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Dylan Scott

Dylan Scott is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He previously reported for Governing magazine in Washington, D.C., and the Las Vegas Sun. His work has been recognized with a 2013 American Society of Business Publication Editors award for Best Feature Series and a 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio award for Best Investigative Reporting. He can be reached at dylan@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Dylan

Earlier this month, Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson testified for nearly four hours to the St. Louis County grand jury that will decide whether he will be indicted for the Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

It was a striking moment. The subject of a grand jury investigation rarely risks the legal consequences of testifying before they have even been charged. But it was, at least in theory, in keeping with the prosecutor's pledge to put every piece of evidence before the jurors. Anthony Gray, one of the attorneys for the Brown family, had a visceral reaction to the news of Wilson's testimony, though: "The only thing that happened for over four hours was Mike Brown's body laying on concrete."

"I can't imagine what he could talk about for four hours," Gray told TPM in a recent phone interview, "about an incident that took in total a matter of minutes."

It crystallizes the deep-seated distrust between the authorities and the Brown family specifically and the Ferguson community more broadly, a tension that has become centered on one of the most closely watched grand juries in years. As recently as last week, both sides were unable to see eye-to-eye about what role the Brown family could even play in the investigation. In interviews with TPM, lawyers for the family cast doubt on the prosecutor's motives, and the prosecutor's office expressed skepticism that the family would have any evidence relevant to the case that the police do not already have.

The grand jury began hearing evidence on Aug. 20. In most cases, the prosecutor directs the investigation with specific charges in mind, which then dictates what evidence is presented to the jurors. But not this time. Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, whose office is overseeing the case and who has come under scrutiny in the Ferguson community for his ties to law enforcement, has said that the jury will see everything.

“We will be presenting absolutely everything to this grand jury -- every statement that any witness made, every witness, every photograph, every piece of physical evidence,” McCulloch said last month “Absolutely nothing will be left out.”

McCulloch has been a controversial figure. Protesters have pointed to his past, which includes the 1964 shooting of his father, a police officer, in the line of duty. He has tried to counter that through pledges of transparency and assigning day-to-day oversight of the grand jury to two deputies, one whom is black.

Still, the unusual nature of the grand jury proceedings has raised eyebrows, and former prosecutors have told TPM that the approach would undoubtedly give McCulloch some public-relations cover if the jury decides not to indict Wilson. In fact, one suggested that there was a easy way to help one understand how truly transparent this grand jury would be.

"If they're doing this wide open grand jury investigation, is it simply the district attorney's office who's deciding what witnesses are going in there?" Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who is now a law professor at Loyola University in Los Angeles, told TPM. "Or have they reached out to the lawyers of the family or other people? Are they actually soliciting input from other parties?"

"That can give you an idea of whether this is just cover," she said, "or this is really a community investigation."

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His support for "personhood," the anti-abortion policy that defines life as beginning at the moment of conception, has put Colorado GOP Senate nominee Cory Gardner in such a political bind that he's forced to come up with creative new ways of convincing people he doesn't actually support it.

At the beginning of his Senate campaign, Gardner disavowed his previous support for personhood, which included backing state ballot initiatives. But there is only one problem: Gardner still co-sponsors a federal personhood bill.

To counter, it seems, he has taken to simply denying it exists.

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Both Alaska Senate candidates want to be in the good graces of the state's other U.S. senator, Lisa Murkowski (R), with each of them going up on the air with ads that seek to align their campaign with the 12-year senator.

Incumbent Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, already ran afoul of Murkowski when he aired an ad that talked up their amiable working relationship. Murkowski sent Begich's campaign a cease-and-desist letter to take it down, but Begich refused and his campaign manager told TPM that the ad had been a hit with voters.

Now Begich is up with a new ad that features the same Associated Press photograph of Begich and Murkwoski side by side and smiling.

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Former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker (R-KS) refused to film a campaign TV ad on behalf of vulnerable incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), the Kansas City Star reported Tuesday.

Kassebaum Baker represented Kansas in the Senate from 1978 to 1997 and was succeeded by Roberts, who had been a congressman. Her father Alf Landon was governor of Kansas and the Republican nominee against FDR in 1936.

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Last week, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) made the startling claim that he (and, by implication, other Republicans) had been urging active duty military generals to resign if they disagreed with President Barack Obama's policies.

“Let me reassure you on this,” Lamborn told a gathering of tea party voters in Colorado Springs on Sept. 23, according to the Colorado Independent. “A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation.’

“You know, let’s have a public resignation, and state your protest, and go out in a blaze of glory," he said.

Now Lamborn's comments have been condemned by some of his fellow Republicans, and a retired military officer told TPM that an effort by a politician to get military officers to resign for political reasons is highly unorthodox.

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On Monday, Republican operatives seemed to think they had a bonafide gamechanging gaffe on their hands. In a video debunked by Business Insider, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) appeared to endorse one of the widely discredited 9/11 conspiracy theories in 2007. “There’s some evidence that were charges planted in the buildings that brought them down," Udall could be quoted as saying -- if one were to take him completely out of context, which the Insider report showed he had been.

By the end of the day, even conservative news outlets were ripping the attempted opposition research dump, which was given to the news outlet by a "conservative tipster," as bogus.

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On the night of Sept. 11, two gay men were walking on a downtown Philadelphia street, just a few blocks away from one of the most gay-friendly areas in the city. But by the end of the night, they were in the hospital, one of them with their jaw wired shut, in an alleged hate crime that has rattled the city of Brotherly Love.

Last week, two men and a woman were charged with aggravated assault for the incident, among other charges, according to the Associated Press. Their attorneys have alleged that the gay couple instigated the incident, but prosecutors aren't buying it.

Now the community is left to figure out what to do next -- and gay rights advocates are pushing for a change to state law because the trio will not be charged with a hate crime, even though the entire altercation allegedly started with a question about the victims' sexuality.

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As he faces a strong independent challenger, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is shuffling to his right. He has been deploying more heated rhetoric, invoking the specter of "national socialism" at a campaign event. He has been making calls to tea party leaders to galvanize support, after he nearly lost to one of their own, Milton Wolf, in his primary this year. Sarah Palin has appeared on the stump.

But will it be enough?

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An Arizona's state senator's vote for the infamous anti-LGBT discrimination bill that attracted national attention earlier this year is now being held against her in campaign ads.

The vote by state Sen. Michele Reagan (R), who is now running for secretary of state, is the subject of a new ad from her Democratic opponent Terry Goddard, a former state attorney general. In the ad, which the Goddard campaign plans to spend six figures on, a lesbian couple lambasts Reagan for Senate Bill 1062, which would have allowed discrimination based on deeply held religious beliefs.

"But state senator Reagan voted for that hateful legislation and stood with those who would make us second-class citizens," one of women says.

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