TPM News

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) is no longer a shareholder in the nation's highly profitable oil and gas industry. Why? Because Al Sharpton yelled at him.

The story began last week, when ThinkProgess flagged Kelly's $6.25 million in oil and gas shares and a question the freshman Republican was asked about it at a June town hall meeting. Then came Sharpton's attack on Kelly on MSNBC.

Now Kelly has surrendered to both progressive voices, selling off all of his shares in both companies noted by ThinkProgress. Both firms were founded by Kelly's wife's family, the AP reports.

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Tim Pawlenty has a radio ad and Web site, PawlentyFaith.com, and an accompanying Web video with a simple message: Iowa straw poll-goers should know that he is a committed Christian.

Pawlenty is running behind in the polls in Iowa, where the current frontrunner is his fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann -- a candidate who campaigns naturally through the religious right, and has in the past credited her political career to direct, divine communication. Now, Pawlenty is showing his own religious bonafides.

"How well do you really know the presidential candidates that are asking for your vote?" the announcer says in the radio ad. "Tim Pawlenty and his wife Mary have a video in which they discuss their faith experience and their values. Watch the Pawlenty video at PawlentyFaith.com."

The Web site advertises the August 13 straw poll in Ames, Iowa, with a video of the Pawlentys discussing their commitment to their religious beliefs. The video is entitled "Aspirations of a President" -- which might be getting just a bit ahead of the curve, as in fact Pawlenty has the aspirations to become president.

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On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Wisconsin Democratic chairman Mike Tate touted the victories in Tuesday's state Senate recall primaries by all six official Dem candidates, against Republican activists who had filed in the Democratic primaries. Tate also said the party had internal polling that showed the Dems poised to win a majority in the state Senate in the recall general elections this August.

Soon after the recall elections were triggered, Republicans declared a strategy to plant fake candidates in the Democratic primaries -- which they have called "protest candidates" -- in order to delay the general elections from July to August, while the GOP incumbents ran unopposed. The candidates included a GOP activist in his 20s, and an octogenarian former GOP state representative, among others. As it turned out, the scheme would cost local governments throughout the state over $400,000.

"I think it is time to officially ask for Scott Walker and the Republican Party of Wisconsin to reimburse taxpayers for the costs they were forced to bear for these fake primaries," said Tate, calling the Republicans hypocrites, and also adding: "They have no credibility to speak on shepherding tax dollars moving forward."

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Republican leaders and their conservative members don't agree on much these days. They're particularly at odds over the wisdom of using the national debt limit as leverage to force the country in a conservative direction. Conservatives are still gung ho about the idea. Their leaders balked at it yesterday.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Debt Negotiations At The White House]

This creates an uncomfortable, public tension, for the party, as its top dogs politely try to smother their rank and file members, who think defaulting on the debt is either no big deal or not really going to happen -- who argue that they can force deep spending cuts one way or another by refusing to raise the debt limit. Either Obama caves, and accepts their far-reaching cuts, or the Treasury department will have to start cutting services and payments to meet the borrowing statute.

But they're of a single mind about one thing -- pretty much the only thing holding the party together: Whatever happens to the debt limit, it's President Obama, not the GOP, holding U.S. creditworthiness -- and thus the entire economy -- hostage.

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The EPA's controversial 2008 decision not to regulate a drinking water contaminant long connected to impaired brain development and decreased learning capability in infants had more to do with the interests of the Bush administration than with scientific findings regarding its safety, according to a report released Tuesday by a congressional watchdog agency, the LA Times reports.

Perchlorate is a toxin in rocket fuel and fireworks, is present in most states' drinking water, lettuce and milk, and is found in high concentrations near current and former military bases as a byproduct of weapons testing. The E.P.A. currently says it could be contaminating the public wells supplying anywhere from 5 million to 17 million Americans.

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Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg has never been shy in sharing his view that many of the privacy flaps over new features at Facebook are overblown. But when it comes to having his own activities tracked online, it seems that does prefer some level of control.

Up until Tuesday night, according to the Google + tracking service SocialStatistics.com, Zuckerberg had been the most popular person on the service, with more than 35,000 followers. That dropped to zero when he apparently changed his profile to private, as did many top Google executives, noted SocialStatistics.com's Founder Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten.

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The Obama campaign says their record-setting $86 million haul shows that Democrats are ready to roll after a demoralizing 2010.

According to the campaign, some 260,000 donors for the quarter had never contributed money to President Obama before, suggesting that there was still room to grow the base. The average donation to either the campaign or to the Democratic National Committee, both of whose totals were included in the $86 million, was just $88. In addition, 98% of donations to the campaign were under $250.

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Herman Cain may never be able to match Mitt Romney's giant fundraising numbers, but he can at least try to spin his rival's big money into an attack.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Meet The 2012 GOPers: Mitt Romney]

His latest ad, a Mastercard parody titled "Priceless," begins with news stories about a Romney event in which he claimed to raise over $10 million as well as reports that President Obama could raise $1 billion for his re-election. It contrasts them with Cain's "priceless" ability to turn out people for events -- his campaign claims 15,000 were at his Atlanta announcement in June.

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Mitt Romney is further distancing himself from the GOP's religious right base in Iowa, by refusing to sign a social conservative group's controversial "Marriage Vow" pledge -- with his campaign going the extra mile by excoriating the pledge itself.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Meet The 2012 GOPers: Mitt Romney]

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.

As the Associated Press reports, Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul bluntly declared that the pledge "contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign."

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