TPM News

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be headlining a Tea Party rally this weekend, at a venue that has served as the stage for some very high-profile protests of late: The Wisconsin state Capitol building in Madison.

The state Capitol, of course, was the site of massive protests both outside and inside the building, as tens of thousands of people gathered to show (and shout) their opposition to Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union agenda. But now, as the Wisconsin State Journal reports, Palin will be coming to town to rally the other side.

And check out this nugget from the paper's report:

Americans for Prosperity is organizing busses to the event. Last year's gathering featured former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson and others.

Americans for Prosperity is, of course, a Koch financed group. The Koch name has popped up quite a bit in the Wisconsin protests -- most notably after Walker's 20-minute phone call in late February with blogger Ian Murphy, who was posing as David Koch. During that call, Walker discussed his ideas for tricking the Democrats into coming back by pretending to negotiate, his ambition to bust the public employee unions in the mold of President Reagan firing the air traffic controllers -- an event that Walker said had led to the downfall of the Soviet Union -- and that he had considered (but ruled out) planting troublemakers in the crowds of protesters.

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Testifying before the House Oversight Committee, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) defended his administration's combative approach to unions amid aggressive questioning from House Democrats and his fellow witness, Vermont Governor Pete Shumlin (D).

"In Wisconsin, we are doing something truly progressive," Walker said in his opening remarks. "In addition to holding the line on spending and finding efficiencies in state government, we are implementing long term budget reforms focused on protecting middle class jobs and middle class taxpayers."

Ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and others repeatedly pressed Walker to explain why he targeted collective bargaining rights when unions had already agreed to budget cuts to help close a deficit.

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Only three months removed from Governor Rick Scott's (R) inauguration, a majority of Florida voters now say the state is headed in the wrong direction and that, if they could do it all over again, they wouldn't have elected Scott in the first place, according to a new Suffolk University poll.

In the poll, 54% of voters said the state was headed in the wrong direction, compared to 30% who said it was going the right way. Further, just under half (49%) of all voters said they disapproved of Scott's job performance, versus only 28% who said they approved.

Scott's approval rating is so bad that the poll found him losing a hypothetical do-over election to Democrat Alex Sink by a ten-point margin, 41% to 31%.

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) predicted Thursday that the spending cut deal he negotiated with President Obama will pass the House on a bipartisan basis, averting a government shutdown. But he sidestepped questions about how many of his own members will defect because the immediate savings are unexpectedly small.

"It's a bipartisan agreement to cut the spending," Boehner said at his weekly Capitol briefing with reporters. "I believe that it will pass with a bipartisan majority today."

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Wisconsin Democrats are now crying foul over election administration in heavily Republican Waukesha County -- and not just in the recent Supreme Court race, in which County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus (R) announced the discovery of 14,000 untabulated votes from a whole municipality that put conservative Justice David Prosser ahead. In a letter to the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections, state Dem chair Mike Tate is now raising doubts about the county's tabulated votes in the narrowly decided 2006 state attorney general race.

Key quote from the letter:

The Waukesha County Clerk website Tuesday said there were 118,342 votes for Van Hollen and 55,608 votes for Falk, a total of 173,950 votes. (There are an additional 97 write-in votes tabulated for a total of 174,047 votes assigned to candidates from Waukesha County.)

However, at the top of the same page, the Waukesha County Clerk, under the heading "BALLOTS CAST - TOTAL," the number of total ballots reported is 156,804. This is an under- reporting of 17,243 votes. I note with serious concern that this discrepancy is more than enough to have swung the statewide election against the Republican and for the Democrat.

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The federal government has asked a judge to throw out the state of Arizona's lawsuit over border security, calling the suit "of a political nature" and coloring it as an attempt to spin the government's own suit against Arizona over its controversial immigration law.

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House Democrats may be back in the minority, but apparently they haven't lost their fundraising touch. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced today that they had raised $19.6 million for the quarter, outpacing their GOP counterparts who raised $18 million.

The National Republican Congressional Committee still has more cash on hand, however, at $9 million to the Democrats' $4.6 million. They each hold about $8 million in debt.

The NRCC touted their March fundraising numbers as their best ever, while the DCCC sought to portray their strong quarter as a sign the House might again be in play in 2012. A recent polling analysis by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling suggested that Democrats were in a position to potentially threaten the Republican majority given the GOP's dwindling approval ratings.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi suggested Thursday that Democratic votes will push the spending compromise over the top -- even if Republicans defect in large numbers over a new report suggesting the bill will cut less than a billion dollars in government spending.

"I have always thought that if he [House Speaker John Boehner] didn't have enough votes -- if he didn't get 218 on his own -- that there would be Democrats who could help put it over the top," Pelosi said at a Capitol press conference. "It's just a question of how big that disparity is."

"I assume they have the votes," she added. "They seem pretty confident. You sound less confident than they do."

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by John Sullivan, Special to ProPublica

In the fall of 2001, inspectors with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were so concerned about possible corrosion at Ohio's Davis Besse Nuclear Power Station that they prepared an emergency order to shut it down for inspection. But, according to a report from the NRC inspector general, senior officials at the agency held off - in part because they did not want to hurt the plant's bottom line.

When workers finally checked the reactor in February of 2002, they made an astonishing finding: Corrosive fluid from overhead pipes had eaten a football-sized hole in the reactor vessel's steel side. The only thing preventing a leak of radioactive coolant was a pencil-thin layer of stainless steel.

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