Ethics Panel Clears Reid
"The Senate Ethics Committee has dismissed a complaint against Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada for accepting free admission to ringside seats at three boxing matches in Las Vegas.
"Robert Walker, the committee's chief counsel and staff director, wrote in a Dec. 7 letter there is 'not substantial credible evidence' for the committee to conclude Reid violated Senate rules by accepting credentials to three fights between 2003 and 2005.
"Walker said 'it appears that acceptance of free attendance at the boxing events by Senator Reid from the Nevada Athletic Commission was a matter appropriately left to his discretion, as was consideration of any potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest arising from such attendance.'" (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Justice on Katrina Time
"In October 2005, less than two months after Hurricane Katrina struck, Pedro Parra-Sanchez was arrested for allegedly stabbing a man with a broken bottle during a fight. With the city's prison damaged by flooding, he was taken to a makeshift jail at the Greyhound bus station, then transferred to a correctional facility about 70 miles away, and later to a prison in southwest Louisiana.
"That's where Parra-Sanchez sat for more than a year â never seeing a lawyer or setting foot in a courtroom. At the time of the fight, he had been in New Orleans only six days: He'd left his family in Bakersfield, Calif., and come to help with the storm cleanup effort.
"By law, the district attorney should have brought Parra-Sanchez to court to formally charge him within 60 days. Instead, 'he disappeared,' said Pamela R. Metzger, director of Tulane University's Criminal Law Clinic. 'The system failed.'
"Parra-Sanchez's case is not unique in post-Katrina New Orleans. An untold number of people got "lost" in the prison system in the weeks immediately after the storm, Metzger said. Many are still among the 3,000 active criminal court cases. At least 85% of them qualify for representation by a public defender from the Orleans Parish Indigent Defender program." (LA Times)
Calif. Officials Tried to Secure Earmark for Miller's Land
"Members of a California city council tried to secure federal funds to purchase a large swath of Rep. Gary Millerâs (R-Calif.) land as part of a wilderness preserve project.
"The Monrovia City Council immediately faced resistance from its congressman, Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), who told them there was no federal money for the project. . . .
"The city initially assessed the value of Millerâs land at $6.6 million, but Miller balked at that amount, and the city eventually agreed to pay $11.8 million for it, handing Miller a $10 million profit on the land, which he has held since 1988." (The Hill)
Dems Keep Jefferson Off Ways and Means
"House Democrats, insistent that they will hold lawmakers to higher standards, decided Tuesday that Rep. William Jefferson [D-LA] will not return to an influential committee until a federal corruption investigation involving him is completed.
"Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi said the Democratic Steering Committee had resolved that Jefferson, who last Saturday won a runoff election in his New Orleans district, will not be given back his spot on the Ways and Means Committee, the panel that determines tax and trade policies." (AP)
Leahy vows to fight Bush, guard U.S. privacy rights
"The incoming Democratic chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee promised on Wednesday to combat what he denounced as President George W. Bush's war-time trampling of American rights.
"'We have a duty to repair real damage done to our system of government over the last few years,' Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said in outlining his panel's agenda for the 110th, Democratic-led Congress, which is set to convene on January 4.
"'Americans' privacy is a price the Bush administration is willing to pay for the cavalier way it is spawning new databanks. But privacy rights belong to the people, not to the government,' Leahy said." (Reuters)
Terror Case Shows Bush, Libertarian Rift
"Prominent conservative lawyers joined liberal colleagues Tuesday in opposing Bush administration anti-terror tactics, arguing that an immigrant held as an enemy combatant has a right to seek his freedom in court.
"The legal brief, filed in the case of suspected al-Qaida sleeper agent Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, argues that a new military commissions law is unconstitutional.
"The argument has been made in this and other detainee cases, but Tuesday's brief is notable for the bedfellows created by the politics of anti-terrorism. Staunchly Democratic law school deans Harold Koh of Yale and Laurence Tribe of Harvard were joined by lawyers such as Steven Calabresi, who served in the Reagan and first Bush administrations and helped found the conservative Federalist Society." (AP)
Congressmen Demand Info On Anthrax Probe From FBI
"Thirty-three members of Congress have written Attorney General Alberto Gonzales demanding that the FBI update lawmakers on the investigation into the anthrax attacks five years ago that paralyzed the nation with bio-terror fears.
"The bipartisan letter escalates efforts by Sen. Charles Grassley (news, bio, voting record), R-Iowa, and Rep. Rush Holt (news, bio, voting record), D-N.J., to get the FBI to tell lawmakers what it has learned during the five-year case that remains unsolved. The FBI has refused, citing concerns about possible leaks.
"The lawmakers said any leakers of prior information about the anthrax case inside the FBI or Congress should be punished but that such concerns do not justify keeping information from lawmakers so they could perform their required oversight of the FBI's performance.
"The case remains unsolved five years later." (AP)
Report: States Still Unprepared For Bioterrorism
"Five years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the country still isn't fully prepared to respond to a major public health emergency such as bioterrorism or pandemic flu, a health policy group said in a report released Tuesday.
"The Trust for America's Health said the public health emergency response system is underfunded and lacks accountability and strong national leadership. The report suggests some unsettling scenarios should disaster strike.
"'The overall message is, to some degree we are doing better,' said Jeffrey Levi, the group's executive director. 'But we're not as prepared as we ought to be. There is tremendous unevenness across the states.'" (McClatchy)
Ney Lawyers Organize Letter-Writing Campaign For His Sentencing
"Lawyers for Bob Ney last week urged his friends to write letters of support in advance of the former Ohio Republican representativeâs sentencing on corruption charges in January.
"The attorneys hope to show the judge that the actions that led Ney to plead guilty to corruption charges in October were an aberration in a professional career otherwise dedicated to public service." (The Hill)
Waxman Takes Aim at Bush
"'There is just no question that life is going to be different for the administration,' said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., the current committee chairman. 'Henry is going to be tough. ... And he's been waiting a long time to be able to do this.'
"Waxman, 67, is in his 16th term representing a Los Angeles district that has migrated west over the years to take in some of the country's most exclusive real estate: Bel Air, Malibu, Beverly Hills." (AP)
Shimkus Quits Page Panel
"Illinois Congressman John Shimkus is stepping down from the House Page Committee. He is one of several congressman who were criticized for not keeping closer tabs on Mark Foley and his behavior. Foley resigned after it was learned he sent inappropriate emails to congressional pages." (ABC)
Republicans Skeptical of Dem Promise on Earmarks
"Republicans and taxpayer groups gave tepid praise to the earmark moratorium announced by incoming Appropriations Committee chairmen Monday, but remained skeptical as to whether they will be able to follow through with their promise." (The Hill)