Friday, June 30, 2006
No data accessed from stolen VA laptop
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI has concluded its final forensics tests on a stolen Veterans Administration laptop computer and found none of the personal data was accessed, a federal official tells CNN.

The FBI recovered the laptop and hard drive containing personal data on more than 26 million veterans and active-duty military personnel on Wednesday -- more than a month after their theft from the home of a Veterans Affairs analyst.

Taken May 3 from the house of a VA employee, the laptop was returned to the FBI's Baltimore's field office Wednesday after someone tipped off the U.S. Park Police, who in turn called the FBI, FBI Baltimore field office director bureau Bill Chase told reporters Thursday.

The VA said the employee had no clearance to take it home, but documents dated September 5, 2002, show the analyst was permitted to do so for "work-related projects."

No arrests have been made.
Posted By Kevin Bohn and Kelli Arena, CNN America Bureau: 6/30/2006 11:55:00 AM ET | Permalink
Republicans and Democrats armed with talking points for the July 4th recess
From The Morning Grind

Republicans are being urged by GOP leaders to talk about the economy and the Medicare prescription drug plan as they return home for the July 4th Congressional recess. Democrats, too, are being pressed by their leadership to do the same. But the two parties will be selling a different message.

Congressional leaders have armed their colleagues with comprehensive talking points to speak from as they hold public forums and meet with constituents over the next week. At stake is control of Congress and party leaders want to make sure rank-and-file colleagues can eloquently promote their party's agenda and vision, while at the same time casting doubt on their opponents' goals.

"If we don't let our constituents know about our accomplishments, no one will," House Republican Conference Chairman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) writes in a letter accompanying the House GOP's recess packet. "The Democrats are not going to be out there this recess touting our accomplishments for us."

In addition to highlighting an improving economy and the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug plan, Republicans are being told to speak about the successful war on terror and GOP efforts to ease the energy crisis, among other issues.

Democrats are being told to push their "New Direction for America" agenda that includes health care, economic security, college affordability, energy independence and retirement security. Democrats will also be criticizing the GOP's stewardship of Congress over the next week, which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) previewed Thursday during her weekly news conference.

"As we leave this session of Congress and for this recess, I think it is important to note that Republicans have failed to pass an immigration bill," she said. "They have failed to pass a lobby reform bill, and they have failed to pass a comprehensive budget ... they failed to pass the minimum wage."

Amy Walter, senior editor of the non-partisan Cook Political Report, said Democrats and Republicans have a similar goal of trying to convince voters that their respective party is "a problem solver."

"Voters know that Republicans are in charge so they will take the brunt of the blame," she said. "The question in my mind is will Democrats be able to take advantage of voter discontent."

Walter said she thinks Democrats would be best served by continuing to promote the "time for change theme and to focus on the legislative gridlock and problems and say, 'See Republicans are in charge and we need change.'"

For Republicans, Walter said "it is hard to make the stay the course case so you have to change the subject.

"If I were a Republican going home, I would focus on some of the local issues I have been working on," she said. "And I would most likely stay away from many of the national issues."
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/30/2006 11:04:00 AM ET | Permalink
Graceland baby, Graceland
From The Morning Grind

President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi head to Memphis, Tennessee this morning to pay homage to the King. Koizumi is a huge Elvis Presley fan, so Bush decided to take him on a tour of Graceland.

How much of an Elvis fan is Koizumi? Well, CNN's Robert Yoon reports that in 2001 he issued a statement to the Elvis fan club in Japan saying, "I love Elvis. I never get tired of listening to his songs no matter how many times I hear them."

That same year, Koizumi and the fan club released a CD called "Junichiro Koizumi Presents My Favorite Elvis Songs." We kid you not. Koizumi picked his favorite Elvis songs such as "Can't Help Falling In Love" and "If I Can Dream" for the special edition release.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/30/2006 11:04:00 AM ET | Permalink
Romney seeks to strengthen his social conservative creds in S.C.
From The Morning Grind

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) was hailed yesterday by a South Carolina organization for helping to fund its effort to convince Palmetto State voters to classify marriage as a union between a man and a woman by amending the state Constitution in November. The praise should help Romney further solidify his credentials as a social conservative in South Carolina, one of the early proving grounds in a presidential campaign. SCforMarriage.org announced it had received a $5,000 contribution from Romney's political action committee, The Commonwealth PAC. A glance at the organization's website shows that Romney is the first and only person listed as a campaign sponsor. But 34 elected officials including Gov. Mark Sanford (R) have endorsed the effort, according to SCforMarriage.org.

"Traditional marriage is fundamental to the development of children and to our success as a culture," Romney said in a statement released by SCforMarriage.org. "We cannot afford to shrink from the timeless, priceless principles of human experience. I will continue to work to help preserve traditional marriage and I applaud this effort in South Carolina as well as others like it across the nation."

Given the importance of the South Carolina presidential primary, will other Republicans eyeing the 2008 GOP nomination follow Romney's lead and weigh in financially on this issue?
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/30/2006 11:03:00 AM ET | Permalink
CIA analysis: Voice is bin Laden
From National Security Senior Producer Pam Benson

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A CIA analysis has concluded the voice on an audio
tape released Thursday night on an al Qaeda website is that of Osama bin Laden,
according to a CIA representative.
Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/30/2006 11:02:00 AM ET | Permalink
While Bayh tries to build support in Iowa
From The Morning Grind

Sen. Evan Bayh called on his political supporters Thursday to donate to Rep. Leonard Boswell's (D-Iowa) campaign, a week before the Indiana Democrat visits the nation's first presidential caucus state. Bayh, who is expected to run for the White House in 2008, praises Boswell for his military service in Vietnam and notes that Republican challenger Jeff Lamberti is receiving strong support from the likes of Vice President Cheney and GOP political mastermind Karl Rove.

"Leonard's seat is the number one target for Republicans in Washington," Bayh writes, adding that Democrats are within striking distance of taking back control of the House from Republicans for the first time since 1995.

Boswell is a much sought after ally by Democrats who are eyeing presidential bids.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/30/2006 11:02:00 AM ET | Permalink
Pelosi predicts Colbert will fall short of goal
From The Morning Grind

While acknowledging that she tunes in "all the time" to The Colbert Report, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) predicted Thursday that Stephen Colbert's goal of interviewing every Member of Congress will fall short.

"That won't happen," she told reporters at her weekly press conference.

She described Colbert's "Better Know a District" segment, where the comedian interviews Members of Congress, as humorous but offered up this advice.

"I wouldn't recommend that anyone go on the show," she said. "I would think it would be okay to go on if you were live to tape, but don't subject yourself to a comic's edit unless you want to be made a fool of."
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/30/2006 11:01:00 AM ET | Permalink
DAYAHEAD/Events making news today and through the weekend ...
  • President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush head to Memphis this morning to tour Graceland with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at 11:20 a.m. ET. The group then heads to Rendezvous BBQ for lunch at 1:55 p.m. ET. By 6:15 p.m. ET, Bush will have arrived in Columbus, Ohio to attend a fundraiser for Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio).

