Nev. Congressman Assault Probe Reopens
"The district attorney said Monday that authorities have reopened their investigation into a cocktail waitress' claim that a Republican congressman running for governor assaulted her in a parking garage after a night of drinking.
"District Attorney David Roger said the case involving Rep. Jim Gibbons [R-NV] â which had been closed after the woman, Chrissy Mazzeo, dropped her complaint â is under investigation again." (AP)
Italian Arms Contractor and Pennsylvania Congressman Share Close Ties
"In November at the five-star Hotel Splendido overlooking the harbor in Portofino, a playground of the Italian rich, Representative Curt Weldon was the center of attention.
"The second-ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Mr. Weldon was a main speaker at a conference sponsored in part by the Italian military giant Finmeccanica. At the gathering of Italian, British and American political leaders, Mr. Weldon, of Pennsylvania, spoke on behalf of Italian arms makers who were seeking a bigger share of Pentagon contracts.
"Taxpayers paid for Mr. Weldonâs stay. He received a $1,153 daily expense allowance from the federal government and flew over on a military jet.
"For Mr. Weldon, the conference was a victory lap. After several years of promoting Italian military contractors, the Italians had scored some big victories at the Pentagon. But Mr. Weldonâs efforts were equally beneficial for his district, his family, his friends and his campaign coffers." (NY Times)
Hastert May Be in Trouble No Matter What Comes in November
"House Speaker Dennis Hastert is expected by many Republicans to step aside as the GOP's leader if Democrats win big in next week's election. He may be on his way out even if the GOP emerges with a narrow majority....
"There's lots of grumbling among Republican insiders over real and imagined leadership lapses. Not the least of those is the way Hastert's office handled -- mishandled, some critics say -- the Mark Foley page scandal.
"Earlier episodes, including changing House rules two years ago to protect former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, in case he got indicted, helped breed the unhappiness. Interviews with current and former congressional aides, GOP lobbyists and strategists reveal surprisingly widespread discontent with Hastert, suggesting a demoralizing election could cement calls within GOP ranks for new leadership." (AP)
Doolittle Accused of Ignoring Marianas Abuse by Opponent
"Democrat Charlie Brown accused GOP Rep. John Doolittle [R-CA] on Monday of ignoring abuses on the Northern Mariana Islands, as controversy over the small island chain shadowed the re-election campaigns of two powerful California Republicans.
"Brown stumped with an activist who helped write a 1998 report for the Interior Department documenting forced abortions, exploitation of foreign workers and other grim conditions on the Marianas, a U.S. commonwealth near Guam. Residents there have nonvoting citizenship, but the islands are exempt from many federal labor laws and the minimum wage is $3.05 an hour.
"The Marianas hired now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the mid-1990s to block reform legislation, and Abramoff lobbied lawmakers, including Doolittle and Rep. Richard Pombo [R-CA] for help.
"Doolittle, who traveled to the Mariana Islands in 1999, subsequently spoke favorably of conditions there and opposed bills to raise the minimum wage and impose U.S. immigration laws." (AP)
The Doolittles' Deal
"John Doolittle's campaign debts include $39,595 in fundraising fees owed to Sierra Dominion Finanial Services, the company his wife owns and operates out of their Virginia home. That means that if Doolittle wins and empties his campaign account in the process, he will be raising on the order of $40,000 that will go directly from donors to his family's bank account to retire that debt. Instead of getting their usual 15 percent commission on campaign contributions, the Doolittles will be getting 100 percent of that new money flowing in. Actually, they will be getting 115 percent, because Julie will have to raise $46,000 in order to retire John's debt to her company and pay herself another 15 percent on the money she is raising to retire the debt." (California Insider)
Lobbyists Won't Like What Pelosi Has in Mind
"Odds are that lobbying in the House of Representatives is about to get harder.
"If Democrats gain the 15 seats they need to win control of the House -- and most analysts think they will -- one of the first things the new House will do is restrict or end outright a slew of lobbying practices.
"In a little-publicized statement, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House Democratic leader, has promised to change the chamber's rules to reflect the provisions of her not-so-modestly-named Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2006. The months-old measure would, among other things, prohibit House members from accepting gifts and travel from lobbyists or from organizations that employ lobbyists." (WaPo)
Lewis' Legal Bills Soar Past $800K
"House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis [R-CA] spent $820,000 in just four months to defend himself in the ongoing probe into his connections to a lobbying firm that received hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks from the Californianâs panel.
"The amount spent and pace of the legal bills, from early June to mid-October and mostly from a bicoastal team of lawyers retained by Lewis from the firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, far exceeds the sums dished out by most other Members of the 110th Congress who have come under investigative scrutiny....
"The only recent lawmaker to spend more on legal defense fees was former Rep. Tom DeLay [R-TX], who had spent more than $1.7 million in a two-year period from mid-2004 to mid-2006. DeLay, however, maintained a trio of legal teams to battle several different investigations: an indictment in Austin, Texas, on alleged violations of state campaign finance laws, another to deal with a House ethics committee probe, and one related to the Abramoff inquiry that so far has resulted in two ex-aides pleading guilty to felonies." (Roll Call)
Money Sways West Virginians as Sen. Byrd Nears Record
"Leaning on two canes, Senator Robert C. Byrd [D-WV] hardly looks like a billion-dollar industry â or "Big Daddy," as the 88-year-old Democrat calls himself.
"No matter: Voters once again are looking beyond Byrd's age to his political guile â and the truckloads of federal dollars he's steered to West Virginia â as they consider whether to give him a record ninth, six-year term in the Senate.
