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A case in which three men allegedly kidnapped a mentally disabled Navajo man and branded him with a coat hanger shaped into a swastika has prompted the first-ever charges under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Tom Perez, the head of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, this week called the crime "a devastatingly persistent reminder that bigotry and hate continue."

According to prosecutors, the three men in their early 20s, all of whom worked at a McDonald's in Farmington, N.M., lured a 22-year-old man, whose name has not been released, into an apartment. While there, they allegedly drew on him, using permanent marker, a pentagram, an ejaculating penis, "white power" and "KKK." They allegedly shaved his head, leaving only the shape of a swastika.

Then, according to prosecutors, they bent a coat hanger into the shape of half a swastika and pressed it into his arm twice, branding him. They took cell phone of the act, allegedly, as well as video of the victim -- whose family says he has the mind of a 12-year-old as a result of being born with fetal alcohol syndrome-- "consenting" to the branding.

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Incoming Budget Committee chairman -- and fiscal commission member -- Paul Ryan (R-WI) will not be voting for the White House Fiscal Commission's report, he told reporters at a breakfast roundtable hosted by the Christian Science Monitor today.

"Obviously I'm not going to vote for it," Ryan said. "I think I pretty much telegraphed that."

Ryan was at pains to praise the commission's chairmen, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, for their efforts, but ultimately criticized the plan dramatically -- in particular, he says, because it reinforces President Obama's health care law.

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Hmm, something seems odd about the House Tea Party Caucus -- the group founded to promote cuts in government spending. As National Journal reports, a new study finds that the caucus' 52 members requested a total of more than $1 billion in this past Congress.

According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available.

"It's disturbing to see the Tea Party Caucus requested that much in earmarks. This is their time to put up or shut up, to be blunt," said David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste. "There's going to be a huge backlash if they continue to request earmarks."

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A Christian minister in Minnesota said on his radio program that the nation's first Muslim member of Congress was soliciting the support of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to implement Sharia law. Follow his logic with us, wouldn't you?

Bradlee Dean of the religious ministry You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International said on his radio program that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) is only supporting LGBT rights as part of a strategy to bring Sharia law to the United States, the Minnesota Independent reported.

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Sen. Jim DeMint is already hitting the virtual campaign trail for the 2012 Senate races, National Journal reports, with his Senate Conservatives Fund leadership PAC sending out a fundraising email targeting four red-state Democrats who voted against the earmark moratorium.

The targeted Senators are Jon Tester (D-MT), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Kent Conrad (D-ND) and the newly-elected Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who just won a special election and is up for a vote again in 2012. All four of them hail from states that were carried by John McCain in 2008.

"These senators are nice folks but they have ignored the will of the American people and they must be replaced with principled conservatives in 2012," DeMint says in the email. "That's where the Senate Conservatives Fund comes in and it's where you can help."

DeMint then adds that his PAC will need "at least $4 million" for these four targeted races.

Four of the many candidates seeking to replace Michael Steele at the head of the Republican National Committee took a break from the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing of an RNC chair race yesterday to make their case to the tea party. Whether the tea party paid attention is still anyone's guess.

Former Michigan GOP chair Saul Anuzis, former Ambassador and Missouri GOP chair Ann Wagner, former RNC chair Mike Duncan and recently departed RNC political director Gentry Collins gathered for a debate of sorts before an audience of tea partiers hosted by FreedomWorks in Washington. Of the four who appeared, only Anuzis and Wagner are official candidates, though Collins is expected to jump into the race officially at any moment. Duncan's appearance was something of a surprise, though he clearly came prepared to mount a run at the job he lost to Steele in 2009.

The movement that has come to define the Republican Party this year was invited by members of the GOP establishment to play a part in electing the chair. Establishment types hope that by bringing the tea party to the table, they can unite a party still fractured somewhat after nasty primaries. The debate featured a number of questions about how to go about doing that -- but few answers.

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Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is also a presumptive candidate for President in the 2012 election, which was a topic of conversation on The Tonight Show last night. Host Jay Leno opened the light, if not somewhat boring interview with questions about a potential White House bid, to which Romney replied, "If you ever see me sign up for a gig on Fox News, it'll be a clear indication that I've decided to run for president," adding "that's not in the cards anytime soon, thanks."

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Two former federal prosecutors who were suspended from the House ethics committee -- both of whom previously worked for Republican appointed judges -- reportedly kept probing allegations against Rep. Maxine Waters even after the subcommittee recommended the California Democrat be tried for ethics violations.

Cindy Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign apparently ruffled feathers by continuing to investigate Waters after the investigative subcommittee made its recommendations in August, several Republican sources on Capitol Hill told the Washington Post.

"They were pushing too hard" to broaden the investigation, one Republican staff aide told the newspaper. Kim and Sovereign circulated a memo supporting the postponement of the trial and imploring the committee to investigate further, the source said.

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The state of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Justice have refused to defend former District Attorney Kenneth Kratz, who is facing a lawsuit from a woman who alleges Kratz sent her sexually suggestive text messages while he was handling her domestic abuse case.

State Justice Department spokesman William Cosh confirmed to TPM that the DOJ declined to represent Kratz, who is also under criminal investigation by the Wisconsin DOJ, which Cosh said "remains an open and ongoing investigation."

Cosh noted that it would be up to the Governor to decide whether the state should provide a defense for Kratz, which Chief Legal Counsel Susan Crawford declined to do yesterday evening.

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