  • The First Lady will head to Starlight, Indiana to attend a 5:30 p.m. ET fundraiser for Rep. Mike Sodrel (R-Indiana).

    From The Morning Grind

  • The Senate is not in session. It returns at 2 p.m. ET on July 10. The House is not in session. It returns at 2 p.m. ET on July 10.

  • Vice President Dick Cheney attends a 12:30 p.m. ET fundraiser for Rep. Scott Garrett (R-New Jersey) at the Waldorf, Astoria in New York City.

  • Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware), a potential presidential candidate, was scheduled to speak at the "Politics & Eggs" breakfast forum at 8 a.m. ET followed by media availability in Bedford, New Hampshire. On Saturday, Biden attends a Milford, New Hampshire Democratic Committee event. On Monday, Biden attends a reception with the Rockingham County Democratic Committee and state Sen. Maggie Hassan in Exeter, New Hampshire. Biden then marches in the 4th of July Parade in Amherst, New Hampshire on Tuesday.

  • Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina), a potential presidential candidate, delivers 11:45 a.m. ET remarks to the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women's 21st Annual Legislative Conference in Portland, Oregon. Edwards follows his speech with media availability at 12:30 p.m. ET. Edwards then heads to Seattle, Washington, to speak to the Gnomedex Conference at 2:45 p.m. ET.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) delivers a 9:15 p.m. ET speech to the League of United Latin American Citizens annual conference being held at the Midwest Airlines Convention Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

  • Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia), a potential presidential candidate, stays in Virginia this weekend with an event in Bristol on Saturday; Lynchburg on Sunday and then Scottsville on Tuesday.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/30/2006 11:00:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    SCOTUS REJECTS TRIBUNALS: The Supreme Court yesterday struck down the military commissions President Bush established to try suspected members of al-Qaeda, emphatically rejecting a signature Bush anti-terrorism measure and the broad assertion of executive power upon which the president had based it. Brushing aside administration pleas not to second-guess the commander in chief during wartime, a five-justice majority ruled that the commissions, which were outlined by Bush in a military order on Nov. 13, 2001, were neither authorized by federal law nor required by military necessity, and ran afoul of the Geneva Conventions. Washington Post: High Court Rejects Detainee Tribunals

    BUSH TO WORK WITH CONGRESS TO "FIX THE PROBLEM": The Supreme Court's rebuff of the Bush administration's Guantanamo military tribunals knocks the issue into the halls of Congress, where GOP leaders are already trying to figure out how to give the president the options he wants for dealing with suspected terror detainees. That way forward could be long and difficult. Congress will negotiate a highly technical legal road - one fraught with political implications in an election year - under the scrutiny of the international community that has condemned the continued use of the Guantanamo prison... Within hours of the high court's ruling that the military tribunals were illegal under U.S. and international law, President Bush said he would work with Congress to fix the problem. Still, Bush vowed that the result "won't cause killers to be put out on the street." AP via Yahoo! News: Congressional hearings on Guantanamo set

    A "BATTLE ROYALE" WITH MIDTERMS AROUND THE CORNER: ..."Following the July Fourth recess, I will introduce legislation, in consultation with the administration and my colleagues, that authorizes military commissions and appropriate due-process procedures for trials of terrorist combatants," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said yesterday after the court's decision. Both parties now face a protracted fight over the scope and meaning of the Supreme Court ruling, with each side looking to capitalize on the security issue before the November elections. "This sets up a battle royale, with the November elections just around the corner," said one senior former administration official. "Congressional Democrats screamed bloody murder that the president didn't have the authority to order military tribunals, well, now they have to decide." Washington Times: Legislative remedy to create political battle for midterms

    HOUSE PASSES RESOLUTION CONDEMNING NYT: The House of Representatives on Thursday condemned the recent disclosure of a classified program to track financial transactions and called on the media to cooperate in keeping such efforts secret. Lawmakers expressed their sentiment through a resolution that was approved on a largely party-line 227-to-183 vote after days of harsh criticism by the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans aimed at The New York Times and other newspapers for publishing details of the program, which the government said was limited to following possible terrorist financial trails. The vote followed a bitter debate in which Republicans said news accounts had jeopardized the effort, and Democrats accused Republicans of trying to intimidate the press. New York Times: House Assails Media Report on Tracking of Finances

    NSA COOPERATION "NOT AS EXTENSIVE AS FIRST REPORTED": Members of the House and Senate intelligence committees confirm that the National Security Agency has compiled a massive database of domestic phone call records. But some lawmakers also say that cooperation by the nation's telecommunication companies was not as extensive as first reported by USA TODAY on May 11. Several lawmakers, briefed in secret by intelligence officials about the program after the story was published, described a call records database that is enormous but incomplete. Most asked that they not be identified by name, and many offered only limited responses to questions, citing national security concerns. USA Today: Lawmakers: NSA database incomplete

    BUSH BACK IN THE FORTIES: President Bush's job approval rating is up slightly, but discontent over the Iraq war, especially among women, is continuing to boost Democratic prospects in the struggle for control of Congress, a Times/Bloomberg poll has found. Bush's job approval rating edged up to 41%, his highest since January in the poll. But Democrats held a formidable advantage, 49% to 35%, when registered voters were asked which party they intended to support in fall congressional elections. Los Angeles Times: Though Bush's Numbers Edge Up, War Discontent Lifts Democrats

    FIRST TOUR OF GRACELAND BY A SITTING PRESIDENT: Graceland has new paint on the fences, freshly trimmed bushes and a cleaning job worthy of heads of state. "Every little detail will be pristine," said Graceland chief executive officer Jack Soden. "There's the joke that you ought to have a big party at your house at least once a year, because if you've got really important guests coming you go the extra step to make sure everything is perfect." For Soden, who has greeted 15 million guests in 24 years, "the fact is nobody can remember a day like this one." President George Bush and first lady Laura Bush are accompanying Japan's No. 1 Elvis fan, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, on a tour of Graceland. It is the first Graceland tour by a sitting U.S. president... Graceland spokesman Todd Morgan said he is unsure who else might accompany Koizumi, but Soden said the prime minister's brother, Masaya Koizumi, is a likely guest. He said the brother is a former president of The Elvis Presley Fan Club of Tokyo and helped organize installation of an Elvis statue in a Tokyo park. Memphis Commercial Appeal: Graceland's big day

