February 22, 2016
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At least a third of this year's Republican electorate likes Donald Trump enough to vote for him, but it's no secret that the Republican establishment would prefer somebody like Sen. Marco Rubio. Elite Republican donors have been pouring money into the campaigns of Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. John Kasich, and, until recently, Jeb Bush, but Marlene Ricketts is going a step further. According to newly released campaign finance reports, Ricketts gave $3 million to Our Principles PAC — a group managed by Mitt Romney 2012 top aide Katie Packer, dedicated to destroying Trump's candidacy — accounting for nearly all the funds the PAC raised in January. Our Principles sent anti-Trump mailers and ran Trump-bashing ads before the Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina contests.

So who is Marlene Ricketts? She and her husband, billionaire T.D. Ameritrade founder J. Joe Ricketts, have owned the Chicago Cubs since 2009, led the charge to tie then-Sen. Barack Obama to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in the 2008 election, and backed the brief campaign of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) this election cycle. Their son is Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R). Marlene Ricketts isn't just financing ads calling Trump a GOP-wrecking fake conservative, though; she also gave $10,000 each last year to super PACs backing Rubio, Bush, Cruz, Rick Perry, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Our Priorities may not have had much luck slowing Trump so far, but it will "launch aggressive efforts" before Super Tuesday on March 1, Packer told USA Today in an email. "We will continue to shine a bright light on Trump's liberal statements and inconsistencies." Or they will at least as long as Ricketts is writing big checks. Peter Weber

10:48 a.m. ET
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If Hillary Clinton wins the White House, she may not be able to rely on progressives in government to facilitate her transition and agenda. For that, she can thank the content of thousands of emails hacked from campaign chair John Podesta's Gmail account that WikiLeaks continues to publish daily.

The emails see Clinton staff and confidants taking a dismissive posture toward those on their left, Politico reports, calling progressives and their causes "puritanical," "naive," and "dumb." Some progressives were even labeled "freaks" who should "get a life," and Podesta called Sen. Bernie Sanders a "doofus" for wanting stronger environmental regulations than those in the Paris climate change accord.

But worse than the personal insults are the Wall Street speech transcript excerpts the emails also include, which find Clinton assuring her audience she is more center than left. "We were already kind of suspicious of where Hillary's instincts were," Politico quotes an unnamed "influential liberal Democratic operative" as saying, "but now we see that she is who we thought she was. The honeymoon is going to be tight and small and maybe nonexistent" if she is elected.

The Clinton campaign response emphasized their candidate's history of working "with progressive allies to aggressively develop serious and thorough plans to make real change." Throughout her primary campaign, Clinton cast herself as a "progressive who gets things done" in an attempt to mediate between her record and the more left-wing votes she then sought to wrest from Sanders. Bonnie Kristian

10:36 a.m. ET
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Are the creepy clown stories pouring in from across the nation keeping you up at night? Then count yourself among the 42 percent of Americans who report having coulrophobia — that is, a fear of clowns.

Americans are actually more afraid of clowns than even death itself, a Vox/Morning Consult poll revealed Friday. Clowns were also recorded as being more terrifying than climate change, needles, or terrorist attacks. Even ghosts have nothing on clowns, and ghosts can move through walls and can't be killed, so that's saying something.

Clowns have people so unnerved that a whole two-thirds of Americans demand some sort of government response on the issue. Another one-third of Americans said that the FBI should investigate the clown situation.

Let's just go ahead and blame this one on Stephen King. Way to go, Stephen King. Jeva Lange

10:17 a.m. ET

The central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan approved its current constitution just six years ago, in 2010, and on Wednesday, the Kyrgyz parliament was debating whether to allow a new referendum this year to consider a constitutional amendment. In the process, the representatives asked about the location of the original document, and that's when they found out no one knows where it is.

There are copies, of course, so it's not like the content is unknown, but the original's location is a mystery. Justice Minister Jyldyz Mambetalieva told the parliamentarians she believes the constitution is in the president's office, but the president says it's with the justice minister. "That raises the question: Where is the original?" a representative of the president helpfully summarized.

The practical implications of the missing document may be few, yet for a former Soviet republic that has had three constitutions in the last three decades, the apparent carelessness with which the document was stored is symbolically troubling. Some Kyrgryz have suggested the entire situation may be a ploy to distract the people from dangerous constitutional changes. Bonnie Kristian

10:05 a.m. ET
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Former Fox News commentator Gretchen Carlson became an unexpected champion of women's empowerment after she came forward in July to accuse the network's chairman, Roger Ailes, of sexual harassment.

