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The Situation: Tuesday, October 4

Editor's Note: The Situation Report is a running log of dispatches, quotes, links and behind-the-scenes notes filed by the correspondents and producers of CNN's Washington Bureau. Watch "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 3 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

Katrina small businesses






George W. Bush
Capitol Hill
Harriet Miers
Tom DeLay

Posted: 3:27 p.m. ET
From Justine Redman, CNN America Bureau

Leaders of the House and Senate small business committees called Tuesday for a government investigation into whether small businesses are getting their fair share of contracts for post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding.

Sen. Snowe, R-Maine, and Rep. Donald Manzullo, R-Illinois, said they wanted the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on whether small businesses have been given a fair opportunity to compete for contracts as required under federal law.

In a September 28 letter to the GAO, Snowe and Manzullo wrote that small businesses are critical to the economies of the states hit hardest by Katrina. "The revival and participation of small business in the impacted areas is vital to the economic recovery in the area."

Under normal circumstances, federal policy requires that large companies with federal contracts should subcontract to small companies as much as possible. The large companies are supposed to set goals for how much they will subcontract, and government agencies are supposed to monitor whether those goals are met.

However, Snowe and and Manzullo asserted that with recent FEMA-awarded contracts to large businesses, "It does not appear that any of these contracts contain subcontracting plans for participation of small business in the relief effort."

GAO spokesman Paul Anderson told CNN the agency "will be looking at small business contracting issues as part of our larger review of Hurricane Katrina-related work," rather than responding directly to specific requests from members of Congress.

Red Cross scheme update

Posted: 3:10 p.m. ET
From Terry Frieden, CNN America Bureau

Nine Californians have been charged with fraud for allegedly participating in a scheme to pocket Red Cross hurricane relief funds from a call center in Bakersfield, Justice Department officials announced Tuesday.

"So far we've documented a loss of at least $25,000 but we expect that amount to go up," said Sacramento, California, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott, speaking in Washington.

Eight of those charged have been arrested over the past four days. The ninth defendant is being sought. The participants in the alleged scheme are all Bakersfield residents, ranging in age from 19 to 44, Scott said.

Many more arrests are expected in the case, according to law enforcement officials. One source who asked not to be identified said the number could reach 20 or more.

FBI officials said the initial investigation found four contract workers hired to work at a Red Cross call center in Bakersfield provided confidential codes to at least five friends and associates, enabling them to obtain the Red Cross funds at a Western Union office.

Miers supported civil rights for gays, lesbians

Posted: 2:27 p.m. ET
From Robert Yoon, CNN Political Unit

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers indicated that she supported full civil rights for gays and lesbians in a 1989 questionnaire she completed as a candidate for the Dallas City Council.

Miers, who won the seat and served one term, said that the city had a responsibility to fund AIDS education programs and support services for AIDS patients. She also said she supported increasing the funding for these programs "assuming need and resources. I do consider the AIDS illness as a serious total community problem."

The survey also asked candidates whether they supported overturning a Texas law criminalizing "deviant sexual behavior" between members of the same sex. Miers indicated that she did not support overturning the ban, and would not advocate for overturning the ban as a part of the city's legislative agenda. At the time, many prominent state Democrats, including future governor Ann Richards, also opposed overturning the ban.

On employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, Miers said, "I believe that employers should be able to pick the best qualified person for any position to be filled considering all relevant factors."

"It's a small window, but it's a window into the heart of this woman who in 1989 was not thinking about serving on the Supreme Court," said Joe Solomonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization.

Solomonese is "cautiously optimistic" that the survey indicates that Miers will have an "open mind" on gay rights issues if confirmed to the Court.

The questionnaire was administered by the Lesbian/Gay Political Coalition of Dallas, which has since disbanded. Miers completed the survey but did not seek the group's endorsement in the race.

Red Cross scheme

Posted: 1:36 p.m. ET
From Terry Frieden, CNN America Bureau

Eight Californians have been arrested and charged with participating in an alleged scheme to pocket donations for hurricane victims that were made to a Red Cross call center, federal law enforcement sources said Tuesday.

The Justice Department is expected to make an announcement later Tuesday about wire fraud charges against the eight, all Bakersfield, California, residents who authorities claim siphoned off charitable contributions for personal use.

Law enforcement officials said five contract workers allegedly provided codes to three associates, who were then able to cash Red Cross contributions at Western Union. None of those arrested were Red Cross employees.

The first of the eight arrests occurred Friday and the last was made Monday, authorities said.

