Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Political Hot Topics
BUSH TAPS WALL STREETER FOR TREASURY: President Bush named Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chairman Henry M. Paulson Jr. as Treasury secretary yesterday, turning to a prominent Wall Street insider to lead his economic team and become the chief promoter of the administration's fiscal policies. The nomination, announced in a brief Rose Garden ceremony, marked the first time Bush has chosen a chieftain from the world of finance to head the Treasury after the Cabinet post was occupied by two industrial-sector executives who struggled to hold sway with Bush's inner circle. Although Bush has shown mistrust of financiers, he hailed Paulson's service as head of "one of the most respected firms on Wall Street" who has "an intimate knowledge of financial markets and an ability to explain economic issues in clear terms." Washington Post: Financier Chosen To Head Treasury

PAULSON CALLED AN "ARDENT ENVIRONMENTALIST": As a three-decade Wall Street veteran and chairman of one of the nation's premiere investment banks, Henry M. Paulson Jr. makes a living watching markets. But it's his hobby of watching birds that is already causing problems for his nomination as the nation's next Treasury secretary. An ardent environmentalist, Paulson is expected to be questioned during confirmation hearings about his role as chairman of the Nature Conservancy, and whether he adequately cleaned up the organization's land sale and tax break practices. Another potential sticky issue: a decision by Goldman Sachs, the investment house Paulson heads as chairman and chief executive, to donate 680,000 acres of land in a remote section of Chile to an environmental group with ties to his son. Los Angeles Times: The Bird-Watching Businessman

NEW IRAQI AMBASSADOR SHOWCASED AT WH: Iraq's ambassador to the United States presented his credentials to President Bush yesterday and said the president was right in saying terrorists cannot stop Iraq from forming a free and democratic country. Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie told Mr. Bush that Iraqis want to "remove the scourge of terrorism from our land and help others remove it from theirs." His appointment from Iraq's newly formed government represents good news for Mr. Bush, which is why the White House turned what is usually a low-key ceremonial event into a showcase photo opportunity. "Although there's been some very difficult times for the Iraqi people, I am impressed by the courage of the leadership, impressed by the determination of the people, and want to assure you, sir, that the United States stands ready to help the Iraqi democracy succeed," Mr. Bush told Mr. Sumaidaie as he received the ambassador in the Oval Office. Washington Times: President welcomes new Iraqi diplomat

NEY-ABRAMOFF LINK DETAILED AT SAFAVIAN TRIAL: Neil Volz, the former Ney aide who became a lobbyist, was in U.S. District Court as a chief witness for the prosecution in the trial of David Safavian, a former top Bush administration official in the General Services Administration who is charged with lying to federal investigators about his relationship with Abramoff... Prosecutors spent much of their time focusing on an expensive golf trip to Scotland in 2002 that included Abramoff, Ney, Safavian and Volz, who got free travel by private jet, $100 rounds of drinks, $400 rounds of golf and rooms at expensive hotels... Prosecutors asked Volz whom he had admitted conspiring with to commit so-called honest services fraud. Abramoff, Volz and other former Abramoff associates say that Ney received gifts such as free meals and the trip to Scotland in exchange for legislative favors. Columbus Dispatch: Ex-aide calls Ney advocate for Abramoff

VOLZ FALSIFIED COST OF SCOTLAND TRIP ON FORM: [Volz said] he had talked with the lawmaker, Representative Bob Ney of Ohio, before providing Mr. Ney's office with a copy of the statement, which he said falsely listed the cost of Mr. Ney's trip that summer as $3,200. Before joining Mr. Abramoff's lobbying firm, Mr. Volz had been Mr. Ney's chief of staff. Appearing as a government witness at the trial of David H. Safavian, a former White House aide accused of lying about his ties to Mr. Abramoff, Mr. Volz said he knew the $3,200 figure was too low, especially given the use of a chartered Gulfstream jet and $500-a-night hotel rooms. But he said he provided the number to Mr. Ney because it was modest enough not to attract the attention of reporters and others who might see the disclosure form. New York Times: Ex-Aide Tells of Understating Cost of Trip

CHERTOFF TALKS EVACUATION ON EVE OF HURRICANE SEASON: An armada of airplanes, trains and buses may be used to get as many people as possible out of the New Orleans area in the days before a major hurricane strikes, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Tuesday in a news conference. In reviewing the evacuation plans for the 2006 hurricane season, federal officials - who said they are working as partners with city and state officials - also offered specifics on how things will work based on the lessons of Katrina. Waves of buses - about 3,000 - will pick up potential evacuees from staging areas around the city, he said, and negotiations are under way with Amtrak, the federal railroad agency, to provide extra cars. New Orleans Times-Picayune: Planes, trains and buses could play a role in future evacuations

