TPM News

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) needed someone to reform his state's government and shrink its budget. So who's he turning to? Fred Malek: right-wing insider and former President Richard Nixon's "Jew counter."

On Friday, McDonnell released a list of 31 names -- the members of his "Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring," which, according to the Washington Post, "will consider closing some of the state's 130 agencies" and will "consider selling the state's 350 liquor stores."

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A Republican fundraising pro who was fired from the RNC after putting purchases at a high-end jewelry boutique on the party's tab, could potentially wind up in more hot water.

Debbie LeHardy was terminated Friday as the RNC's deputy finance director. Last month, reporters for Alternet and other outlets, combing through the RNC's FEC filings in the wake of the recent scandal over a night out at a bondage-themed night-club, found that LeHardy was reimbursed for a $450 purchase from Henri Bendel, a Manhattan jewelry and accessories boutique that touts itself as a "girls' playground for trendsetting young women from around the world." Though the store has no restaurant, the expenditure was listed on the FEC report as a meal.

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Liberals have been warning President Obama for weeks that Republicans and conservative activists would fight and seek to delay confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee no matter whom he picked. Turns out they were right.

In an April 22 conference call with RNC members, which was recorded and passed my way by a source, activist Curt Levey, director of the conservative Committee for Justice, offered Republican operatives candid strategic advice, pressing them to put up a fight against even the most moderate of judges, and providing a glimpse of the GOP's playbook for obstructing Obama nominees.

The crux of the GOP's strategy is to use Obama's nominee to wedge vulnerable Democratic senators away from the party, and drag the confirmation fight out until the August congressional recess, to eat up precious time Democrats need to round out their agenda.

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After Defense Secretary Robert Gates outraged gay activists by telling Congress to wait to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell until after a policy review is finished this December, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee asked him to clarify what, exactly, that review is for.

Is its purpose, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) asked in a letter (PDF), to determine "whether" to repeal the statute, or "how" to repeal it?

It's "how," Gates wrote in response.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has released a statement on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court -- and it mirrors positive comments he has made about Kagan in the past.

"Solicitor General Kagan has a strong academic background in the law. I have been generally pleased with her job performance as Solicitor General, particularly regarding legal issues related to the War on Terror. I look forward to meeting her again, this time to discuss her qualifications to sit on the highest court in the land," Graham said in a statement. "As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I intend to be fair and firm in my questioning of the nominee. The hearings can be a valuable public service as they give us a window into the nominee's judicial philosophy and disposition. I hope we will have a meaningful opportunity to explore the qualifications, judicial temperament, and judicial philosophy of Ms. Kagan."

Graham has previously talked up Kagan, saying "I like her." At the same time, though, he also cautioned: "It doesn't mean I'm going to vote for her." As the Huffington Post wryly observed at the time, this could have potentially damaged Kagan among liberals -- Graham was referring to Kagan's positions on executive power.

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The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is pulling out of the HI-01 special election --effectively ceding a district that President Obama carried with 70% of the vote, but where two Democratic candidates have been splitting the vote in an unusual race.

"The DCCC will not be investing additional resources in the HI-01 (Abercrombie-open) special election. Local Democrats were unable to work out their differences," said DCCC communications director Jennifer Crider said in a statement to The Hotline. "The DCCC will save the resources we would have invested in the Hawaii special election this month for the general election in November."

It appears then, that the DCCC's plan is to let Djou take this seat for the GOP in two weeks, and then work to kick him out in November, when the election will be conducted under the normal rules of one Democrats vs. one Republican in a normally deep-blue seat.

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Sometimes it's just too easy. In the course of defending the record of Supreme Court Nominee Elana Kagan at a press conference today, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy broadsided Republicans, who, he said, could find a reason to oppose even the purest of nominees.

"We have some Republicans who would automatically oppose anybody who was nominated," Leahy said. "The President could nominate Moses the Law Giver. In fact I told the President, I said you realize if you'd nominated Moses the Law Giver, somebody would raise, 'but he doesn't have a birth certificate! Where's his birth certificate!'"

Leahy dismissed both conservative and liberal critiques of Kagan, trumpeting her experience outside the judiciary, and highlighting her years of scholarship. "It would be hard to find people in this country who would stand out as a greater legal scholar than she does," Leahy insisted. "She will be confirmed." Kagan's critics, particularly her liberal ones, have focused on her thin publishing history as an academic, and her substantive political views remain a mystery even to long-time friends.

In fairness to Republicans, they'd also likely characterize Moses as a judicial activist who foisted Ten Commandments on the people.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), who is challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary next week, is quick to embrace the nomination of Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court -- and to use it against the ex-Republican Specter, who voted against Kagan last year when she was nomination for solicitor general and he was still in the GOP.

"My opponent, Senator Specter, has already made his views about the President's nominee clear by voting against her confirmation to be Solicitor General, even as seven of his fellow Republicans approved her nomination," Sestak said in a statement. "I expect Senator Specter may backtrack from his earlier vote on Ms. Kagan this week in order to help himself in the upcoming primary election, but the people of Pennsylvania have no way of knowing where he will stand after May 18."

The TPM Poll Average gives Specter a lead of 45.0%-39.1%, with Sestak gaining fast in the last several weeks. The most recent polls have shown Sestak taking the lead.

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RNC Chairman Michael Steele released the following statement today on President Obama's nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, in which he claimed that Kagan supported statements suggesting the Constitution "as originally drafted and conceived" was "defective."

Here's the full text:

Over the past year, the American people have been witness to President Obama's massive expansion of the federal government into our daily lives. To assure the American people, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, will need to demonstrate that she is committed to upholding the vision of our Founding Fathers, who wrote a Constitution meant to limit the power of government, not expand it.

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