TPM News


By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

Nissan's all-electric Leaf isn't having a great time of it this week in the mainstream media.

Firstly, Nissan had to defend itself against popular British motoring entertainment program Top Gear after it showed the electric hatchback in a less-than favorable light, quoting a battery expert who said the Leaf's 24 kilowatt hour battery pack would need replacing after just three years.

Now British newspaper The Telegraph has joined in the fight, claiming that a new battery pack for the Leaf would cost owners a few hundred dollars shy of $32,000.

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The liberal groups Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the Wisconsin division of Democracy For America, and MoveOn have a new ad up in the state Senate recalls, going after one of the higher-value targets, state Joint Finance Committee co-chair Alberta Darling.

The ad features a local resident, introducing himself as a teacher. "To me, nothing is more important than education," the man says. "But Alberta Darling voted for budget cuts that hurt our community schools, all to give tax cuts to the rich and big corporations."

"I've voted Republican in the past. I've voted for Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush. And I've voted for Alberta Darling. But we need someone on our side -- I'm voting for Sandy Pasch for State Senate."

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A firm with no apparent purpose or even clear address donated $1 million to Restore Our Future, a Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney, before closing up shop.

The cash and its mysterious origins, first reported on by NBC's Michael Isikoff, raise significant questions about the limits of campaign money in the post-Citizens United era. Super PACs, which can accept unlimited corporate donations to run independent political ads, are required to disclose their donors. But the firm, W Spann LLC, which was formed in Delaware in March by a Boston lawyer and dissolved in July, is a private company and can thus conceal details of its backers and agenda.

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Of the four party leaders on Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the most disciplined. So when he says, for instance, his top priority is making Barack Obama a one-term President, it isn't a slip up. With that in mind, here's what he told the Washington Post about the debt limit fight.

"I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn't think that. What we did learn is this -- it's a hostage that's worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done."

This captures the legislative dynamic on Capitol Hill with blunt honesty. When they won an extension of the Bush tax cuts in December 2010, before their newly elected members were sworn in, Republicans settled on a strategy that works -- and they'll have plenty of opportunities to employ it again in the months ahead.

In fact it's already happening.

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It is now the home stretch of the Wisconsin state Senate recalls, with six elections this Tuesday targeting incumbent Republicans -- which could potentially flip control of the chamber to the Democrats -- to be followed by two more elections targeting Democrats the week after. And the usually obscure world of state legislative races has seen a lot of money flooding into the state.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, the labor-backed group We Are Wisconsin announced that it raised a total of $9.7 million for the recalls. The numbers are not as clear on the other side, but the paper reports that conservative groups are estimated to have actually spent slightly more than the liberals on the elections, though not by a huge margin.

For example, the Capital Times reports that the Club For Growth's Wisconsin division has spent an estimated $3 million to $4 million on issue ads in the races -- compared to just $1 million they had previously spent in the state in the last four years.

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On Tuesday TPM reported on a new Pew study that said the Tea Party and conservative Americans had essentially outworked their liberal counterparts on the debt ceiling debate: Tea Partiers had paid more attention and were more likely to have taken action to influence the outcome of the debt battle.

Then in an interview with CBS, House Speaker John Boehner was happy to be considered the victor in the debt talks, saying he'd been able to get 98% of what he wanted.

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Oregon Rep. David Wu (D) announced Wednesday evening that he has notified Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) of his resignation, effective from 11:59 p.m.

Wu, who has been accused of having an "unwanted" sexual encounter with the teenage daughter of a campaign donor, announced that he would resign following a vote on the debt ceiling, which took place this week.

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Tim Pawlenty is now making an unusual move in the run-up to the politically crucial Iowa Straw Poll: Pulling his TV and radio ads for the 72 hours running up to the event next weekend, focusing instead on his on-the-ground turnout operation.

Politico reports that the Pawlenty campaign insists the redirection of funds is not because they might be short on cash, but is simply a matter of wanting to concentrate on their turnout operation. "It's such a small universe of people, we really want to focus on people we know are supporting us -- focus on turnout mode instead of name ID and recruitment," said campaign adviser Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Pawlenty had previously reserved $200,000 in TV and radio ads for the Des Moines-Ames media market, which is now being diverted. By contrast, his fellow Minnesotan (and apparent Iowa frontrunner) Michele Bachmann just launched a whole new ad, boasting of her vote against the debt-ceiling increase -- and asking viewers to head to the straw poll in Ames.