TPM News

MADISON, WI -- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) just finished a press conference early this evening, in which he continued to warn about the specter of layoffs of government workers if his budget does not pass, and called upon the absent state Senate Democrats to return to the state. Predictably, he continued to face questions over the biggest story of the last two days: His phone call with blogger Ian Murphy, who was posing as Republican financier David Koch.

Walker took five questions in total. The first two questions were both about the "Koch" call, followed by three questions about the budget bill itself and his efforts to end collective bargaining for public sector workers.

In his initial speech, Walker said he had spoken to a small businessman in Wisconsin, who was concerned about the strife going on in the state, and who asked why Walker did not simply take the deal of the increased contributions by public employees to their health care and pensions.

"You look at what's happened at the local level over the past two weeks with this measure...actions speak louder than words," Walker said. "Over the past few weeks we've seen in cities and counties and schools in a rush to pass contracts that don't have a 5 percent and 12 percent contributions. In fact, what I've seen, they have no additional contributions for pensions and health care costs for government employees. In fact, in some cases they've rammed through contracts that have an increase in the salaries."

Walker also spoke of the concern that he said he had for state workers. He said he wanted to avoid layoffs that would hurt people's families, and in response to workers' concerns would strengthen civil service protections on issues of grievances, terminations and discipline etc.

"We've also got to give those workers the right to choose," Walker said -- restating his point from yesterday's press conference that he would give workers the ability to save about $1,000 per year by not paying dues to a union.

But a great deal of interest still focused on Walker's statements on the recorded prank phone call released yesterday morning.

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The mysterious poll of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal making the rounds today was commissioned by the Franklin Center For Government and Public Integrity, a conservative not for profit based in North Dakota and Virginia that was founded by a former Republican operative.

The Franklin Center also has ties to the some of the groups that organized a pro-Walker rally last weekend in Madison, including the Tea Party training group American Majority.

"BREAKING: Poll Shows 71% of Wisconsinites Think Walker's Budget Changes are 'Fair'," said the release from the Franklin Center. Local and national news outlets cited it, including MSNBC (watch below). But no one, it seems, asked where the poll came from.

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Anti-government uprisings have spread from an initial revolution in Tunisia to countries across the region, including Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen. Could the revolutionary fervor be migrating outside of the Arab world as well?

In Cameroon, activists used the recent Mideast turmoil to rally protestors this week against President Paul Biya, who was ruled the African nation with total authority for the last 28 years. Opposition groups charge that he has rigged elections to keep himself in power and human rights groups, including Amnesty International, accuse authorities of stifling political dissent with extreme violence.

"We want to take charge of our destiny like the people in Egypt and Tunisia did," Kah Walla, an opposition candidate for president in Cameroon working to organize demonstrations, told CNN on Wednesday.

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A poll purporting to show broad support in Wisconsin for Gov. Scott Walker's (R) budget proposal made the rounds today, popping up on at least one Wisconsin news site and getting a mention on MSNBC.

"BREAKING: Poll Shows 71% of Wisconsinites Think Walker's Budget Changes are 'Fair'," screamed the release from the poll's sponsor, the conservative-leaning Franklin Center For Government and Public Integrity, based in Alexandria, VA. More on all that from TPM's Eric Lach here.

The poll was quickly picked up, making an appearance on the news site and getting a shoutout on MSNBC dayside.

There's only one problem: the poll actually shows more Wisconsin voters are on the side of the pro-union protesters and their Democratic allies than back Walker and the Republicans.

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Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is jabbing back at criticism from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, that the first three subpoenas Issa sent out this Congress were "rushed" and "unilateral" and show a scatter-shot approach to investigating aimed at making headlines rather than improving government.

Cummings sent Issa a letter Wednesday accusing him of misusing the committee and failing to adequately consult Democrats before sending out three subpoenas in the last week, one to Bank of America looking for documents related to Countrywide's infamous VIP mortgage program, and two to Department of Homeland Security officials seeking depositions for the committee's investigation into whether DHS politicized FOIA requests.

Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella sent a lengthy response to Cummings' complaints and a detailed timeline, beginning with this quote: "Another day, another complaint and more righteous indignation. What else is new?"

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Republicans can finally relax -- the health care law has finally been repealed. Actually it hasn't -- but only half of all Americans know it.

In a new Kaiser Health poll, just 52% of Americans knew that the health care reform bill signed into law by President Obama is still in place. Meanwhile, one fifth -- 22% -- of all Americans believe that the law has been overturned, while another 26% aren't sure what's up with the law.

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The Wisconsin AFL-CIO is up with a new ad attacking Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal to strip public employee unions of most of their collective bargaining rights -- making quick use of Walker's phone call with blogger Ian Murphy, who was posing as Republican financier David Koch.

Around the Capitol, the phone call is something people are talking about -- a lot. From the protestors yelling about Walker's "Koch habit," to reporters who kept asking him about the call during Wednesday's brief press conference. Indeed, it seems likely Walker will find it difficult to put the call behind him anytime soon -- from his discussion of political gamesmanship, brief considerations about planting fake protesters to start trouble, or his passion for busting the public employee unions in the mold of Ronald Reagan's firing of the air traffic controllers, this thing, as they say, has legs.

Enter the AFL-CIO's ad:

"Gov. Walker is set on eliminating collective bargaining for nurses, teachers, people who live and work in our communities," the announcer says. "He tells us it's for the taxpayers of Wisconsin. But to wealthy GOP funders like David Koch, it's a different story."

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Refraining from eating pork? Giving alms to the poor? These could become criminal activities in Tennessee, where a proposed law would make adherence to Sharia -- or Islamic law -- illegal and punishable with jail time.

While a number of other states have filed legislation seeking to keep Sharia out of the courts, Tennessee is going one giant step further by attempting to outlaw it entirely.

Senate Bill 1028, introduced by State Sen. Bill Ketron, gives the state Attorney General authority to designate "Sharia organizations," defined as "two (2) or more persons conspiring to support, or acting in concert in support of, sharia or in furtherance of the imposition of sharia within any state or territory of the United States." Anyone who provides material support or resources to a designated Sharia organization could be charged with a felony and face up to 15 years in jail.

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Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) could be on his way out of the Senate after just one term.

In a new poll of likely voters conducted by 47 North Communications, Tester trails Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) in a hypothetical 2012 match-up. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they would vote for Rehberg, while only 44% said they would back Tester.

Earlier this month, Rehberg formally announced that he would take on Tester in next year's election.

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It's hard out here for a prostitution lobbyist.

George Flint, who has represented the Select Legal Brothels of Nevada for the last 26 years, is still reeling from Sen. Harry Reid's dramatic call for a statewide ban on the world's oldest profession. Flint, 77, told TPM he was particularly shocked because he and Reid have known each other for over 40 years, going back to the Senator's earliest days in state politics -- yet he's never heard him complain about the business.

"We're more or less personal friends and I'm completely blown out of the water," he said. "I have no idea what it's tied to. It's nothing like he's ever done before. We're all trying to get a handle on it."

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