The Daily Muck

Regulations prohibit presidential candidates from using their PACs to directly influence the election, but before it stopped making donations last October, Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) Hopefund PAC donated (sub. req.) over $300,000 to House and Senate Democrats. “Of that amount, $117,500 went to Members who are now supporting his presidential bid, though at the time of his contributions many of them had not yet announced their endorsements.” (Roll Call)

Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will testify today about the “significantly stressed” condition of the nation’s military forces. Mullen believes that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have “prevented our forces from fully training for the full spectrum of operations and impacts our ability to be ready to counter future threats.” (AP)

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will tell Congress today that he can’t offer a realistic estimate of the cost of the war in Iraq for the coming year. This marks a retreat from promises the Pentagon made last year about detailing the costs. Gates instead will offer a “place-holder” for war expenses (about $70 billion now, and $100 billion in additional requests if current rates of war spending continue). (LA Times, AP)Justice Department pardon attorney Roger Adams has transferred to another part of the department after the DOJ inspector general found evidence that he made inappropriate “use of nationality in the decision-making process.” Investigators “were extremely troubled by Adams’ belief that an applicant’s ‘ethnic background’ was something that should be an ‘important consideration’ in a pardon decision.” (AP)

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) has agreed to pay a penalty of $63,000 to the FEC after an FEC audit found that he paid for personal expenses out of money from his campaign committee. The audit also found that Meeks’ committee exceeded federal contribution limits in 2004 and “misstated” its finances. (The Hill)

Mike McConnell, the Director of National Security delivered Congress bad news yesterday about the war against terror. In reiterating a recent National Intelligence Estimate, McConnell noted that al-Qaeda (still under direction from Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri) has benefited from a safe haven in Pakistan and is now improving “the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S.” In another portion of his Congressional testimony, McConnell asserted that the November National Intelligence Estimate on Iran concludes that the “only thing that they’ve [Iran] halted was nuclear weapons design, which is probably the least significant part of the program.” (New York Times, Financial Times)

The Bush administration’s Guantanamo system of detainment and military tribunals is under scrutiny in two converging federal cases – Boumediene v. Bush (already in front of the Supreme Court) and Bismullah v. Gates (now under emergency appeal in a federal court). The Bush administration’s emergency appeal seeks to stop a lower-court decision ordering the government to release to defendants information used to determine their designations as enemy combatants. Experts say that this case complicates Boumediene v. Bush, which challenges the government’s right to deny habeas corpus petitions to detainees facing indefinite confinement. (New York Times)

Sioux Manufacturing of Fort Totten has agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that the company built helmets for the army that failed to meet government standards. The $2 million settlement is far less than the $159 million the lawsuit originally called for and it came after the government recently announced that the company has been awarded a new contract worth $74 million to make new helmets. (New York Times)

President Bush’s new budget request undermines a new law (the Open Government Act of 2007) designed to improve compliance with the Freedom of Information Act by shifting a recently created ombudsman’s position from the National Archives and Records Administration to the Department of Justice. Because the ombudsman was intended to be the principle watchdog for Freedom of Information Act compliance, Senator Leahy (D-VT) argues that “once again, the White House has shown they intend to act contrary to the intent of Congress.” (Washington Post)

The Detroit Mayoral text messaging scandal may be about to get even more interesting. A judge has ordered the release of documents that purportedly show that mayor Kwame Kilpatrick settled lawsuits with the Deputy Chief of Police and two former bodyguards last fall in order to keep evidence of his affair with his chief of staff from becoming public. Kilpatrick’s office intends to appeal the ruling. (Detroit Free Press)

U.S. soldiers mistakenly killed at least three Iraqi civilians and wounded a child in a raid near Tikrit yesterday. The soldiers were attacking what was believed to be a “terrorist cell” but it turned out to be a one-room family residence. (New York Times)

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