Officials said the FBI received calls from suspicious Red Cross employees after a disproportionate number of disbursements for hurricane evacuees in California were made in Bakersfield.

Sources familiar with the case said the U.S. attorney in Sacramento, California, in a formal announcement at his office, is expected to provide details of the scheme and the amount of money taken.

The Morning Grind

Posted: 9:00 a.m. ET
From Robert Yoon, CNN Political Unit

The Divine Miss M.

When all those people on TV say that Harriet Miers has a "thin paper trail," they aren't kidding.

President Bush's last Supreme Court nominee, now-Chief Justice John Roberts, had 39 Supreme Court cases' worth of arguments, briefs, and motions, two years worth of decisions as a federal judge, and 80,000 pages of his government memos, letters, and the early-1980s equivalent of Post-It Notes squirrelled away in the National Archives. And that's not counting his writings in legal journals, TV, print, and radio interviews and the news accounts of the various cases he had taken in his 13 years as a private attorney.

With this nominee, unless President Bush details her every ideological view at his 10:30 a.m. Rose Garden presser this morning, the best we can do for now is to piece together the available information and try to come up with a composite sketch.

So piece together we did. Although our initial sketch of Harriet Miers will probably look more like a weird Picasso painting, where some features are grotesquely exaggerated and misshapen and others are omitted entirely, rather than one of those pin-point accurate charcoal sketches that those fine courtroom sketch artists regularly churn out. But here goes:

Harriet Miers is a Texas lawyer who served a quiet term on the Dallas City Council and went on to become the first woman to head the state bar association and a trusted ally of the Republican governor-turned-president. She has made political contributions primarily to Republicans, though had dalliances with Democratic candidates including Al Gore and Lloyd Bentsen in the 1980s. On abortion, she made a small donation to a Texas anti-abortion group and strongly but unsuccessfully advocated that the nation's largest association of lawyers not take a position on the issue. She is a born-again Christian and may or may not have shot a hole-in-one in a West Virginia golf course in September 1981.

There you are, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That should give you plenty to chew on for your confirmation hearings. Let me know if you need anything else.

Obviously, what people of all political stripes want to know is where Miers stands on abortion. There are only two pieces of evidence from the public record that shed some light on this, though it is by no means conclusive. It is the type of evidence that abortion rights supporters will cite as proof that Miers is "anti-choice," but that abortion rights opponents will say is not enough to prove that she's not David Souter with a Rue McClanahan hair-do.

Miers made a $150 donation to a Texas anti-abortion group called "Texans United for Life" in 1989 when she was a Dallas city councilwoman. The donation qualified her to be listed as a "Bronze Patron" in the program at the group's annual dinner, keynoted by GOP Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois. There were three donation levels: Gold ($2500), Silver ($1250), and Bronze ($150); Miers gave the minimum needed to get a mention in the program.

Kyleen Wright, president of the group, now called Texans for Life, says she appreciates the donation, but is not fully convinced that Miers is a committed opponent of abortion rights.

"It was a very nice gift. We're grateful to all of our donors," Wright told the Grind. "But as for whether this means that she's committed to our issues, I'm not convinced. I'm hopeful, but I'm not convinced." She added, "I don't know what it [the donation] says about her."

Wright attended the dinner but doesn't remember if Miers actually attended.

"If she were there, she would have been one of about two dozen office-holders and candidates who gave at the bronze level. She was probably recognized and asked to stand," she said.

Wright has been involved with the group since the mid-1980s, and says she is not aware of Miers being an active member. She says she could not find any additional evidence of other gifts, contributions, or involvement that Miers had with the group.

"None of us know her," Wright concluded, which may become a familiar refrain when it comes to Miers over the coming weeks.

In 1993, as president of the Texas Bar Association, Miers lead an unsuccessful effort to force the national American Bar Association to drop its official endorsement of abortion rights. A review of news accounts from the day did not necessarily reveal any of Miers' ideological or moral opinions on abortion. Instead, she told the Associated Press back then that "the issue has brought on tremendous divisiveness and loss of membership," and questioned whether the ABA should "be trying to speak for the entire legal community with respect to this particular issue."

Again, not comforting to abortion rights supporters and not enough to settle the nerves of abortion rights opponents.

Now, on to the fun stuff.

* The publication "Texas Lawyer" reported in November 1992 that at a meeting that month of the Texas State Bar's board of directors, members wrote down celebrity look-alikes of each other. Who was Harriet Miers' celebrity doppelganger? 1950s TV uber-mom June Cleaver.