    VA GETS LAPTOP BACK: Federal officials yesterday announced the recovery of computer equipment stolen from an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs. They said that sensitive personal information of 26.5 million veterans and military personnel apparently had not been accessed. The laptop and external hard drive, stolen May 3 from a VA data analyst's home in Aspen Hill, contained the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of millions of current and former service members. The theft was the largest information security breach in government history and raised fears of potential mass identity theft. Washington Post: Stolen VA Laptop and Hard Drive Recovered

    HOUSE APPROVES DRILLING 50 MILES FROM FL COAST: The House voted by a wide margin Thursday to allow oil and gas drilling as close as 50 miles off the nation's coastline, splitting a once-united Florida congressional delegation, most of whom voted to lift the historic ban that now protects coastal waters. Florida members who sided with the proposal argued that it may be the best the state can do, because bans protecting the coastline begin to expire next year and the state is losing leverage in its efforts to keep rigs from its shores. The bill passed 232 to 187. Fourteen of Florida's 25 House members voted in favor. Miami Republican Reps. Mario and Lincoln Díaz-Balart were the only South Florida House members who supported it. Miami Herald: House votes for drilling near coast

    NEY'S DISTRICT OFFICE DIRECTOR SUBPOENAED: An aide to embattled Rep. Robert W. Ney has been subpoenaed in the Justice Department's investigation of influence peddling in Congress, and three other aides are leaving the Ohio Republican's staff, Ney's spokesman said yesterday. The subpoena for Matthew Parker, director of Ney's congressional district office, was issued by a federal magistrate in Washington. Ney has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but federal prosecutors have described him in court documents as having received gifts, trips and other things of value from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates. Ney spokesman Brian Walsh declined to comment on Parker's subpoena. Parker is the first member of Ney's staff to be subpoenaed by the Justice Department since Ney himself was subpoenaed in November. AP via Yahoo! News: Rep. Ney's aide subpoenaed in lobby probe

    TOP THREE STAFFERS LEAVE NEY OFFICE: The top three aides for Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) are leaving, or already have left, the Ohio Republican's office, the latest sign that Ney's legal and ethical troubles stemming from the Jack Abramoff scandal are growing worse with each passing day. Will Heaton, Ney's chief of staff, and Brian Walsh, the communications director, are planning to leave Ney's staff soon, according to sources close to the office. Walsh will accept a job as communications director for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), while Heaton's destination is unknown. Heaton recently was married and was unavailable for comment Thursday. Chris Otillio, Ney's legislative director, left the office last Friday, the sources said. Roll Call: Three Top Ney Aides Departing; District Aide Subpoenaed

    "MUPPET MESS" COST $160K: Rep. Vito Fossella owes taxpayers more than $160,000 for abusing free mailing privileges to boost his bid for reelection, his rival charged yesterday. As the Daily News reported yesterday, the Staten Island Republican violated House rules by plastering the same photo on free mailings to constituents and campaign flyers. He also used two photos - one with Muppets Elmo and Rosita at his side, the other with senior citizens hugging him - on the mailers and on his campaign Web Site. Although the mailings to thousands of voters was carefully vetted by the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards, the bipartisan committee wasn't aware of the duplication. New York Daily News: Vito's Muppets mess cost 160G, says Dem rival

    EHRLICH TAPS BLIND HEAD OF STATE DISABILITIES OFFICE AS RUNNING MATE: Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. chose Kristen Cox - the legally blind head of the state disabilities office - as his running mate yesterday, a pick that makes a play for female voters and aims to show that the governor's brand of conservatism is tempered by compassion. Cox, 36, is a mother of two who has never run for elected office and is little known outside State House circles. A former Washington lobbyist for an advocacy group for the blind, she joined Ehrlich's administration in 2003 and became a department secretary when he elevated her office to Cabinet-level status. Baltimore Sun: Cox to run with Ehrlich

    RI AG TOOK $$$ FROM DEFENDANT: Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch accepted $4,250 in campaign contributions from DuPont Corp. lawyers and lobbyists before and after reaching a $12-million settlement with the company in the state's lead-paint case. Lynch's opponent in the upcoming election, J. William W. Harsch, filed a complaint yesterday with the state Ethics Commission, saying Lynch's acceptance of money from a company he was prosecuting is in "substantial conflict with his duties." Harsch, a Republican, said his campaign discovered the donations while doing opposition research on Lynch, a Democrat. "It is a total abuse of the office of attorney general," Harsch said in an interview. "It is one of the things that will occur if the office is being used as a stepping stone to higher office." Providence Journal: Lynch accepted campaign donations from lead defendant
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/30/2006 07:44:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Thursday, June 29, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Impeachment Vote?
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following three questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    What does it mean that the citizens of Berkeley, California, will vote on whether to call for the impeachment of Pres. Bush and V.P. Cheney?

    It appears that at least one town in this country is willing to take the action that many have feared doing. This administration will probably try to have them excommunicated from the country. I never thought I'd say it, but God bless California.
    Bill, Leesburg, Florida

    It means that the citizens of Berkeley have a whole lot more backbone than our rubber-stamp representatives in Congress.
    Linda, Maryville, Tennessee

    The Berkeley maneuver to vote for impeachment plays into the hands of the conservatives; it energizes the conservative base to get out and vote instead of drinking another six-pack that day. Liberals are idiots because they continually stir up the "hornet's nest" just before elections. Cool your jets and become active when you gain power if you want to be effective. Losers.
    Gerald, Tampa, Florida

    Is it time to negotiate with the insurgents in Iraq?

    If the newly formed Iraqi government does not negotiate with the insurgents there will never be an end to the violence and a safe and secure Iraq is just a pipe dream.
    Greg, Vista, California

    Well Jack, that's a hell of an idea...now if only those boneheads in Washington could realize it might be a good approach. Maybe it's time to speak softly and put down the big stick.
    Warren, New Jersey

    It would be big mistake to make any deals with people who hate us so much, and can only achieve power by killing off the new government. They would just wait for us to leave before they took over Iraq or caused a civil war.
    Jim, Canal Winchester, Ohio

    Who's going to win the battle between national security and freedom of the press?

    Naturally Bush and his cronies. If the Bush administration is so sincere about keeping stories top-secret then they should stop leaking the information out.
    Craig, Peyton, Colorado

    The press. And if they do not, we have become early Soviet Russia.
    Bruce, Minneapolis, Minnesota

    I hope that the media gets put in its place. You don't go around telling the operational secrets of the government that allows you to exist.
    Phillip, Glad Spring, Virginia

    I hope freedom of the press wins. I have a hard time believing that our national security was compromised because of the New York Times. This administration has been bragging since 9/11 how they were following the money.
    Lee, Fairfield, Iowa

    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 6/29/2006 05:41:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Fighting leaks and partisan politics
    Veterans sigh of relief
    Now that the infamous Dept. of Veterans' Affairs stolen laptop is recovered, what happens next? Lawmakers are holding hearings, lawsuits are pending, and will the government still offer free credit checks for veterans? In addition, despite previous statements to the contrary, new documents (PDF) released by Democratic staffers on the House Veterans' Affairs committee appear to show the analyst who took the laptop home had permission to do so.