While Carlson wouldn't go into specifics about her exit from the network or her battle against Ailes, she did answer Time's questions about a similarly prominent and influential man accused of harassing women: Donald Trump. "I am saddened by the prevalence of powerful men disrespecting and objectifying women — and getting away with it for years," she said. "I am particularly distressed when people in the public eye who influence our culture perpetuate sexism."

Carlson received a $20 million settlement from Fox News in September, and today is working to understand "what we need to do to change the system so that women feel safe." And as for Donald Trump? She might have gotten the last laugh there, too:

[Carlson] lives in a stately $5 million house in Greenwich, Connecticut, with two kids, a husband, and an overly friendly nonshedding Lagotto Romagnolo dog who carries a Donald Trump chew toy that says Bite me. (She claims to also own a Hillary Clinton one, but the dog does not favor it.) [Time]

Read more about Carlson's plans for the future (become a professional violinist, perhaps?) at Time. Jeva Lange

9:50 a.m. ET
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Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele just can't stomach voting for either major-party presidential candidate. "I was damn near puking during the debates," Steele said Thursday at a dinner in San Francisco in honor of the 40th anniversary of Mother Jones.

Steele, who led the RNC from 2009 to 2011 as the first black GOP chairman, said he won't be casting a ballot for his party's nominee Donald Trump, and he won't vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton either. He cannot support Trump because he has "captured that racist underbelly, that frustration, that angry underbelly of American life and gave voice to that," Steele said. He also argued that Trump only represents about 30 percent of the Republican Party.

Steele is the fifth former RNC chief to refuse to support the GOP nominee. Per Politico's tally, former RNC chiefs Marc Racicot, Mel Martinez, Bill Brock, and Ken Mehlman have all said they will not vote for Trump. Becca Stanek

9:28 a.m. ET

A Kansas House leader seemingly praised the "profound" words of Adolf Hitler in a Facebook post Thursday. "Great quote from Hitler in the video," Speaker Pro Tem Peggy Mast (R) wrote on her Facebook page. "Please listen to it closely. His words are profound! Let's start using discernment."

Mast's post, however, didn't include any video or other media to "listen to," making her seeming praise for the Nazi leader all the more puzzling. House Speaker Ray Merrick's chief of staff, Christie Krieghauser, tried to get some clarification. "Sorry, I'm confused," she wrote on Mast's page. "What video and how is there a great quote from Hitler?"

Mast, who is the third-ranking Republican in the Kansas House, put up another Facebook post an hour later intending to explain herself:

"Her intent was to compare Planned Parenthood, the country's largest reproductive health provider, to the Nazi leader," The Wichita Eagle reported.

Mast also shared an article from a pro-life Christian blog, which referenced anti-abortion activist Gianna Jessen quoting Hitler while testifying about Planned Parenthood before Congress. Jessen, during her testimony, apparently used this Hitler quote to compare Planned Parenthood's services to the Holocaust: "The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan."

Mast did not respond to The Wichita Eagle's requests for comment. She is not running for re-election. Becca Stanek

9:23 a.m. ET

Federal prosecutors plan to charge former National Security Agency contractor Harold T. Martin III with violating the Espionage Act after he stole what is believed to be "the largest theft of classified government material ever" over the course of 20 years, The Washington Post reports.

In a 12-page memo, U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein and two other prosecutors laid out a much more far-reaching case against Harold T. Martin III than was previously outlined. They say he took at least 50 terabytes of data and "six full banker's boxes worth of documents," with many lying open in his home office or kept on his car's back seat and in the trunk. Other material was stored in a shed on his property.

One terabyte is the equivalent of 500 hours' worth of movies. [The Washington Post]

In early October, Martin's former wife told The New York Times Martin was "a bit of a hoarder." Investigators were unsure if Martin had intended to leak the data.

For now, prosecutors are hoping to keep Martin in jail, saying he could still flee abroad; he reportedly communicated with people in Russia and downloaded information on the Russian language. Martin also had an "arsenal" of weapons in his car and home, which his current wife, Deborah Vinson, asked to be removed because she feared Martin would commit suicide if he "thought it was all over." Jeva Lange

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