Senate Democrats Revive Demand for Classified Data
“Seeking information about detention of terrorism suspects, abuse of detainees and government secrecy, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are reviving dozens of demands for classified documents that until now have been rebuffed or ignored by the Justice Department and other agencies….
“[Senate Judiciary Committee Soon-to-be Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT)], who has said little about his plans for the committee, expressed hope for greater cooperation from the Bush administration, which he described as having been ‘obsessively secretive.’ His aides have identified more than 65 requests he has made to the Justice Department or other agencies in recent years that have been rejected or permitted to languish without reply….
“Now that they are about to control Congress, what…Democrats regard as a record of unresponsiveness has energized their renewal of longstanding requests for information about some of the administrationâs most hidden and fiercely debated operations. In addition, other such requests by committee members deal with subjects like voter fraud, immigration and background inquiries on Supreme Court nominees….
“With Democrats in control, it will be harder for executive branch agencies to sidestep requests for documents. Behind each request will be the possibility of Democratsâ voting to issue subpoenas that would compel documents or testimony, although Senate aides said they hoped to avoid conflict.” (NY Times)Dems, GOP Millions Apart on Phone-Jamming Damages
“The New Hampshire Democratic Party says the state and national Republican committees should pay it $4.1 million in damages for an illegal get-out-the-vote phone-jamming operation on Election Day 2002.
“The Republicans call the figure untenable and say their admitted two-hour disruption of 13 Democratic telephone lines should cost them no more than $4,974, the costs of rental and service for the affected telephones.
But the Democrats want the Republicans to pay nearly half of the ‘value’ of their entire get-out-the-vote effort from April 1 to Election Day. They say the phone-jam disrupted the operation at the crucial time that the product of seven months of incurred costs was being mobilized.” (Union Leader [N.H.])
All Eyes on Pelosi for Intelligence Pick
“The intelligence community and Capitol Hill are awaiting House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi’s [D-CA] choice to lead the chamber’s intelligence panel, an explosive decision that will anger key members of her party no matter who she selects.
“Even before Democrats won control of the House, reports surfaced that Mrs. Pelosi would skip over Rep. Jane Harman of California, the highest ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and opt instead for Rep. Alcee L. Hastings of Florida or Silvestre Reyes of Texas, the second- and third-ranking on the panel.
“Mrs. Harman is backed by many centrists and is seen as hawkish on defense matters, while Mr. Hastings has the support of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) but is tainted by his impeachment and removal as a federal judge in 1989.” (Washington Times)
More Katrina Victims Are in Trailers
“Nearly 15 months after the hurricane struck, the number of Katrina victims who will be spending Thanksgiving in FEMA trailers this year will paradoxically be far higher — roughly three times greater — than it was last year.
“The reason: Many people who were living with family members or staying in hotels at government expense last year have since moved out or been evicted. But they have been unable to return to their homes because they are still waiting for their houses to be repaired, their insurance to come through, or the water and electricity to be turned back on. Or they have yet to decide whether to rebuild at all.
“More than 99,000 families in Louisiana and Mississippi are living in FEMA trailers, compared with about 34,000 last November, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.” (AP)
Elected as a War Critic, He Was Part of Pre-War Errors
“Of all the Democrats who rode a wave of public anger over Iraq to election victories this month, Chris Carney had the most unlikely credentials as a war critic.
“Before winning the race for Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, Carney was part of a controversial intelligence unit at the Pentagon that was responsible for some of the most alarming â and, it turned out, unfounded â prewar claims about Iraq.
“Assigned to search for links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, the unit reached a series of conclusions, including that a Sept. 11 hijacker had met with an Iraqi agent in Prague, Czech Republic, that have since been widely discredited. The Pentagon unit was created and run by one of the Iraq war’s principal architects, then-Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith.
“Carney took part in briefings at the White House and the Pentagon that disparaged the CIA for underestimating the relationship between Baghdad and the terrorist network. Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials frequently touted the findings to bolster the case for war.” (LA Times)
Democrats’ Victory Is Felt on K Street
“The Democrats’ takeover of Congress this month has turned official Washington upside down.
“Labor and environmental representatives, once also-rans in congressional influence, are meeting frequently with Capitol Hill’s incoming Democratic leaders. Corporations that once boasted about their Republican ties are busily hiring Democratic lobbyists. And industries worried about reprisals from the new Democrats-in-charge, especially the pharmaceutical industry, are sending out woe-is-me memos and hoping their GOP connections will protect them in the crunch….