    Fighting leaks
    Competing resolutions are introduced in the House over whether newspapers should reveal classified information. The Republican resolution (PDF) supports the leaked finance program and condemns the publication of classified information by the news media. Should Americans be as concerned with leakers as they are with newspapers that publish information? That's what Democrats are saying in their resolution (PDF), which began as a crossed out and scribbled-on (PDF) version of the Republican one.

    Fighting partisan politics
    The Unity08 coalition launches a "Declaration of Independence" petition, hoping to sign up enough citizens to force Democrats and Republicans into the political center.

    Watch "The Situation Room" at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, ET for these stories and more from our Internet reporters.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 6/29/2006 04:23:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Chertoff calls for Congress to act on immigration
    From CNN's Justine Redman

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said
    Thursday that the problem of illegal immigration into the U.S. will worsen and
    fester if Congress does not pass immigration reform measures before the end of
    the year.

    "Congress has an opportunity and it has a responsibility to act this year
    to tackle this problem," he said in a speech in Washington. "The President has
    used the tools of the so-called 'bully pulpit' to speak very aggressively and
    clearly about the comprehensive solution he thinks is appropriate. [...] That
    is the way presidents move Congress."

    Chertoff predicted that the number of border patrol agents in the U.S.
    will more than double during President Bush's time in office, reaching 18,000
    by the end of 2008. Fences, vehicle barriers, roads, and sophisticated
    equipment such as sensors, unmanned aircraft and satellites will be added to
    their artillery, he said.

    However, the Secretary urged that these measures must be complimented by
    a temporary worker program "that is not an amnesty but that does allow people
    to get themselves square with the law if necessary, if they've violated the
    law, and then work in this country temporarily." He said, "By doing this we
    will have given our border patrol and our other law enforcement agents the
    final tool they need to do the job we have asked them to do."
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/29/2006 02:43:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Legal groups, others react to military tribunal ruling
    (CNN) -- The Supreme Court's ruling that the military tribunals set up by the Bush administration were unconstitutional triggered a wave of reactions throughout Washington and beyond.

    Below are excerpts of reactions from leaders of legal organizations, a key lawyer, Republicans and others. (For a sampling of Democratic reactions, click here.)

    "The Supreme Court has made clear that the executive branch does not have a blank check in the war on terror and may not run roughshod over the nation's legal system. This decision moves us one step closer to stopping the abuse of power that has become the hallmark of this White House. Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decision, the president should make good on his promise and close Guantanamo."
    -- Anthony Romero, American Civil Liberties Union

    "What the court is holding, at least by the plurality, if they want to pursue the conspiracy charge that's against him, that means we go to the federal courts right now. ... But if there's other evidence, and they want to charge him with a war crime, then I'm ready to defend him in a court-martial."
    -- Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, lawyer for terror suspect Salim Ahmed Hamdan

    "I'm sure we'll look at other means to provide them justice under our laws, international law. We might look to the federal system and other means which to provide them. There also could be acceleration of efforts to return them to their native countries, to the extent those countries will accept them."
    -- Sen. John Warner (R-Virginia)

    "There is no way for President Bush to continue hiding behind a purported lack of judicial guidance to avoid addressing the illegal and immoral prison in Guantanamo Bay. Significantly, the court decided that the Geneva Conventions apply to the so-called 'War on Terror' -- people must be treated humanely and the administration cannot put itself above the law."
    -- Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/29/2006 01:28:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Democratic reactions to military tribunal ruling
    Congressional Democrats reacted favorably to the Supreme Court's ruling Thursday that deemed unconstitutional the military tribunals championed by the Bush administration.

    The following are excerpts of statements from several Democrats:

    "This decision is a stunning repudiation of the Bush Administration's lawless behavior at Guantanamo. As we approach the Fourth of July, it is entirely appropriate that the Supreme Court has reminded the President and Secretary Rumsfeld that there is no excuse for ignoring the rule of law, even when our country is at war."
    -- Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts)

    "The Supreme Court's decision concerning military commissions at Guantanamo Bay is a major rebuke to an Administration that has too often disregarded the rule of law. It is a testament to our system of government that the Supreme Court has stood up against this overreaching by the executive branch."
    -- Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin)

    "Since 9/11, the Bush Administration has operated in the 'fog of law' -- expanding executive branch power, ignoring the will of Congress, bypassing Courts, and disregarding international law. Today's Supreme Court decision will help lift that fog. The opinion makes clear that the President's power is not unlimited when it comes to holding people without due process.

    "It's now time for the Bush Administration to close the Guantanamo prison, and either return the prisoners to their home countries or bring them to justice in the United States... Indefinite detention without access to due process will continue to be a moral black eye for America, eroding our moral authority, national character, and the values for which our brave sons and daughters are fighting."
    -- Rep. Jane Harman (D-California)

    "The Justices have given our system a constitutional tonic that is sorely needed if we are to counter terrorism effectively, efficiently and with American values. This decision is a triumph for our constitutional system of checks and balances. I commend the Justices for acting as a much needed check on this Administration's unilateral policies that have clearly stretched the bounds of the President's constitutional authority."
    -- Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/29/2006 01:00:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Bush will fully review Gitmo ruling


    President Bush made his remarks at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Thursday while he hasn't been able to fully review a Supreme Court ruling limiting the power of his administration to conduct military tribunals for suspected terrorists imprisoned at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he said he will "conform with the findings of the Supreme Court."

    Bush appeared Thursday with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and said he was with the Japanese leader when the ruling was made.

    "To the extent there is latitude to work with the Congress to determine whether or not the military tribunals will be an avenue in which to give people their day in court, we will do so," Bush said.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/29/2006 12:51:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Veterans secretary: Laptop with military data recovered
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said Thursday a laptop computer containing personal data on over 1 million active-duty military personnel -- as well as data on a million more National Guard and Reserves members -- has been recovered. (Full story)

    The laptop computer was stolen from a Veterans Affairs employee's home on May 3.

    Nicholson said an attempt was being made to determine if the data on the laptop had been compromised. He said it is too early to say if the data had been breached but he was told there was "optimism" it had not.

    Information on 1.1 million active troops, 430,000 National Guard members and 645,000 Reserves members was on the laptop. Its data included names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of an estimated 26.5 million people, most of them veterans.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/29/2006 11:02:00 AM ET | Permalink
    High court rules against military tribunals
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a stunning blow to executive authority, the Supreme Court on Thursday strongly limited the power of the Bush administration to conduct military tribunals for suspected terrorists imprisoned overseas at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Full story)

    The 5-3 ruling effectively means officials will either have to come up with new procedures to prosecute at least 10 "enemy combatants" awaiting trial, or release them from military custody. At the center of the dispute was a Yemeni man accused of being associated with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

    The case was a major test of President Bush's authority as commander in chief in a wartime setting. Bush has aggressively asserted the power of the government to capture, detain and prosecute suspected terrorists in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
    Posted By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer: 6/29/2006 10:23:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Hillary Clinton talks religion


    Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-New York)

    From The Morning Grind

    Appearing before a religious conference earlier this week, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) told the audience that as a child attending Sunday school she would baby-sit the children of migrant workers so that their older siblings could join their parents at work.

