TPM News

An ethics watchdog group has filed a complaint with a House ethics office, accusing Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) of lying in an attempt to throw off a previous House ethics investigation into her failure to pay almost $500,000 in legal bills.

The group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed its complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics, a quasi-independent body charged with conducting preliminary reviews of allegations against lawmakers and furthering them on to the full Ethics Committee for further action. CREW also asked the FBI to investigate.

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Rick Perry has given a new explanation for his recent dalliance in Birtherism -- the conspiracy theory that claims President Obama was born outside the United States, and is thus not legally eligible to be president at all. Perry now says he does not doubt at all that Obama is an American citizen -- he was just having fun with Donald Trump.

In an interview with Adam C. Smith of the St. Petersburg Times, Smith asked Perry about his having expressed doubts about Obama's birthplace, and what he would say to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has called on GOP candidates to categorically reject the notion.

"I don't think I was expressing doubts," a smiling Perry said. "I was just having some fun with Donald Trump."

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Democrats want the 2012 elections to turn on the question of which party has a better vision for the country, and to win the ensuing battle of public perception, both parties are putting the brightest shine they can on their particular designs.

On Wednesday, the GOP pitted conservative darling Paul Ryan against liberal hero Elizabeth Warren, with Ryan serving as a tribune to wealthy Americans and Warren as a populist fighter for working people.

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Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who took the place of former Sen. John Ensign when he resigned, and Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley are all square in new poll of the Nevada Senate race from Public Policy Polling (D). Both candidates have 46 percent, as Berkley has improved her standing over the last few months but has a ways to go with independent voters in the state.

From PPP:

“Three months ago, voters were split evenly on Berkley personally. A third saw her favorably, another third unfavorably, and the rest were not sure. She has upped her name recognition and positive rating since then, now at a 38-35 spread, similar to Heller’s 39-35 approval margin, which is almost unchanged from 38-35. Strangely, Heller has improved with Democrats, 21% of whom now approve of his performance, but declined with his own party and with independents. Still, independents like Heller far more than Berkley. Unusually for politicians in this climate, both have more enthusiastic bases than antagonistic opposition.

‘This seems like one of those races that will basically be tied for the whole next year,’ said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. ‘The candidates have pretty much identical approval/favorability numbers, and they both hold their bases while splitting independents almost right down the middle. It would be hard for this contest to be any more evenly matched at this point in time.’"

Google is searching for a way to make the U.S. more energy efficient and energy independent.

As part of that effort, the Mountain View, California-based company's philanthropic arm, "Google.org," on Tuesday published a new Google Earth map of the geothermal resources in the continental United States, created from data collected by the Geothermal Laboratory at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas, which received a $489,521 grant from Google for the project.

The new map, an update of a running one that SMU scientists prepared in 2004 and 1992, estimates that the technical potential of geothermal in the U.S. is nearly 3 million megawatts (2,980,295), or 10 times the capacity of all the installed coal power plants in the country today. It's available to view in an image format and also as a downloadable KML layer file for Google Earth.

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CBS News is reporting that Ruth Madoff and her husband Bernie Madoff, multi-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme perpetrator, attempted suicide together.

Updated: 1:20PM

Former lobbyist and congressional staffer Kevin Ring was sentenced to 20 months in prison, with 30 months probation to follow, by a federal judge on Wednesday for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Ring's lawyers had been hoping for a sentence of probation. At a hearing in a courtroom in D.C. federal court, federal prosecutors sought to portray Ring as "number two in the team Abramoff scandal" and sought a sentence of 50 months in jail. That sentence would have been longer than the sentence received by Abramoff himself. A federal prosecutor argued that there "are sentencing disparities, but they are not unwarranted."

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Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has sold a private plane that became a political problem for her last spring, Reuters reports.

McCaskill had charged taxpayers for 89 flights she took on the plane she owns. It was then discovered at least one of the flights was a political trip. Read more coverage here.

In a turn of events that no one could have predicted, the members of the Congressional supercommittee have “deadlocked” over the issue of new tax revenues, CNN reports.

Democrats had offered a plan that included cuts to entitlement prorams, as well as an additional $1.2 to $1.3 trillion in new taxes, but Republicans balked.

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