House Ethics Probes May Stay Unresolved
"The secretive House ethics panel is unlikely to complete several of its investigations during the final month of the 109th Congress, so questions about the conduct of a handful of members will remain unresolved.
"The probes began in May but will end when members adjourn this month. A new committee at the convening of the 110th Congress could vote to reauthorize or carry over the investigations, but panel members are not required to do so.
"House leaders are mum about whether the panel will keep the same members in the upcoming session, when Democrats will assume majority for the first time since 1994." (Washington Times)
Extra Checks on Voting Machines Rejected
"A federal advisory panel on Monday rejected a recommendation that states use only voting machines that produced results that could be independently verified.
"The panel drafting voting guidelines for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission voted 6-6 not to adopt a proposal that would have required electronic machines used by millions of voters to produce a paper record or other independent means of checking election results. Eight votes were needed to pass it.
"The failed resolution, proposed by Ronald Rivest, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist and panel member, closely mirrored a report released last week warning that paperless electronic voting machines are vulnerable to errors and fraud and cannot be made secure." (AP)
Nominee Attended Abramoff Party
"Embattled federal appeals court nominee William G. Myers III told senators reviewing his confirmation that he had no contact with now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
"But, according to his official schedule, Myers attended a 2001 party organized for Abramoff and his clients to lobby Bush administration officials who oversaw Indian gambling. At the time, Myers was the U.S. Department of the Interiorâs solicitor.
"Asked about the discrepancy, White House officials confirmed that Myers was at the event but said he didnât talk with the lobbyist, who pleaded guilty in January to conspiring to bribe public officials." (Washington and the West)
Former Tobacco Lobbyist Turned Governor Kills Statewide Anti-Smoking Program
"Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former tobacco industry lobbyist, won a long battle in court to withdraw all funding for Mississippi's highly successful anti-smoking program, and last week the last dollar ran out.
"This is truly a case of one man, a longtime tobacco industry lobbyist, using his power to destroy a program that was reducing tobacco use among Mississippi's kids," said Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a national nonprofit organization....
"Barbour complained that the program received its funding directly from the courts and that it needed legislative approval, according to Myers. When the legislature passed a bill to continue the funding, Barbour vetoed it and went back to the courts to withdraw all remaining monies from the program." (The Blotter)
At The U.N., a Mixed View of Bolton's Tenure
"The announcement on Monday of John R. Boltonâs decision to step down was greeted by United Nations officials with relief, while diplomats from other nations offered mixed assessments of his effectiveness during his 17 months as the American envoy.
"Security Council ambassadors said they respected Mr. Boltonâs professionalism and command of the subject matter, and thought he had represented the Bush administrationâs foreign policy goals well.
"On the other hand, they said his manner, often described as abrupt, unyielding and confrontational, had alienated traditional American allies and undercut American influence.
"They said that in areas where he was clearly taking his instructions from Washington, he performed well, but that in pursuing the objective on which he planted his personal stamp â overhauling the sclerotic United Nations management â he had been unsuccessful." (NY Times)
Froomkin: Where's the Leak?
"Over the weekend, the New York Times disclosed a leaked memo from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in which he privately considered a host of options for Iraq even as he was mocking them publicly. Just a few days earlier, the Times disclosed a memo from national security adviser Steven Hadley raising serious concerns about the Iraqi government even as he was publicly praising it.
"Is this the post-election crumbling of the Bush White House's vaunted message discipline? If so, the leaks could simply be embarrassments for a president who has no intention of reversing himself on Iraq.
"Alternately, these could be 'authorized" leaks' -- part of a clever White House PR campaign to give the impression that the president has long been considering significant alternatives, thereby laying the groundwork for the contention that a Bush U-turn on Iraq would be no such thing....
"But regardless of the reasons for the leaks, these memos widen the administration's credibility gap. They provide further evidence that what Bush and his aides tell each other bears little relation to what they tell the people they represent." (WaPo)
Sailor Pleads Guilty to Espionage
"A sailor accused of stealing a Navy laptop and peddling its classified contents to an undisclosed foreign government pleaded guilty Monday to espionage, desertion and other charges.
"If convicted, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ariel J. Weinmann, 22, of Salem, Ore., could face a sentence of life in prison without parole, a dishonorable discharge from the Navy and forfeiture of all pay.
"Under the plea agreement, Weinmann pleaded guilty to one count each of espionage, desertion, failing to properly safeguard and store classified information, electronically copying classified information, communicating classified information to a person not entitled to receive it, and stealing and destroying a government computer." (AP)
FBI Overspends on Computers - Again
"The Justice Department's inspector general warned yesterday that funding for the FBI's new Sentinel computer system is uncertain and that the program's final price tag could exceed its $425 million budget.
"A 112-page audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said that a current White House budget request includes only $100 million for Sentinel in fiscal 2007, although the FBI says it needs $57 million more to keep it going." (WaPo)
Iraq Study Panelists Made Political Donations
"A few members of the Iraq Study Group have made political contributions since they joined the bipartisan committee, with one panelist giving to a leading House Democrat who has embraced a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops.
"The contributions could be fodder for critics who disapprove of the groupâs final recommendations, even though the panel consists of five Democrats and five Republicans." (The Hill)