Politics 2011: This 'n' that

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International  |  April 24, 2011 at 4:25 AM
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Questions about Obama's birth certificate remain alive and well. One potential Republican presidential contender may -- or may not -- have the right stuff. Isn't a fundraiser supposed to raise funds? A federal judge in Maine hears arguments pitting government speech against censorship about a mural's removal from a state building. Iowa wraps up its redistricting exercise in short order.

Birther movement zigs, zags

One governor vetoed a so-called "birther" bill that would require U.S. presidential candidates to provide documentation that they are, indeed, citizens but another governor says he'd sign one.

Then, business mogul and possible Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tied release of his tax returns to President Barack Obama showing off his birth certificate in a show-me-whatcha-got dare.

But the co-founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, Rep. Michele Bachmann, says a certified copy of Obama's birth certificate was good enough for her and "should settle" the controversy.

Bachmann checked out the copy of Obama's birth certificate on ABC's "Good Morning America" last week. It was certified, had a certification number and the signature of the registrar and the Hawaii state seal. Equally important were the words, "This copy serves as prima facie evidence of the fact of birth in any court proceeding."

"Well, then that should settle it," Bachmann said. "I take the president at his word and I think -- again I would have no problem and apparently the president wouldn't, either. Introduce that, we're done. Move on."

When vetoing Arizona's version of the birther bill, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer said the measure was a "bridge too far" and could lead to "arbitrary or politically motivated decisions."

The bill, as well as similar legislation introduced in 10 other states, was inspired by the widespread right-wing belief that Obama was born in Kenya. The president made his Hawaiian birth certificate public during the 2008 campaign.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he'd sign a "birther bill" if one reaches his desk.

"It's not part of our package, but if the legislature passes it we'll sign it," Jindal press secretary Kyle Plotkin told Politico. "The governor believes the president is a citizen. The problem with our president is not his citizenship, it's his radical left wing policies."

Bachmann weighs options, but is she viable candidate?

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., co-founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, says she'll announce soon whether she'll seek the Republican presidential nomination.

She said on ABC's "Good Morning America" that she's discussing the issue with her husband and others and want to be "assured there is a path to victory" before committing.

Steve Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and a commentator on national politics, says Bachmann is having trouble winning convincingly in the most conservative Congressional District in the state doesn't bode well for a national campaign.

Despite being a voracious fundraiser, Bachmann "underperforms electorally," Schier said, noting in the 2010 election she won with 52 percent of the vote while fellow Republican incumbents picked up closer to 60 percent in their wins in less conservative districts.

If Bachmann enters the race, she likely would siphon votes from former Govs. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Sarah Palin of Alaska -- neither of whom have announced their intentions -- because they are social conservatives, Schier said. She is less likely to take support from former Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota -- who have exploratory committees -- who aren't seen as conservative on social issues.

At least the income was more than the outflow

A fundraising event complete with country singer LeAnn Rimes netted Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of California a whopping $650.

The event raised only $212,900 from outside contributors. After writing checks for Rimes, catering, flowers and other assorted fees, the freshman representative spent $212,250 on the Jan. 4 event, McClatchy Newspapers reported last week.

"It's an industrial-strength waste of money, and the people who gave the money are going to resent it," Michael Fraioli, a veteran Democratic fundraising expert, told McClatchy.

Denham, 43, founded the America's New Majority political action committee in November as a fundraising vehicle for fellow Republicans.

"This is to help our freshman class," Denham said on the day of the fundraising event. "It's to bring us together, and it's also to raise the money to make sure we can campaign well in 2012."

Censorship or lawful government speech?

State lawyers representing Maine Gov. Paul LePage argued before a federal judge last week that the governor's decision to remove an 11-panel labor-themed mural from a state building was lawful while opponents said it was illegal censorship.

At the heart of the First Amendment complaint filed against LePage is the question of whether the administration exercised its constitutional right to "government speech" when it removed the mural that depicts the state's labor movement history some considered one-sided, the Bangor Daily News reported.

"The government spoke when it put the mural up and the government spoke when it took the mural down," said Deputy Attorney General Paul Stern, arguing on behalf of the administration.

The plaintiffs -- three artists, an attorney and two regular visitors to the Department of Labor building -- counter the administration is violating their First Amendment rights by denying them access to the mural. They filed a temporary restraining order to force LePage to return the artwork.

"The First Amendment protects the listeners and viewers to the same extent that it protects the creator or artist," said Jeff Young, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

District downsizing in Iowa

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed off last week on the state's new Congressional district map that downsizes the number of House districts to four seats.

The map, created by a non-partisan redistricting commission, flew through both legislative chambers with nary a word in opposition, Roll Call reported. The map eliminates one district and basically partitions the state into quadrants based on population numbers from the U.S. Census.

"It is truly a non-partisan approach," Branstad said just before signing the new map into law. "I think we can have some pride that Iowa has a reapportionment system that is fair."

Two districts put together two incumbents: GOP Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham are in the northwestern district, and Democratic Reps. Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley are in the new northeastern district. But Latham and Loebsack recently announced they won't challenge their party colleagues and will pursue other plans.

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