TPM News

Presidential hopeful Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is joining the multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of health care reform, an issue that has emerged as a conservative litmus test.

Pawlenty's (R) political action committee sent out a link to a Minnesota Public Radio piece breaking the news that the governor would buck Attorney General Lori Swanson, of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Swanson rejected Pawlenty's request to join the lawsuit, now supported by more than a dozen attorneys general. Several other states are taking their own action.

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We've told you about J. Roby Penn IV, the gala-hopping heir to an oil-and-gas fortune who's a regional director for the RNC's Young Eagles program. (Sample quote: My ancestors, actually, weren't on the Mayflower. They sent the servants over first to get the cottage ready.")

And here's another of the fledgling money-men behind the hard-partying group whose trip to a bondage-themed club has helped throw the RNC into crisis...

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Charles Alan Wilson, a 63-year-old Washington man who was angered over health care reform, has been charged with threatening a federal official for allegedly making profanity and misogyny-laced death threats in messages left for Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington announced today.

The complaint alleges that Wilson called Murray's office multiple times between March 22 -- the day after the health bill passed the House -- and April 4. In one message, he allegedly said that Murray "had a target on her back." In another, he allegedly said, "I want to (expletive) kill you."

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Will the Michael Steele fallout grow at RNC?

In the wake of the resignation of Chief of Staff Ken McKay and departure of strategist Curt Anderson, a GOP consultant tells me that staffers at all levels of the RNC are eyeing the exits, frustrated by the latest in a series of debacles that have tarnished the committee's image and weakened its fundraising prowess.

"People are sending out resumes," the consultant says. "[T]his is another shoe that has dropped."

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The Young Eagles have been in the spotlight lately, after it emerged that the RNC picked up the tab for a trip taken by the group to a bondage-themed L.A. club. Other planned events, including a Texas bird hunt, a trip to the Indy 500 , a bull-riding event, and a jaunt to London to hobnob with Tory party leader David Cameron, are now said to be up in the air.

But just who are the Young Eagles? We showed you the Facebook page of the group's mid-Atlantic director, J. Roby Penn IV, which includes quotes like: "I believe in a purpose driven life... if life's purpose is backgammon and tennis," and "If you don't have an oil well, get one." And here's a bit more to fill out the picture of the 29-year old oil-and-gas heir.

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The new survey of Illinois by Public Policy Polling (D) shows Republican Rep. Mark Kirk taking a narrow lead in the race for President Obama's former Senate seat. This is due to a decline in support for Democratic state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who has been weathering controversies surrounding his family's bank, which is facing insolvency and is reported to have made loans to people connected with organized crime.

The numbers: Kirk 37%, Giannoulias 33%, with a whopping 30% undecided, a number that comes disproportionately from Democratic and independent voters. Back in January, Giannoulias led Kirk by 42%-34%. So Kirk's support has only increased marginally, but Giannoulias has seen a sharp decline. The TPM Poll Average currently gives Kirk an edge of 37.8%-36.3% over Giannoulias.

From the pollster's analysis: "The controversies swirling around Giannoulias and his family seem to be taking a toll on him. Where before 31% of voters viewed him favorably to 19% unfavorably, now just 21% have a positive opinion of him and 28% see him negatively."

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs skirted questions at his press briefing today about whether Afghan President Hamid Karzai is an ally of the United States.

"He is the democratically elected leader of Afghanistan," Gibbs said after being asked whether Karzai is our ally. When the reporter pressed him, Gibbs again said that "Karzai is the democratically elected leader of Afghanistan," adding that "his remarks cannot be anything but troubling."

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One of the three Republican National Committeemen from New Hampshire resigned today, protesting "the arrogance and culture in Washington," as the crisis at the RNC continues.

Sean Mahoney, the publisher of BusinessNH magazine who is said to be mulling a run for the U.S. House, was angered by the scandal over improper use of party money at the RNC, the Union Leader reports. In a letter to Michael Steele, he calls on conservatives to stand with Tea Partiers, rather than the GOP.

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The Heritage Foundation's latest world ranking of economic freedoms shows the U.S. falling farther than any other large economy in the world. The foundation says the TARP Program, the auto industry bailout and the stimulus package, among other factors, have caused the country's economy to go from "free" to "mostly free."

The U.S. now ranks eighth in the world on the group's list.

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Democrats in New York's 29 Congressional District, formerly held by ex-Rep. Eric Massa (D), have announced that they have a candidate to succeed him -- but they're not saying who it is just yet. (Late Update: Democrats have selected Matthew Zeller, a 28-year old Rochester native and veteran of Afghanistan.)

The local Democratic chairs put out a statement that they had arrived at a "consensus candidate" for the race, "and that candidate will announce his/her candidacy next week." Republicans have already rallied around Corning Mayor Tom Reed in the race to succeed Massa, who resigned last month in the midst of an alleged sexual harassment scandal.

Adding to the mystery game-show quality of this election is that the date itself has not been determined. Gov. David Paterson's (D) office has floated the idea that the election could be delayed all the way until this September's regularly-scheduled primary, due to financial issues. In their statement, the Dem chairs also voiced these concerns: "It's clear that a special election would prove to be very expensive, particularly considering so many counties in the 29th district are already struggling financially."

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