TPM News

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV). Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). Former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX). Rep. Don Young (R-AK). Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV). What do all these politicians have in common? Despite being embroiled in scandal, all have announced in the past year that the Justice Department wouldn't be pursuing charges against them.

That has put DOJ in the crosshairs of good government groups, who say they've appeared weak by shutting down high-profile investigations of members of Congress.

"Exactly what will a politician have to do for the Department of Justice to sit up and take notice?" Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said this month. "The department might as well disband the Public Integrity Section for all the good it does."

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South Carolinians literally had a ball last night celebrating the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. The secession ball, organized by the Confederate Heritage Trust -- and sponsored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans -- reportedly featured a 45-minute theatrical play re-enacting the signing of the Ordinance of Secession, where South Carolina declared its intention to secede from the union.

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The city of Bell, CA is nearly broke after city officials used public funds to inflate their salaries, and is now facing painful cuts to the city's budget, including possibly disbanding its police department and slashing other city services.

Some of the officials in this blue-collar Los Angeles-area city made up to $96,000 a year for part-time elected positions -- 20 times the national average for a city Bell's size. Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo, who was charged with 53 different counts, made nearly $800,000 a year. Eight Bell officials pleaded not guilty to the charges in October.

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Fox News' Shep Smith is continuing to hammer Republican senators who wouldn't pass the 9/11 first responders bill, this time calling out by name those who wouldn't appear on his show to discuss the issue.

"We called a lot of Republicans today who are in office at the moment," he said Monday afternoon. "These are the ones who told us 'no': Senators Alexander, Barrasso, Cornyn, Crapo, DeMint, Enzi, Grassley, Kyl, McConnell, Sessions, Baucus, Gregg, and Inhofe. No response from Bunning, Coburn, Ensign, Graham, Hatch, and McCain."

"Why does no one want to talk about this?" Smith asked.

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For the Tea Party Express, old habits die hard. TPE's PAC, Our Country Deserves Better, continued through the election cycle with its track record of raising money in support of grass-roots tea party candidates and then funneling those donations to the Republican consulting firm that founded it, recent filings show.

In a month-long period surrounding the midterm elections, a whopping 73 percent of funds raised -- totaling $599,377 -- was paid out to Russo Marsh and Associates, the Sacramento-based GOP political consulting firm that essentially founded the PAC in 2008, for miscellaneous costs including travel, consulting fees and media buys.

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Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL) last month ordered the Capitol Police to block the doors of the ethics committee offices for a week during a partisan dispute over the handling of the ethics case against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), the Washington Post reported.

A Capitol Police officer guarded the door of the ethics committee offices during Thanksgiving week and about eight staffers were told not to come to work, sources told the Post last week. Reached by TPM, a spokesman in Bonner's office declined to comment. Lofgren's office referred all questions to the ethics committee, which has not offered comment.

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Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) today announced that he would both vote in favor of cloture on the START treaty and for its eventual passage, bucking GOP leadership. Many of his party's leaders have been complaining that they haven't had enough time to review the treaty, signed in April, and that last weekend's Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal vote "poisoned" the lame duck session.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs announced earlier today that the Administration expects the treaty to pass, due in part to Senators like Brown willing to buck party leadership on the legislation.

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by Karen Weise, ProPublica

On Friday, Arizona and Nevada both filed suit against Bank of America, saying it deceived homeowners trying to avoid foreclosures. The suits allege that Bank of America knowingly misled homeowners in the loan modification process, regularly promising quick help when the process instead dragged out over months if not years, foreclosing on homeowners during the modification process despite promises that homeowners would be safe and making "false" promises to homeowners that their trial modifications would become permanent, among other complaints.

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There is a lot to see in this clip from The McLaughlin Group including a wildly colorful sports jacket worn by host John McLaughlin and an even more colorful commentary by conservative commentator Pat Buchanan as he established the arguments against repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell military policy. With most public figures championing repeal as a positive and historical civil rights moment, it's at least unique to hear the opposing view argued so passionately by Buchanan.

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Let's take a further look at the Citizens Council, the Civil Rights-era segregationist group that was recently praised by potential presidential candidate Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) -- for keeping order, he said, by deterring Ku Klux Klan activity during the civil rights movement.

Here is a Council newspaper from 1956, based in Jackson, Mississippi (which is roughly 40 miles from Barbour's hometown of Yazoo City). The paper includes such headlines as: "Christian Love And Segregation"; "Council Movement Spreads As Nation Reacts to Danger"; "Negroes Taking Over"; "Baptists Rap Mixing" (note: In 1950's American English, "rap" in this context meant to harshly criticize, similar to "blast" in a headline now); "Rape In Germany," warning of alleged rapes of German women by African-American soldiers; "Lady Veteran Raps Hospital Mixology"; and "Enemy Made Large Gains In 1955."

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