GONZALES WILL BE CALLED TO TESTIFY ABOUT HOUSE RAID: The House intends to summon Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, before the Judiciary Committee to justify its search of a Congressional office, the panel chairman said Tuesday. The chairman, Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Republican of Wisconsin, called the search "profoundly disturbing." Mr. Sensenbrenner also said he planned a legislative response to the search on May 20 of the office of Representative William J. Jefferson, Democrat of Louisiana. The bill would be patterned on a law limiting searches of news media offices. New York Times: House Plans to Call Gonzales to Justify Search of Office

JEFFERSON TRIED SLIGHT-OF-HAND WITH NOLA DOCS: The Justice Department yesterday vigorously defended the recent weekend raid of Rep. William J. Jefferson's Capitol Hill office as part of a bribery investigation, asserting that the Democratic lawmaker attempted to hide documents from FBI agents while they were searching his New Orleans home last August... According to the government filing, an FBI agent caught Jefferson slipping documents into a blue bag in the living room of his New Orleans home during a search. "It is my belief that when Congressman Jefferson placed documents into the blue bag, he was attempting to conceal documents that were relevant to the investigation," FBI agent Stacey E. Kent of New Orleans stated in an affidavit that was part of the government's court submission. Washington Post: Congressman Tried to Hide Papers, Justice Dept. Says

FBI ENDS HOFFA SEARCH: The FBI came up empty-handed in its latest search for Jimmy Hoffa, but a 75-year-old convict whose tip sent agents to a Milford Township horse farm probably won't. As the FBI officially abandoned its search on the Hidden Dreams Farm for the former Teamsters leader on Tuesday, people familiar with the case said federal prosecutors likely would propose a sentence reduction for Donovan Wells, a convicted drug smuggler who told investigators that Hoffa was buried on the 89-acre farm... At a news conference at the farm on Tuesday, FBI Agent Judy Chilen said she believed Hoffa's body had been buried on the farm, but agents couldn't find it... "After a thorough and comprehensive search, no remains of Mr. Hoffa have been located," Chilen said. "And absent any additional new information, our work here has concluded." Detroit Free Press: FBI Calls Off Milford Search

SD VOTERS MAY "VETO" ABORTION BAN: Opponents of the 2006 Legislature's ban on abortion in South Dakota delivered to the secretary of state Tuesday about 38,000 signatures on a petition to give voters a chance to veto the proposed law. If Secretary of State Chris Nelson determines that at least 16,728 of the names are registered voters in the state, voters will decide Nov. 7 whether the Legislature was right or wrong in passing a law that makes it a felony in almost all cases for a doctor to perform an abortion. The abortion ban is scheduled to take effect July 1, as most laws do in South Dakota. If Nelson certifies the issue to the ballot, the ban will be held in check until after the November election. If voters approve the ban, it takes effect the day after the official canvass, although a court challenge almost certainly would be filed against it in federal court. Sioux Falls Argus-Leader: Abortion petitions in; two issues rejected

"THE CAMPAIGN THAT ISN'T": Six years ago, when she was still trying to prove herself as a viable political figure in her own right, Hillary Rodham Clinton ran a $41 million campaign that included a catchy "listening tour" and flooded the airwaves in a race that dominated the New York political scene for more than a year. This time around, many of the political trappings have fallen away. Her campaign office in Manhattan is mostly a formality. She has no zippy slogans. Senator Clinton does not even have a campaign manager in New York, a logical vacancy stemming from her lack of any serious opponent. It is, in essence, the campaign that isn't. New York Times: For Clinton, More of a Cakewalk Than a Run for Re-election to the Senate

SPITZER TAKES CAMPAIGN ON THE ROAD: With the Democratic Party designation in hand and a fresh television ad on the air, Eliot Spitzer is taking his campaign for governor on the road. Spitzer planned to depart Wednesday on an 800-mile Buffalo-to-Long Island bus tour, a day after winning his party's nomination. He must win the September primary to become the Democratic candidate for the general election. Spitzer, a two-term attorney general, promised to reform Albany's ethics, cronyism, high taxes and uncontrolled spending "beginning Day One." "We cannot afford to be cautious because you don't change the world by whispering," he said. AP via Yahoo! News: Spitzer hits road with governor's campaign

TOM RIDGE CAMPAIGNS FOR SWANN: Former Gov. Tom Ridge urged Republicans to put aside their misgivings about Lynn Swann and unite behind him in his bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell. Ridge, who served as Pennsylvania governor from 1995 until President Bush appointed him to lead the Department of Homeland Security in 2001, joined Swann's campaign as honorary chairman. The pair, along with Swann's running mate, Jim Matthews, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, traveled to five cities Tuesday, beginning in Philadelphia and ending up in Ridge's hometown of Erie. Ridge yesterday sought to rebut criticism that Swann lacks experience and hasn't been specific about what he'd do if elected. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Ridge urges GOP to unite behind Swann
Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/31/2006 07:34:00 AM ET | Permalink
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