    "I was fortunate that at an early age, through my church, I was given the opportunity to expand my horizons," Clinton told the 600 adults and teenagers attending the Sojourners "Covenant for a New America" conference.

    Politically, the story served two purposes for the New York Democrat. It allowed her to promote a developing Democratic message tailored to the faith community that ties the party's "compassionate" legislative agenda directly to moral values. And, personally, it allowed Clinton to speak about her own spirituality. The latter is not new for the former first lady, but it is a theme we could hear more and more if she decides to run for president.

    "She understands where the Democrats need to go in talking about values just as her husband understood it," said Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. "And she is going to go there."

    As a party, Democrats have struggled to appeal to so-called "values voters," but in recent years they have tried to reconnect with this segment of the electorate that began drifting to the Republican Party during the Vietnam War. (See CNN's John Roberts and Claire Brinberg's reporting on the Democrats' outreach efforts below).

    But on Tuesday night, Clinton knew her audience and she hit on most of her points. You see, Sojourners is an evangelical organization led by Rev. Jim Wallis, a populist who uses his political savvy to promote his number one cause: ending poverty. And Clinton focused on that theme with sharp rhetoric. While she did not directly chastise Republicans for Congress' failure to increase the minimum wage, it was clear her criticism was directed at the GOP.

    "People can talk all they want about how they want to be part of ending poverty, but ... they don't see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears the stories of millions of Americans and their children who are not able to be lifted out of poverty, because the minimum wage doesn't pay enough," she said. "Don't let people get away with nice words." The audience erupted into applause.

    While Clinton talked about the need to help establish decent housing, create good paying jobs and feed the poor, she did not speak on the red hot social issues such as abortion or school prayer. Wallis told the Grind he believes the religious right has spent too much time focusing on these divisive issues and not enough effort seeking a solution to ending poverty. For Clinton, it is a difficult tight rope to walk as she continues to talk openly on faith and religion without speaking directly about the controversial social issues.

    "There is a risk here for her," said John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. "She may attract some support from people of faith, but may alienate some secular Democrats. That is where the balancing act comes in."

    But like Rothenberg, Green believes that Clinton does "have some religious credentials."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/29/2006 10:18:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Can Obama part the "red sea?"
    From The Morning Grind

    Freshman Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) got rave reviews for his keynote address yesterday to the Sojourners conference, and CNN's John Roberts and Claire Brinberg report on the Democratic Party's efforts to reconnect with "values voters."

    "I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in people's lives," Obama said in his speech.

    Since early last year, Democrats have reached out to religious leaders in an attempt to seek advice on how to promote their goals to people of faith. As CNN's Roberts notes, "at stake is a huge swath of voters across the Midwest and through the South."

    And Obama just might be the superstar emissary the party has been looking for to help them reconnect with these voters. See full transcript of the report.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/29/2006 10:17:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Homegrown help
    From The Morning Grind

    In the latest sign Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is gearing up for a 2008 presidential run, the Tennessee Republican has hired Marcus Branstad to lead his political field operations in Iowa. Branstad will work for Frist's Volunteer PAC and focus on state races such as Rep. Jim Nussle's (R-Iowa) bid to become governor. He will also be charged with helping Frist connect with influential Iowa Republicans who will play a key role in helping choose the next GOP presidential nominee. Branstad is the son of former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R).
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/29/2006 10:16:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Sabo and Oxley to hang up their mitts
    From The Morning Grind

    Longtime Congressional Baseball coaches, Rep. Martin Sabo (D-Minnesota) and Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio), hang up their mitts tonight when the final out is called in the 45th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. Former Major League Baseball stars Don Baylor and Paul Molitor are scheduled to attend a noontime pre-game reception in the Rayburn House Office Building several hours before first pitch is thrown out. Game time is 7:05 p.m. ET at RFK Stadium. Roll Call has more on this fierce rivalry in today's edition.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/29/2006 10:15:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
  • President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the White House this morning. Bush has a 9:50 a.m. ET meeting with Koizumi in the Oval Office. At 11:30 a.m. ET, Bush and Koizumi hold a news conference. President and Mrs. Bush then participate in a 7:20 p.m. ET photo opportunity with Koizumi before an 8:05 p.m. ET "Official Dinner" in the State Dining Room. Entertainment follows at 9:50 p.m. ET. Press Secretary Tony Snow holds a 12:50 p.m. ET on-camera briefing.

  • The Senate convened at 9:30 a.m. ET and will consider the Oman Free Trade Agreement. The House gavels into session at 10 a.m. ET and the focus will be on a resolution condemning the recent disclosure that the Treasury Department was collecting banking records to track terrorist funding.

  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman was scheduled to visit the Saginaw Victory Center in Saginaw, Michigan at 9:15 a.m. ET to attend a small donor fundraiser. He then heads to Bay City, Michigan and then Midland, Michigan to attend similar fundraisers.

  • House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) holds an on-camera 10:30 a.m. ET press conference in the House Radio & Television Gallery.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) holds a 10:45 a.m. ET on-camera briefing in room H-206 of the Capitol. At 1:15 p.m. ET, Pelosi and fellow Democrats hold a news conference to criticize the GOP's stewardship of Congress in room H-204 of the Capitol.

  • Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), a potential presidential candidate, addresses the Georgia Public Policy Foundation at 12:15 p.m. ET at the Commerce Club in Atlanta, Georgia. At 2 p.m. ET, Romney meets with Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) in the Governor's Mansion to discuss RGA business.

  • Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (New York) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Illinois) hold a 12:30 p.m. ET news conference on immigration and how it will affect the midterm elections at the Democratic National Committee, 430 South Capitol Street, SE.

  • Senate Democrats hold a 2 p.m. ET news conference on the "minimum wage and Congressional pay" in room S-207 of the Capitol.

  • Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), a potential presidential candidate, attends the South Carolina State GOP Victory 2006 event in Columbia, South Carolina.

  • California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) addresses the Log Cabin Republicans Dinner at 10:30 p.m. ET in Hollywood, California.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/29/2006 10:12:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    SCOTUS REJECTS TX REMAPPING CHALLENGE: The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a broad challenge to Texas's controversial Congressional redistricting plan, giving a victory to the Republican Party and the architect of the plan, Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader. But at the same time, the court ruled that the Texas Legislature violated the Voting Rights Act in redrawing a particular district in southwestern Texas when it adopted the plan in 2003. The Legislature had carved up Laredo, removing 100,000 Mexican-Americans and adding an Anglo population from the Hill Country to shore up the faltering prospects of the Republican incumbent. The decision means that a Federal District Court in Texas will now have to redraw the boundaries of that district and the surrounding ones. New York Times: Justices Uphold Most Remapping in Texas by G.O.P.