* The town of Keyser, West Virgina, made news on September 12, 1981, when three different golfers scored a hole-in-one at the Mill Creek Golf Club, an unprecedented athletic feat at the time. One of the golfers according to a UPI press account: Harriet Miers, on the 150-yard, par 3, No. 8 hole. The official White House bio on Miers released yesterday doesn't mention her whereabouts on this date, so I have no idea if this is indeed the same Harriet Miers. But I say to SCOTUS golfers John Roberts, Sandra Day O'Connor, and John Paul Stevens: you were warned.

* Miers is a lawyer who tells lawyer jokes. And not the kind of wry, erudite, John Roberts-style, is-society-really-better-off-if-housewives-become-lawyers kind of lawyer jokes that prompt women's groups to send out press releases. Miers told the Houston Chronicle in 1992 that the phenomenon of lawyer jokes is a reflection of public attitudes toward the profession. And while many laywers object to lawyer jokes, she doesn't personally. In fact, here is one of her favorites: "You know why they bury lawyers 12 feet under ground instead of six feet under? Because deep down, lawyers are nice people."

That should break the ice at those scary oral arguments.

GRIND EXTRA/In other news. . .

Posted: 9:00 a.m. ET
From Robert Yoon, CNN Political Unit

While most political mills will be busy grinding away on Harriet Miers, she's not the only one in the news. Here's a quick rundown:

* One Texan who wasn't distracted by Monday's Supreme Court annoucement was Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle, who secured his second grand jury indictment in a week against Rep. Tom DeLay, who stepped down from his post as House Majority Leader after an indictment last week for violating state campaign finance laws. Monday's indictment stemmed from a money laundering charge. DeLay denounced the indictment and Earle in a statement: "He is trying to pull the legal equivalent of a 'do-over' since he knows very well that the charges he brought against me last week are totally manufactured and illegitimate... This is an abomination of justice." Stuart Roy, a former DeLay aide, picked up where his former boss left off and said that "Texans did not elect their best and brighest to the position of Travis County DA. Ronnie Earle may truly be the Elmer Fudd of politics." Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chair of the House campaign arm of the Democratic party, said of the new DeLay indictment: "Americans demand we change the culture of corruption that Tom DeLay has come to represent."

* Progress for America has a new pro-Harriet Miers ad called "Trailblazer" in the can and ready to air as early as today or Wednesday. The ad calls Miers "a trailblazer for women in law" and shows a clip from Tuesday's Oval Office announcement where Miers pledges "to strictly apply the laws and the Constitution." The spot closes with PFA's familiar call for an "up or down vote in the U.S. Senate." The group will spend about $500,000 to run this spot on national cable stations, as well as on internet ads, emails, and other grassroots activity, according to a spokeswoman. "Trailblazer" will replace the ad "Princple" which sounded a general call for a fair vote for the president's then-unknown nominee. The ad will run until Friday, but may be extended.

* Former president Bill Clinton starts a two-day tour of the Gulf Coast today, visiting areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Clinton, the Oscar Madison-half of the Presidential Odd Couple he formed with former president George H.W. Bush, will tour parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in an effort to determine how best to spend the $100 million raised by the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.

Political Hot Topics

Posted: 8:45 a.m. ET
From Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau

NEW INDICTMENT FOR THE HAMMER: A new Travis County grand jury hurriedly reindicted U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on a charge of conspiring to violate state election laws and added two charges related to money laundering Monday after DeLay's lawyers challenged the validity of an indictment returned last week. Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle's office described the reindictment as procedural, but DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin portrayed it as an effort to correct what he described as an embarrassingly flawed indictment against the Sugar Land Republican. Houston Chronicle: New grand jury adds charges against DeLayexternal link

CHARGES ARE "GRAVER": The second grand jury issued an indictment charging DeLay with conspiracy to commit money-laundering, a second-degree felony, and money-laundering, a first-degree felony. Combined, the charges could bring a life prison term. Although such stiff punishment is virtually unheard of in cases of political wrongdoing, "this is serious stuff," said University of Texas law professor George E. Dix. "They have obviously upped the ante." There was considerable disagreement over the meaning and the import of the latest indictment. The new grand jury was only impaneled at noon on Monday, which means Texas prosecutors were able to persuade its members to issue the more serious charges in a matter of hours. Los Angeles Times: DeLay Is Indicted Again; Charges Are Graverexternal link

