TPM News

The conservative-controlled U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Monday accused the Justice Department of "delaying and smothering" the agency's investigation into the handling of a voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party.

Late last month, commissioners subpoenaed four Justice Department staff members as part of their probe into DOJ's handling of the voter intimidation case which stemmed from an incident in Philadelphia on Election Day in 2008. In a letter sent last week, the Justice Department agreed to allow the testimony of three Justice Department officials, so long as their testimony would be reflected in the Commission's report.

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As Congress prepares to transition into its 112th session, C-SPAN is again pressing the House to allow its own cameras to cover floor debates.

Currently, the cameras used to cover House floor debates are owned and operated by Congress. Under the House rules, wide shots and reactionary shots are prohibited. Media outlets must rely on the feed provided by Congress. But C-SPAN argues that allowing its own cameras to televise floor debates would result in a more open, transparent government.

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The House ethics committee has found that "no material fact is in dispute" in Rep. Charlie Rangel's ethics case, and the committee has gone back into executive session to decide whether Rangel did indeed break ethics law.

The finding means that the committee accepts the facts of the case -- that Rangel (D-NY) raised money for an educational center using Congressional letterhead, that he filed inaccurate tax returns and financial disclosures, that he used a rent-controlled apartment as a campaign office -- as true. Chairman Zoe Lofgren announced the decision in a brief statement before the committee returned to executive session.

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Chalk up one win for the tea party movement over the establishment. In a speech on the Senate floor just now, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he'll be voting for the Republican moratorium on earmarks pushed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and many incoming tea party freshmen.

"Nearly every day that the Senate's been in session for the past two years, I've come down to this very spot, and said that Democrats were ignoring the wishes of the American people," McConnell said. "When it comes to earmarks, I won't be guilty of the same thing."

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It may not make Sarah Palin's tweets any easier to read, but maybe she was on to something when she combined the words "refute" and "repudiate" into the now infamous "refudiate."

The New Oxford American Dictionary has named 'refudiate' its 2010 Word of the Year, defining it as:

refudiate: verb used loosely to mean "reject": she called on them to refudiate the proposal to build a mosque. 
[origin -- blend of refute and repudiate]

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Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), the defacto leader of the tea party-fueled movement to ban earmarking by Republican Senators in the next Congress, says he's got the votes to pass a moratorium when the incoming caucus meets for the first time tomorrow.

"We probably have the edge by a vote or two," DeMint told reporters on a conference call sponsored by the Heritage Foundation this morning. He credited the incoming freshman class -- which includes vehement anti-earmarkers like Mike Lee (UT) and Rand Paul (KY) -- with providing the extra votes needed to pass a moratorium over the wishes of caucus leader Mitch McConnell.

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Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin is scheduled to be court martialed on December 14 after refusing orders to deploy to Afghanistan amid his questions about President Obama's eligibility to serve as Commander-In-Chief. In the lead-up to the court martial, the American Patriot Foundation, the group that set up his legal defense fund, launched "Terry Lakin Action Week," and invoked Nuremberg to argue Lakin's case:

Since Nuremberg, servicemembers are trained to question illegal orders, yet for more than a year, no one in the Pentagon could answer LTC Lakin's simple question-- is there proof that the CINC is legally, Constitutionally eligible to be in charge of the U.S. Armed Forces?

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As former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's corruption trial continues, prosecutors have finally introduced evidence tying DeLay to a money swap orchestrated by his Texas PAC which the prosecutors say was illegal.

DeLay is accused of money laundering during the 2002 Texas state house campaign. His state PAC allegedly collected $190,000 in corporate donations, then funneled that money through the RNC and into the campaigns of seven Republican candidates. Corporate donations are illegal in Texas.

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Several media reports suggest the vultures are circling Michael Steele's Republican National Committee chairmanship. But it's not quite over yet, according to one voting member of the Republican National Committee who says he's supporting Steele. That member laid out Steele's path to victory in a phone interview with TPM this morning.

David Lewis is a four-term North Carolina state Representative and a voting member of his state's RNC delegation. Along with the rest of the 168 voting members of the RNC, Lewis will cast his vote in January to elect the party's next chairman. And at this point, he says Steele's still the man to beat -- and the candidate who has his vote.

"This race is not played out in the press," Lewis said. "I'd be confident to say [Steele] has 100 votes."

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