“Companies caught in the Democrats’ cross hairs, such as oil and drug firms, are hiring Democratic lobbyists, but they’re holding on to their Republican lobbyists. They reason that they will need to persuade Republican lawmakers to block bills they dislike in the Senate, where 60 out of 100 votes are required to pass anything of consequence. Democrats hold only a 51 to 49 majority.” (WaPo)
Drug Industry Is on Defensive as Power Shifts
“Alarmed at the prospect of Democratic control of Congress, top executives from two dozen drug companies met here last week to assess what appears to them to be a harsh new political climate, and to draft a battle plan.
“Hoping to prevent Congress from letting the government negotiate lower drug prices for millions of older Americans on Medicare, the pharmaceutical companies have been recruiting Democratic lobbyists, lining up allies in the Bush administration and Congress, and renewing ties with organizations of patients who depend on brand-name drugs….
“Amgen, the biotechnology company, recently disclosed that it had retained as a lobbyist George C. Crawford, a former chief of staff for Representative Nancy Pelosi of California. Ms. Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, is in line to become speaker in January and has said that the House will immediately take up legislation authorizing Medicare to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers….
“Other major drug companies have been snatching up Democratic former-aides-turned-lobbyists. Merck recently has hired Peter Rubin, a former aide to Representative Jim McDermott of Washington, one of the more liberal House Democrats. Cephalon has hired Kim Zimmerman, a health policy aide to Senator Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat of Nebraska.” (NY Times)
Hastert Scouts for House Role After 8 Years as Speaker
“Speaker J. Dennis Hastert made history this year when he became the longest-serving Republican in that post. Now he is about to go into the books again as one of the few House speakers, and the first in almost 50 years, to rejoin the rank and file….
â’It is not an ideal situation, but the speaker is a grounded person and is focused on serving another term in Congress,’ said Ron Bonjean, a spokesman for Mr. Hastert.
“Others close to Mr. Hastert say the speaker, who has said little publicly since the Republicans lost the House, is dejected and embarrassed by the rebuke. The defeat had a strong personal element, because Mr. Hastertâs role in the Mark Foley scandal became a Democratic talking point and severely limited his effectiveness as an advocate for House candidates.” (NY Times)
Retiring Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) Took Nearly $40K in Free Trips
“U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe may be retiring at the end of the year, but that hasn’t kept him from racking up free trips abroad.
“Kolbe, a Tucson Republican who announced his retirement plans a year ago, reported visiting Turkey, Italy, Poland, England, Canada, Spain and Belgium since June â all on the dime of private groups including the Aspen Institute and the German Marshall Fund….
“Congressional watchdog groups questioned whether it was appropriate for a retiring lawmaker to accept so many privately paid trips right before leaving office, when most of Congress was focused on the November elections.
‘Privately sponsored travel is supposed to be for official business,’ said Massie Ritsch, spokesman for the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.” (AP)
Guantanamo Detainee Refuses Heart Operation
“A businessman being held for allegedly providing support to Al Qaeda has refused to have a heart operation at the U.S. military detention center hospital here and instead is seeking a court order for civilian treatment in the U.S. or his native Pakistan.
“The dispute over who should operate and where has spotlighted questions of medical ethics in the handling of some of the 430 terrorism suspects detained at Guantanamo.
“Saifullah Paracha, a 59-year-old real estate and media mogul who lived in the United States for 16 years, was to have undergone a cardiac catheterization this week to explore the cause of recurring chest pains and two previous heart attacks.
“Guantanamo officials say that their 150-person medical team is capable of performing the routine operation and that nearly $400,000 was spent flying in a 24-member team of cardiac specialists and equipment to be on hand in case of complications.
“But Paracha’s lawyers told a U.S. district judge in Washington last week that Guantanamo doctors had left him shackled during previous examinations and treatments. Paracha’s request for a court order to halt the operation at the prison was denied Monday, when Judge Paul L. Friedman said he was not convinced Paracha faced a risk of ‘irreparable injury’ at Guantanamo.” (LA Times)
FBI Subpoena Targets Records of Grant Agency
“A state office that oversaw a series of controversial charities tied to African-American legislators is being scrutinized by the FBI, Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s office confirmed Tuesday in announcing that it had complied with a subpoena for records from the department….
” Before it was abolished earlier this year, the Office of Urban Affairs was in charge of overseeing grants to nonprofit agencies in the districts of black lawmakers. Critics commonly derided the grants — and similar money doled out to rural districts — as legislative “slush funds” that governors could use as an incentive to get reluctant legislators to vote their way.” (New Orleans Times-Picayune)