TPM News

Former Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), who moderated an event on behalf of the Iranian opposition group MEK in Washington D.C. two weeks ago, told TPM in an interview that he is "personally offended" that the group is currently considered a terrorist organization by the State Department. He acknowledged that some of the group's history -- which includes the assassination of several U.S. military personnel and civilians in the 1970s -- is "not good," but argued that the MEK has changed, and is now "one of the only effective tools against the government in Tehran."

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Over a three year period, the Defense Department spent hundreds of billions of dollars on defense contractors who paid millions in civil fines to resolve fraud cases -- and even spent $682 million on 30 contractors who were convicted in criminal fraud cases.

That's according to a report prepared by the Pentagon thanks to a provision in their spending bill by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that requires them to prepare a report on the fraud committed by contractors. The latest report covers fiscal years 2007 through 2009, and says that the government paid $270 billion to 91 various contractors who were involved in civil fraud cases that resulted in judgments of more than $1 million.

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Last year, Republican Carly Fiorina put a scare into the Democratic Party by making her race against incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) seem close, if only for a few months. Yet Republicans may have less cause for excitement when they challenge Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) in 2012, as a new PPP poll shows Feinstein dominating a slate of prominent GOP challengers by anywhere from 14 to 34 points.

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The Senate Ethics Committee's decision to appoint a special counsel to lead the investigation into activities surrounding Sen. John Ensign's (R-NV) affair with a political staffer is raising age-old questions about the panel's relevancy.

Members of Congress are the first to admit that they hate serving on the Ethics Committee, and policing their peers puts them in an unusually awkward position. If that's the case and the panel has to farm out its work to true professional investigators, then why have lawmakers investigating their colleagues misbehavior in the first place?

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NBC News and Politico hope to kick off the 2012 presidential race with one of the earliest televised debates in recent memory, scheduled for May 2 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. But it sounds like the show might have to go on without one of the top contenders for the nomination.

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt this afternoon, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he hasn't accepted the invitation to appear at the debate yet, and criticized the timing of the event which comes more than 6 months before the first Iowa voters head out to caucus.

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An effort spearheaded by Republicans to repeal the new health care law collapsed Wednesday evening after the Senate refused to ignore its adverse impact on the deficit.

By a vote of 47-51, the Senate sustained an objection to the legislation on the grounds that it does not comply with congressional budget rules. Because a full repeal of the law is projected to increase the deficit, waiving that point of order would have required 60 votes.

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Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is now no longer the only Democratic state attorney general in the country to have joined the lawsuit against health care reform -- he has now officially switched parties to the Republicans.

Caldwell was first elected as a Democrat in 2007, after serving as a district attorney, defeating unpopular Democratic incumbent Charles Foti and Republican candidate Royal Alexander. Now, as Louisiana has another state-level election year, he announced today that he is switching to the Republicans.

Caldwell's move now leaves Sen. Mary Landrieu as the only statewide elected Democrat, in a state where Republicans have made significant gains over the past decade.

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Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) is already taking the gloves off against his soon-to-be Republican opponent, Rep. Denny Rehberg, pointing out that Rehberg will reportedly be launching his campaign at a state GOP dinner this weekend featuring...Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann!

In an appearance on ABC's Top Line Web program, Tester tied Rehberg to Bachmann's recent budget proposal, which calls for freezes and cuts in veterans' benefits.

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Planned Parenthood has fired an employee who apparently advised a man pretending to be a pimp to underage girls and illegal immigrants. The New Jersey attorney general is also investigating.

The firing stems from an undercover video released by the anti-abortion, anti-Planned Parenthood group LiveAction. LiveAction staged visits to eight Planned Parenthood clinics this month, including the Central New Jersey clinic shown in the video, during which an activist pretended to be a pimp. He told employees that he "managed girls," including 14- and 15-year-olds and illegal immigrants, and wanted to know how to get them tested for sexually transmitted diseases and potentially get abortions without alerting authorities.

In the video, a manager at the clinic appears to advise the man and a female companion on how to avoid scrutiny by having the girls lie about their age or go to another non-Planned Parenthood clinic altogether.

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