    WHAT THE DECISION MEANS: A Supreme Court decision Wednesday that largely upheld Texas' disputed congressional map is likely to provide a symbolic boost for Republicans, keep the Democratic goal of retaking the House elusive and ensure that the political legacy of former Rep. Tom DeLay will live on despite his downfall... The decision means that state legislators will have the ability to remap districts more than once every 10 years when census numbers change the allotment of House members based on population. But it was uncertain whether states would soon be altering the boundaries of congressional districts. Chicago Tribune: What remap ruling means to U.S. politics

    NO SECRET U.S. WAS TRACKING THE MONEY: Ever since President Bush vowed days after the Sept. 11 attacks to "follow the money as a trail to the terrorists," the government has made no secret of its efforts to hunt down the bank accounts of Al Qaeda and its allies. But that fact has not muted the fury of Mr. Bush, his top aides and many members of Congress at the decision last week by The New York Times and other newspapers to disclose a centerpiece of that hunt... Speaking at a fund-raising event in St. Louis for Senator Jim Talent, Mr. Bush made the news reports his central theme. "This program has been a vital tool in the war on terror," Mr. Bush said. "Last week the details of this program appeared in the press... There can be no excuse for anyone entrusted with vital intelligence to leak it -- and no excuse for any newspaper to print it." New York Times: Behind Bush's Fury, a Vow Made in 2001

    BUSH, GOP "WORKING TO FAN PUBLIC ANGER" OVER MEDIA LEAKS: President Bush rallied Republicans with another attack on the media last night, in remarks that highlighted efforts at the White House and on Capitol Hill to gain momentum from recent disclosures about classified programs to fight terrorism. Senior administration officials say the president was outraged by articles in the New York Times and other newspapers about a surveillance program in which the U.S. government has tapped international banking records for information about terrorist financing. But his comments at a Republican fundraiser in a St. Louis suburb yesterday, combined with new moves by GOP congressional leaders, showed how both are working to fan public anger and reap gains from the controversy during a midterm election year in which polls show they are running against stiff headwinds. Washington Post: Bush Seeks to Use Media Leaks to His Advantage

    HASTERT WANTS A "FORMAL SCOLDING" FOR THE TIMES: House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said yesterday that the New York Times deserves to receive a formal scolding from Congress for publishing a report on a classified national security program. His comments were the opening salvo in a debate expected today in the House. "Loose lips kill American people," the Illinois Republican said. Many House Republicans agree with Mr. Hastert's sentiment, and plan to support a symbolic resolution criticizing "certain media organizations" for revealing details of the Bush administration's counterterrorism programs. Washington Times: Hastert aims to reprimand paper

    VA EMPLOYEE HAD PERMISSION TO WORK FROM HOME: Lawmakers say they want to know whether a Veterans Affairs employee was being unfairly blamed for losing veterans' personal information, citing newly disclosed documents showing he had received permission to work on the data from home. "From the start, the VA has acted as if the theft was a PR problem that had to be managed, not fully confronted," said Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif. "They're trying to pin it on this one guy, but I think it's other people we need to be looking at."... According to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press, the VA data analyst faulted for losing personal data for up to 26.5 million veterans had the department's approval to access millions of Social Security numbers on a laptop from home. AP via Yahoo! News: VA worker had OK for data later stolen

    SCREENERS "SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME LOOKING FOR LIGHTERS"... NOT BOMBS: The nation's aviation security chief says Congress should lift a ban on passengers carrying lighters on airplanes because screeners are spending too much time looking for lighters instead of bombs. "The lighter ban does not add to security anymore," Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley told USA TODAY on Wednesday. Forcing screeners to confiscate lighters at checkpoints "is a distraction from the serious nature of finding (bomb) components." Hawley said he has briefed lawmakers and "recommended they consider whether that ban needs to stay." USA Today: Lift airline ban on lighters, TSA urges

    BOEHNER REFUSES TO BUDGE ON IMMIGRATION: The House majority leader yesterday refused to budge from demanding a strong border-security bill and would not embrace Senate talk of broad legislation that would trigger a guest-worker program and other immigration changes once the borders are secure. "I'm not going to negotiate this bill -- between the House and Senate -- through the press," Rep. John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said after he was asked repeatedly about recent Senate developments. Mr. Boehner said House leaders instead will continue their plan to hold hearings next month to highlight flaws in the Senate-passed immigration bill, which includes citizenship for millions of illegal aliens, and the strengths of the House bill, which focuses on securing the border and enforcing immigration laws. He said the hearings will, in part, "strengthen our hand as we go into these negotiations" with the Senate. Washington Times: Boehner stands ground on border-security position

    LOTT LOOKING TO TAKE ON MCCONNELL? The prospect of former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) returning to leadership next year is creating more and more buzz on and off Capitol Hill, Republican insiders say. The higher volume of talk has been fueled partly by his former aides who hold influential lobbying positions downtown, but prominent GOP insiders with no special allegiance to Lott say it extends well beyond his inner circle. Perhaps by coincidence, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has recently sought a more public leadership role, appearing more often before television cameras set up outside the GOP conference's Tuesday luncheons, and has otherwise made himself more available to the press. The Hill: Comeback talk creates Lott buzz

    JACK-CONNECTED DOI OFFICIAL CHARGED: An Interior Department official who has acknowledged receiving meals and tickets to sporting events from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been charged with filing a false financial disclosure report. Roger G. Stillwell, an employee of the department's Insular Affairs Office, was charged with a single misdemeanor count of making a false filing, according to papers filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. Federal officials said he is expected to enter a guilty plea at a court appearance set for July 21 before Magistrate Deborah A. Robinson. Stillwell is an officer on the desk that handles the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory whose government hired Abramoff as a lobbyist. Washington Post: Official Charged in Abramoff Scandal

    ALLEN FOE SAYS HE SAT OUT VIETNAM "PLAYING COWBOY AT A DUDE RANCH" IN NV: Republican Sen. George Allen attacked his Democratic challenger's opposition to a flag-burning amendment, and James Webb retaliated by calling Allen a coward who sat out the Vietnam War "playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada." The statement by [strategist Steve Jarding,] a senior adviser to Webb, a decorated veteran and former secretary of the Navy, went to extraordinary lengths to question Allen's fortitude, even repeatedly using the middle name the senator detests and never uses, Felix... Allen adviser Dick Wadhams called Jarding's comments pathetic and said they raise questions about Webb's fitness for office. AP via Yahoo! News: Va. Senate race heats up over flag burning

