Tom Kludt

Tom Kludt is a reporter for Talking Points Memo based in New York City, covering media and national affairs. Originally from South Dakota, Tom joined TPM as an intern in late-2011 and became a staff member during the 2012 election. He can be reached at tom@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Tom

A Republican legislator in South Dakota will introduce a bill that would make it simpler for parents to opt their children out of mandatory vaccinations for religious reasons, the Argus Leader reported on Friday. 

Although the state already has a religious exemption for mandatory school vaccinations, the opposition must be etched in the religion's doctrine. Newly elected state Sen. Jeff Monroe of Pierre, S.D. said his bill will ease those requirements and allow any “sincere, verifiable religious belief” to qualify for exemption.

“As the law is right now, the Lutheran denomination does not have as part of its doctrine that it’s opposed to vaccination. Well, of course not. It was established (almost 500) years ago,” Monroe said. “I want the law to function so if someone doesn’t like it, and that’s the reason, they can (opt out).”

South Dakota's secretary of health, the state medical association and the state association of school nurses have all signaled opposition to Monroe's proposal. 

State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell on Friday released a statement criticizing the bill signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin that will ban U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

The statement:

We deeply regret Russia’s passage of a law ending inter-country adoptions between the United States and Russia and restricting Russian civil society organizations that work with American partners. American families have adopted over 60,000 Russian children over the past 20 years, and the vast majority of these children are now thriving thanks to their parents’ loving support. The Russian government’s politically motivated decision will reduce adoption possibilities for children who are now under institutional care. We regret that the Russian government has taken this step rather than seek to implement the bilateral adoption agreement that entered into force in November. We are further concerned about statements that adoptions already underway may be stopped and hope that the Russian government would allow those children who have already met and bonded with their future parents to finish the necessary legal procedures so that they can join their families.

The limitations imposed by the Act on Russian civil society’s ability to work with American partners will also make it more difficult for Russian and American non-governmental organizations to cooperate in areas as diverse as human rights advocacy, open government, and electoral transparency. The United States remains committed to supporting the development of civil society and the democratic process around the world, including in Russia.

A Connecticut state police spokesman on Thursday said Adam Lanza was not donning a bullet proof vest when he carried out the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., the New Haven Register reports.

Lt. J. Paul Vance said Lanza was only wearing a utility vest.

“It was a fishing type vest, a jacket with a lot of pockets; it was not a bullet-proof vest,” Vance said.

Rep.-elect Chris Stewart (R-UT) on Thursday signaled that he is open to some gun control measures and called the proposal to arm educators "a bad idea," according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

“Most of these teachers have no interest or no background that would give them any comfort at all being the primary source of defense,” Stewart said.

Stewart, who won by a huge margin this year in Utah's 2nd Congressional District, also expressed skepticism toward the National Rifle Association's call for armed guards in schools across the country.

“A lot of people are not comfortable having armed guards at grade schools,” Stewart said. 

Stewart said he would oppose any ban or restriction on handguns or other weapons, but is open to a discussion on high-capacity gun magazines.

“I would consider looking at some of the larger magazines and other things if it gave us an opportunity to talk about the other things as well,” Stewart said. “Let’s talk about the big picture.”


Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's campaign manager has been accused of stealing at least $600,000 and possibly much more from GOP political accounts over the last several years, the Dallas Morning News reported late Thursday.

From the Morning News:

Kenneth “Buddy” Barfield, a longtime GOP consultant who most recently managed Dewhurst’s failed run for the U.S. Senate, has been accused of falsifying documents to the Texas Ethics Commission that overstated the cash in Dewhurst’s state campaign committee by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Barfield, who also directed Dewhurst’s re-election campaign for lieutenant governor in 2010, did not return calls to his cellphone Thursday.

The original reports, examined by The Dallas Morning News, allegedly allowed Barfield to conceal huge sums of money taken from the David Dewhurst Committee since 2008 until Dewhurst associates discovered the improprieties this month.

After Dewhurst and his top aides confronted him, Barfield offered to repay the money — but was unable to do so, one campaign official said. Officials then alerted the Travis County district attorney’s office on Dec. 20, asked for an investigation and submitted revised reports to the ethics commission.

The revelations, startling not only in the amount of missing money but also in the apparent brazenness of a campaign insider, have stunned Dewhurst’s close circle of advisers.

The gunman in the Friday morning shooting at a New Jersey police station obtained the firearm as he was being taken into custody for a domestic violence incident, a Phildaelphia-based CBS affiliate reports.

Gloucester Township police chief Harry Earle told the press that the gunman got into a confrontation with the officers inside the station around 5:30 a.m. Three officers were shot. One, who was shot just below his bulletproof vest, is undergoing surgery. The other two injured officers suffered minor wounds and are expected to be released from the hospital today. 

The gunman was shot and killed by police at the scene. 

The suspected gunman in the Friday morning shooting at a New Jersey police station was shot and killed at the scene, WPVI-TV in Philadelphia reports

Three officers were shot at the Gloucester Township police station in Camden County, N.J. A male officer is undergoing surgery. The other two officers, a male and a female, are being treated for minor injuries. 

The Associated Press reports:

The State Department has closed its embassy in the Central African Republic and ordered the ambassador and his diplomatic team to leave the country as rebels there continue to advance and violence escalates, U.S. officials said Thursday.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, said that at the State Department’s request, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had directed U.S. Africa Command to evacuate U.S. citizens and designated foreign nationals from the U.S. Embassy in Bangui ‘‘to safe havens in the region.’’

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the U.S. Embassy had temporarily suspended operations, but not diplomatic relations with the country.

Three officers were shot early Friday morning at a police station in New Jersey, Philadelphia affiliate NBC10 reports

The shooting occurred shortly before 6 a.m. at the Gloucester Township Police in Camden County, N.J. One officer is undergoing surgery, while the other two are being treated for minor injuries.

The gunman is reportedly not associated with the police department, but there has been no confirmation on the status of the suspect.