TPM News

Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to lead the Cherokee native American tribe, died today at 64. The White House released the following statement on behalf of the President:

I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Wilma Mankiller today. As the Cherokee Nation's first female chief, she transformed the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the Cherokee Nation and the Federal Government, and served as an inspiration to women in Indian Country and across America. A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she was recognized for her vision and commitment to a brighter future for all Americans. Her legacy will continue to encourage and motivate all who carry on her work. Michelle and I offer our condolences to Wilma's family, especially her husband Charlie and two daughters, Gina and Felicia, as well as the Cherokee Nation and all those who knew her and were touched by her good works.

Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R) has put another $20 million of her own money into her campaign to become the next governor of California. That brings her total self-financing thus far to an astonishing $59 million -- the latest in a long line of candidates who have spent lavishly on their campaigns, and who have sometimes done so quite successfully.

Whitman's spending is paying off so far. The TPM Poll Average shows her with a huge lead in the Republican primary, ahead of state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner by 59.6%-18.0%. And in the general election, she has taken a narrow lead over state Attorney General Jerry Brown, himself a former governor and presidential candidate, by 43.7%-41.5%. Whitman's campaign has raised another $11.8 million from outside contributors, and her campaign has said she is willing to spend $150 million of her own money on the race.

So let's take a look at some other major self-financiers -- not simply people who spent $1 million, or $2 million, or $10 million, but tens and tens of millions of dollars, or have even crossed the $100 million line. After all, it's quite conceivable that between the June 8 primary and the November general election, Whitman could end up outdoing them all in one campaign, in the country's biggest state.

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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."