    "YOU SUCK," CLINTON STAFFER SAYS TO REID STAFFER: One of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's top aides unleashed a tirade at Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid's team for snubbing the former first lady on her pet issue. Clinton's staffers were outraged earlier this week when they caught wind the Democratic leadership team -- Reid (Nev.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.) -- had privately planned a high-profile news conference on her plan to halt congressional pay raises until the federal minimum wage is increased. Miffed that they'd been left out of the loop, Camp Clinton managed to strong-arm Reid Tuesday morning into inviting her to the 2:15 p.m. press conference. But at 11 a.m. Reid's office told Clinton the event was moved to noon, leaving Clinton one hour to juggle her schedule to make the event. The snub spurred Clinton aide Laurie Rubiner to bark at a Reid staffer, "You suck!" and "How could you do this?" the Roll Call newspaper reported yesterday -- an account confirmed by an eyewitness for The Post yesterday. New York Post: Fury as Hill is Snubbed

    MUPPET PHOTO GETS NY'S FOSSELLA IN HOT WATER: Rep. Vito Fossella (R-S.I.) violated House rules by using at least three photos in campaign flyers and in free mailings to constituents -- including a shot of the congressman with Muppet characters Elmo and Rosita. Fossella's staffers were required to sign forms certifying that any photos used in free congressional mailings would not be used in campaign literature. The photo showing Fossella with the furry, red Elmo and blue/green, Spanish-speaking Rosita appeared on his reelection Web site under the logo: "Re-Elect Congressman Vito Fossella." That same photo appeared in a taxpayer-financed constituent mailing that was distributed in early June across Staten Island and to the portion of southern Brooklyn that is part of Fossella's congressional district. The photo in the constituent mailing carried the headline: "Fossella Votes to Restore Funding for Sesame Street." New York Daily News: It's funny business in Muppet mailings

    FLETCHER DRIVES ACROSS THE STREET: When Gov. Ernie Fletcher's day is over, he leaves his Capitol office, climbs into a Lincoln Town Car driven by a state trooper and returns to the Governor's Mansion -- which is just across the street. Meanwhile, his administration is encouraging Kentuckians to get out and walk more for their health. The Republican governor -- a physician by training -- makes no apologies for riding back and forth to work. "I think that's been a tradition for a long time," he said. "That's what security likes." But his do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do example irks some politicians. "I just think it's incredible," said Democratic state Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, a marathon runner and frequent critic of Fletcher. "The governor should practice what he's preaching. Otherwise it smacks of being hypocritical." AP via Yahoo! News: Ky. governor takes limo across the street
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/29/2006 08:46:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Wednesday, June 28, 2006
    Was financial tracking ever secret?
    The House of Representatives on Wednesday is expected to consider a resolution condemning the leak last Friday which disclosed U.S. efforts to track terrorism financial transactions. The resolution, by Rep. Mike Oxley, R-OH, "condemns the unauthorized disclosure of... classified intelligence programs such as the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program."

    Editor Bill Keller of the New York Times, which first disclosed the program, defended the report, saying, "It has been widely reported - indeed, trumpeted by the Treasury Department - that the U.S. makes every effort to track international financing of terror."

    Indeed, just two weeks after 9/11, Pres. George Bush announced, "We've established a foreign terrorist asset tracking center at the Department of the Treasury to identify and investigate the financial infrastructure of the international terrorist networks."

    Other top officials have testified with more specificity. For example, Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department's Undersecretary for enforcement, told a senate panel in 2004 that analysts are using financial records to "help us identify, locate and arrest terrorists." He further disclosed that sometimes, "the best strategy may be to observe the financier or money flow covertly, to identify the next link in the chain, rather than to cut the money off."

    But spokesman Tony Snow on Tuesday said the information in New York Times story, about a financial database called SWIFT, was far more sensitive than anything government officials have discussed in public. "There's a difference," Snow said, "between the theoretical construct, which is 'we're going to choke off financing,' and talking about sources and methods, or ways in which you do it."

    A former FBI counter-terrorism agent tells CNN that this newspaper report was so specific that is has significantly undermined an important tool in the war on terrorists. "They laid out for everybody the SWIFT methodology in a sense, and how SWIFT operates," says Dennis Lormel.

    But back in 2002, a United Nations report on terror finances reported that the U.S. has "begun to apply new monitoring techniques to spot and verify suspicious transactions," and alluded to financial payment systems including SWIFT, Fedwire, and CHIPS. Victor Comras, who helped write the report, tells CNN, "Certainly the terrorists must know their own vulnerabilities with terrorism financing, since we've been announcing and bragging quite a bit about how effective our tracking of terrorism financing has been."

    Still, the front page reports in the New York Times and other papers have disseminated the information much more widely than the U.N. report, or the testimony in congressional subcommittees.

    Posted By Dugald McConnell, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/28/2006 07:41:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Cafferty File: Pimp and Save?
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following three questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    Should Congress be worried about taxing pimps and sex traffickers?

    Is this a trick question? Has something slipped by me? Do pimps and sex traffickers have to register and have a valid Social Security number so they can pay taxes?
    Sandy, North Carolina

    The Republican Congress is missing the big tax picture. There is a helluva lot more money to be made if the IRS goes after businesses that pay illegal immigrants wages under the table.
    Mike

    I am surprised at your reaction to taxing sex workers. First, we could really use the tax revenue. More importantly, it is a good halfway step toward what really should be done -- regulating the industry. Either a pimp makes his business known and pays his taxes or he risks prison.
    Jim

    Senator Barack Obama says Democrats should court evangelicals and other religious Americans. Is he right?

    Why wouldn't Democrats want to court evangelicals? With so many Republican politicians' morals and ethics in question, there could not be a more clever time.
    Jim, Maryland

    Republicans have been using religion as a way to successfully manipulate the American people. Religion has no place in politics, and I applaud Democrats for avoiding this non-political issue.
    Dylan, Salt Lake City, Utah

    Sen. Barack Obama is wrong. If Democrats try to appeal to the religious right they will become indistinguishable from the Republicans.
    B., Manhattan, Kansas

    How much of a threat is redistricting to America's election process?

    Redistricting is just a ploy to stuff the ballot box by the party in power. It has been going on for a long time.
    Frank, Las Cruces, New Mexico

    We already know those e-voting machines can be tampered with, something like 98% of incumbents usually win their seats, and there's always the matter of hanging chads and Supreme Court cronies in a pinch, so redistricting is not a threat at all to the already corrupt voting process; it merely puts everything in a neater, more logical order for the manipulation we've come to expect. Gerrymander away, I say!
    Paul, Fort Worth, Texas

    Significant, especially in combination with insecure electronic voting machines and "ends-justify-means" zealots running polling places. I received my polling place location notice in the mail - the day after the primary.
    Jacquelyn, Chicago, Illinois
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 6/28/2006 06:10:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Exploding laptops


    The crew of space shuttle Discovery is ready for a Saturday launch.

