donations from George Soros, noting that after conservative attacks on him intensified he asked that his name not be mentioned on the air as a sponsor.

"George Soros and the Open Society Institute gave us $1.8 million, and they have decided not to use on-air credits because of what's happening in Congress," Liley says.

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Congressional supporters and opponents of U.S. military intervention in Libya on Capitol Hill are calling on President Obama to clearly define U.S. interests in the Arab country as well as the type of air strikes and other options the administration is pushing in an attempt to prevent Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi from prevailing against rebel forces. In hearings Thursday, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Sens. John Kerry (D-Ma) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), respectively, expressed opposite views on imposing a no-fly zone in Libya. Kerry views it as vital to the success of opposition forces; Lugar thinks it would be too costly. But both want the President to step in and use the bully pulpit to clearly articulate his views on the increasingly violent clash.

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Two ex-leaders of the Oakland County Democratic Party are facing nine felony charges for allegedly committing voter fraud when attempting to get fake tea party candidates on Michigan ballots last November, as a way to pry support away from Republican candidates.

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Scott Walker's approval rating may be in the dumps with his constituents, but by taking on public employee unions, he's made himself quite popular with Republicans nationwide.

In fact, a new PPP poll of registered voters finds that Republicans actually like Walker better than the big-name GOPers who are considering presidential bids. That shows that Walker, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has become a Republican favorite for his tough budget talk and his willingness to butt heads with unions. But it also underscores how tepid Republicans are toward their current slate of presidential aspirants, and how a fresh conservative face could shake up the GOP primary next year.

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Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) isn't sweating the mocking his emotional testimony before Rep. Peter King's (R-NY) hearings on Muslim extremism last week generated from the right.

Asked by TPM Wednesday about the drubbing he's received from conservative pundits since he teared up before King's panel, Ellison basically said, what else is new?

"Well, you know, I don't anticipate some people will appreciate everything that I say and stand for," he said. "But I'll say this: American people realize that when we say freedom and justice for all, that means all. You know, Muslims too."

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Ahead of a vote on a bill blocking funding to NPR set to take place this afternoon, the White House issued a statement condemning efforts to cut the public broadcaster off from federal dollars.

The House Rules Committee voted yesterday in an emergency hearing to send H.R. 1076, which prohibits the government from supporting NPR programming or that of local affiliates, to the floor. The bill would not reduce the deficit as the funds could be used for administrative costs by local stations instead and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but the White House warns that small rural stations could shut down without federal funding to purchase content. Republicans previously voted to defund the entire Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports NPR, but that bill was rejected in the Senate.

You can read the White House statement after the jump.

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In a sign of just how high the stakes could be for the the potential state Senate recalls in Wisconsin, in the wake of the recent passage of Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union bill, one of the targeted Republican legislators has hired a campaign manager with national experience.

As the Fond du Lac Reporter notes, GOP state Sen. Randy Hopper has hired Jeff Harvey, whose previous high-profile campaigns have included roles with Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ). Harvey arrived in the state this past weekend.

In addition to the new anti-public employee union law, Hopper faces other obstacles related to his ongoing divorce, and public accusations of adultery by his estranged wife. A survey released earlier this week by Daily Kos, conducted by Public Policy Polling (D), showed Hopper trailing a generic Democrat by a margin of 49%-44%.

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A federal review of the New Orleans Police Department has found the department used excessive force; made unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests; engaged in biased policing based on race, ethnicity and sexual orientation; failed to provide effective policing services to those with limited English proficiency; and systematically failure to investigate sexual assaults and domestic violence.

The review by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division confirmed systemic failures in the notorious NOPD which they said "developed over a long period of time." The report comes after the Civil Rights Division has spent nearly a year virtually camped out in New Orleans monitoring the operation of the NOPD.

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