"'It's not that we deserve more money than other states, but if he wasn't there, we probably wouldn't get as much as we should,' said Ally Hagsett, a Marshall University sophomore and Republican. 'While he's alive, we'd better get as much as we can.'
"With Byrd, the getting's often good: In the last decade alone, he's brought home more than $2.2 billion (euro1.7 billion) to West Virginia. Today, it's difficult to travel more than a few miles without coming across something plastered with his name â a building, a road, even a giant radio telescope." (AP)
Ex-Air Marshal to Sue Over 'SSI' Label
"A former federal air marshal said he will file suit against the government today to challenge use of a nonclassified label that he says allows Homeland Security officials to cover up dangerous and inept policies.
" Robert MacLean, an air marshal who was fired for blowing the whistle on a cutback of flight protections in the wake of a terrorist alert, is the first federal employee to challenge the validity of the 'Sensitive Security Information' (SSI) label in court....
"The Government Accountability Office and Congress are critical of the label and say it is overused and stamped on everything from official correspondence to general items such as going-away-party invitations." (Washington Times)
Unregulated Groups Put Millions in Election
"Unions, corporations and wealthy individuals have pumped nearly $300 million this year into unregulated political groups, funding dozens of aggressive and sometimes shadowy campaigns independent of party machines....
"Because they can accept unlimited donations from any source, the committees â known as 527s â have emerged as the favored vehicle for millionaires and interest groups seeking to set the political agenda....
"In Ohio, a 527 has run some of the most provocative radio spots of the campaign season, with an African American announcer accusing Democrats of "decimating our people" by promoting abortions of "black babies." Another group funded by black Republicans has bought airtime on radio stations in Maryland and Florida to assert that Democrats "have bamboozled blacks" and want to keep them in poverty." (LA Times)
Senate Probes Complaints About Halliburton Subsidiary
"The Senate committee that oversees government contracting has launched an investigation into allegations that a Halliburton subsidiary sought to obstruct the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction by inappropriately marking documents âproprietaryâ and refusing to provide data to investigators in its original form.
"Sens. Susan M. Collins, R-Maine, and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, the chairwoman and ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced their investigation in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday. The letter also was sent to Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey." (CQ) (sub. req.)
Thousands of U.S. Weapons Given to Iraq Missing
"Thousands of weapons the United States has provided Iraqi security forces cannot be accounted for, and spare parts and repair manuals are not available for many others, a report to Congress states.
"The report, prepared at the request of the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John W. Warner, also found that "significant challenges remain" that jeopardize the U.S. military's goal of strengthening Iraqi security forces by transferring all logistics operations to Iraq's Defense Ministry by the end of 2007." (AP)
Fla.'s Harris: They're All out to Get Me
"Katherine Harris, who is trying to become a U.S. senator, says she is writing a tell-all about the many people who have wronged her. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to: the Republican leaders who didn't want her to run, the press that has covered her troubled campaign, and the many staffers who have quit her employ, whom she accuses of colluding with her opponent. . . .
"The way Harris sees it, a vast left- and right-wing conspiracy, encompassing both the "liberal media" and the Republican "elite," is attempting to keep her out of the Senate." (WaPo)
McConnell's "Genius" for Raising Money from Outside Interests
"Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr., a Republican U.S. senator from Kentucky, could well be the greatest argument for campaign finance reform on two legs. As it is, the Kentuckian is reform's most vociferous enemy.
"Mr. McConnell, 64, is the Senate's majority whip, making him the chamber's second highest-ranking Republican. We haven't met Mr. McConnell, but we assume he is smart and capable.
"But his particular genius, it seems, lies in fund-raising. A six-month investigation by McClatchy Newspapers recently concluded that Mr. McConnell has raised almost $220 million since his election to the Senate 22 years ago, much of it from special interests: casinos, cigarette makers, the drug industry, the mining industry and others.
"Not coincidentally, Mr. McConnell's agenda is closely aligned with the agendas of special interests. McClatchy reports that Mr. McConnell offered to amend legislation on the floor of the Senate at the direction of the tobacco lobby. Attorneys for the industry also helped to draft a bill, filed by Mr. McConnell, that would have protected tobacco companies from lawsuits. They even helped draft his correspondence to the White House in opposition to smoking-prevention programs." (Hartford (Conn.) Courant)
Congresswoman Has No-Fly List Troubles
"A California congresswoman said she was briefly denied access to a United Airlines flight last week because her name appeared on a 'no fly list' set up after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"Rep. Loretta Sanchez [D-CA], a Democrat who has been a critic of the no-fly list, said her staff had booked her a one-way ticket from Boise, Idaho, to Cincinnati through Denver. But they were prevented from printing her boarding pass online and at an airport kiosk.
"Sanchez said she was instructed to check in with a United employee, who told her she was on the terrorist watch list." (AP)
Bush Administration Drops Bid for Royalties from Chevron
"The Interior Department has dropped claims that the Chevron Corporation systematically underpaid the government for natural gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico, a decision that could allow energy companies to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties. . . .
"Interior officials said on Friday that they had no choice but to drop their order to Chevron because a department appeals board had ruled against auditors in a separate case.
"But state governments and private landowners have challenged the company over essentially the same practices and reached settlements in which the company has paid $70 million in additional royalties." (NYTimes)
Bush Appointee Said to Reject Advice on Endangered Species
"A senior Bush political appointee at the Interior Department has rejected staff scientists' recommendations to protect imperiled animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act at least six times in the past three years, documents show.
"In addition, staff complaints that their scientific findings were frequently overruled or disparaged at the behest of landowners or industry have led the agency's inspector general to look into the role of Julie MacDonald, who has been deputy assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks since 2004, in decisions on protecting endangered species." (WaPo)