CHUCKLES IS HAPPY: Members of the Senate, who were bracing for a fight over this Supreme Court nomination, welcomed President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers on Monday as a peace offering. Senators from both parties have been worried about the potential for a drawn-out political battle over Bush's choice because retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom Miers is tapped to succeed, has been a swing vote on abortion and other controversial issues. One of the president's most dogged Democratic critics seemed pleasantly surprised. "This is a good first day," said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. "There's hope that Harriett Miers will be a mainstream nominee." But, he said, "Americans will need to know a lot more about Miers' judicial philosophy and legal background before any vote for confirmation." USA Today: Lack of friction over nominee pleases senatorsexternal link

...AND IF HE'S HAPPY, HOW DOES FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL FEEL? White House and Republican Party officials are scrambling to rein in conservative activists critical of President Bush's nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, yesterday held a conference call with conservative leaders to address their concerns about Miers. He stressed Bush's close relationship with Miers and the need to confirm a justice who will not interfere with the administration's management of the war on terrorism, according to a person who attended the teleconference. The Hill: Soothing the seething right wingexternal link

GLOBE LAYS OUT NINE GOP '08 HOPEFULS: Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, who is downplaying the possibility of a run; Senator George Allen of Virginia, who is actively drumming up enthusiasm for an '08 run; Arizona Senator John McCain, Bush's sparring partner on everything from judicial nominations to some military matters; Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran who has been relentlessly critical of Bush's handling of the Iraq war; former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who has criticized Bush's handling of homeland security; Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who once promised to uphold state abortion laws; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who dramatically broke with the president over stem-cell research; New York Governor George S. Pataki, who supports abortion rights; and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, an unabashed social liberal who endorses gay marriage. Boston Globe: Succeeding Bush: A GOP short listexternal link

FIVE WOULD-BES VISITING IOWA THIS OCTOBER: There is nothing wrong with your calendar. Do not attempt to adjust it. It may seem bizarre that five prospective presidential candidates are planning to visit Iowa this month - more than two years before the state's precinct caucuses are expected to launch the 2008 nominating season. The October schedule follows an uncharacteristically busy summer - when at least 10 would-be candidates stopped by - and points to how wide open the race is expected to be.

- On Saturday, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, will be headlining the annual meeting of Iowans for Tax Relief in Des Moines.

- Next week, Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, also a Republican, plans to attend the annual World Food Prize ceremony in Des Moines.

- Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana is scheduled to attend events for Democratic state Reps. Janet Petersen in Des Moines and Lisa Heddens of Ames on Oct. 13.

- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee is scheduled to headline the state GOP's Ronald Reagan dinner on Oct. 22.

- Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts is planning to attend events in eastern and central Iowa on Oct. 29. Des Moines Register: Oval Office prospects arrivingexternal link

CAPITO WON'T CHALLENGE BYRD: With U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's announcement Monday that she won't run for the U.S. Senate, the Republican Party will have to scramble to seriously challenge incumbent Sen. Robert C. Byrd, according to a national political analyst. "The Republicans do not have another good option in West Virginia," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "It would have been difficult enough for Capito to defeat Sen. Byrd. It will be enormously problematic for any other Republican to do so, assuming Sen. Byrd's health will remain strong. He can look forward to another six-year term in the Senate," Sabato said. Charleston Gazette: Capito's decision dims GOP hopesexternal link

HACKETT WILL CHALLENGE DEWINE: Paul Hackett, the Iraq War veteran from Cincinnati who was hailed by national Democrats for his narrow loss this summer in a heavily Republican House district, has decided to challenge Mike DeWine for U.S. Senate in 2006. Spokesman David Woodruff, who served as Hackett's campaign manager in his special election campaign for the 2nd District House seat against Jean Schmidt, confirmed Hackett's run Monday evening. Hackett had spent the last month hinting at a run against Ohio's senior senator, who is in his second six-year term. Hackett was flying back Monday evening from Washington after meeting with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, Woodruff said. AP via Yahoo! News: Hackett to challenge DeWine for Senateexternal link

ROY MOORE ANNOUNCES GOV BID: Ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore announced his return to the political arena Monday, declaring himself a Republican candidate for governor in 2006. Moore, who was removed from office for refusing to obey a judge's order to remove a 5,300-pound Ten Commandments monument from a state building, announced his candidacy before a cheering hometown crowd in the county where he first gained attention as the Ten Commandments judge. "We live in a crucial time in our history, a time when our rights are being eroded while the real problems in this state are oftentime ignored," Moore, 58, said. Birmingham News: Roy Moore announces run for governorexternal link

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