    Exploding laptops
    Is there any risk that your Dell laptop will burst into flames? We investigate.

    Countdown to launch
    Thanks to the Internet, you can track every step of the Space Shuttle Discovery mission starting with the official countdown to Saturday's launch. Why does NASA say the shuttle crew has a 1-in-100 chance of sustaining a catastrophe in outer space?

    Reality of redistricting
    We take an online look at exactly which Texas district (PDF) violates the Voting Rights Act and why.

    Voting down e-voting
    A new study assesses possible security flaws in electronic voting machines. Will the security loopholes affect elections this fall?

    Freedom Tower revealed
    We go online to give you a first look the newly-revised 102-story building being constructed at the World Trade Center site.

    Watch "The Situation Room" at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, ET for these stories and more from our Internet reporters.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 6/28/2006 05:00:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Foreign prisoners, inmates denied photos lose appeals
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In two rulings, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled against prisoner's rights -- saying high-security prisoners can be denied access to personal photos and reading material, as well as ruling that imprisoned foreigners do not automatically get new trials if police fail to inform them of their right to speak with their consulates.

    In a 6-2 ruling, the high court concluded Pennsylvania inmates housed in a special separate lockup could have the items withheld as both punishment and an incentive to follow the rules.

    Inmate Ronald Banks claimed corrections officers banned non-religious newspapers and magazines, television and radio, family photographs, as well as other communications among fellow inmates. Religious material, legal documents, letters from family and two paperback books "of general interest" were allowed.

    Prison officials said the restrictions apply only to the most disruptive inmates, those with a history of escape or violence against other inmates. The restrictions, they argue, were applied only after milder punishments, like loss of cigarettes, did not work.

    "Prison officials, relying on their professional judgment, reached an experience-based conclusion that the policies help to further legitimate prison objectives," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority.

    In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said the prison's restrictive policy "strikes at the core of the First Amendment rights to receive, to read and to think."

    In another decision Wednesday, a majority of justices appeared reluctant to allow thousands of foreign nationals' sentences to potentially be tossed out under an international treaty guaranteeing foreign suspects certain rights.

    More importantly, the court did not decide the larger question of whether police are required to inform non-citizens of their right to contact their home governments.

    Briefs filed with the Supreme Court show thousands of foreign nationals accused of serious crimes in the United States could be affected by rulings in this and other similar cases.

    In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said the issue was more about what legal standards should apply in the United States than overseas.

    "It is no slight to the (Vienna) Convention to deny (the suspects') claims under the same principles we would apply to an act of Congress, or to the Constitution itself," he said.

    The United States is one of 168 nations that has signed on to what is known as the Vienna Convention, guaranteeing suspects taken into custody in a foreign country access to their nation's consul.
    Posted By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer: 6/28/2006 02:45:00 PM ET | Permalink
    High Court: Texas redistricting OK overall, though parts illegal
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A portion of a controversial Texas congressional map was tossed out Tuesday by the Supreme Court, but the overall redistricting plan engineered by state Republicans was found to be proper. (Full story)

    The legislative plan led to the 2004 ouster of four Democratic incumbents from Congress and sparked a bitter partisan battle. The map was was promoted by Republican, including former majority leader Rep. Tom DeLay.

    The divided ruling concluded that a congressional district unfairly diluted the voting strength of Latinos. "A state may not trade off the rights of some members of a racial group against the rights of other members of that group," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.
    Posted By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer: 6/28/2006 11:14:00 AM ET | Permalink
    House GOP promotes its "American Values Agenda"
    From The Morning Grind

    House Republicans released a package of bills Tuesday aimed at energizing social conservatives five months before the midterm elections.

    Billed as the "American Values Agenda," the measures range from legislation that would "protect the Pledge of Allegiance from attacks by activist federal judges seeking to rule it unconstitutional" to a constitutional amendment "declaring marriage to be between a man and a woman."

    "Through this agenda, we will work to protect the faith of our people, the sanctity of life and freedoms outlined by our founding fathers," House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) said in a statement released by his office.

    Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California), dismissed the announcement as a campaign stunt.

    "The American people will see through the Republican's old playbook of distract, distort and divide," Crider told the Grind. "Pandering to the radical right-wing's wrong priorities does not reflect American value of opportunity, security and prosperity. Americans are demanding change, and Democrats are offering a new direction for America with real solutions to our nation's challenges."

    House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) told CNN's Deirdre Walsh that Republican leaders decided on the 10 legislative items after meeting with about two dozen outside groups in February as well as receiving input from the House GOP's "Values Action Team" headed by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pennsylvania).

    Blunt said details were announced this week "both to give our outside friends the notice they need to make their final effort on these issues and to let the members know before we go home before the week in July that they'll be working in the district on this."

    A Blunt spokesperson said the goal is to move on most of these items in July, but they will be spread out over several weeks depending on committee schedules. With the August Congressional recess fast approaching, some of these items could slip into September.

    The GOP's "American Values Agenda" includes: Pledge Protection Act, HR 2389; Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, HR 42; The Public Expression of Religion Act, HR 2679; Marriage Amendment, HJ Res 88; Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, HR 356; Human Cloning Prohibition Act, HR 1357; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (BATFE) Reform, 5092; Internet Gambling Prohibition; Permanent Tax Relief for Families; Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act, HR 5013.

    A House GOP aide told Walsh the first three items that likely will be addressed are the Pledge Protection Act, Marriage Amendment and Internet Gambling Prohibition.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/28/2006 10:56:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Cannon survives primary challenge
    From The Morning Grind

    Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) beat back a primary challenge Tuesday from an opponent who charged he was too soft on the issue of illegal immigration. Challenger John Jacob ran his campaign on two major themes: a tough stand on illegal immigrants and the need for a change in Washington. Anti-illegal immigration groups poured money into the race and Bush and First Lady Laura Bush recorded telephone messages encouraging Republicans to vote for Cannon. In the days leading up to the election, Cannon acknowledged he could lose, but in the end he was able to collect 56 percent of the vote, while Jacob received 44 percent. This Provo-based district is rock solid Republican and Cannon is all but assured re-election in November.

    "Tonight's well deserved victory by Chris Cannon demonstrates that voters prefer real solutions to our nation's important issues like border security," Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said in a prepared statement.

    In an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley and Sasha Johnson prior to Tuesday's primary, Cannon said that if he won the message it would send back to Washington is "you don't have to worry about xenophobes.

    "You can focus on America and what is good for America and where we are going, because America is a wonderful place," he said.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/28/2006 10:55:00 AM ET | Permalink
    How will the flag vote play in 2008?
    From The Morning Grind

    Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) is the only potential 2008 presidential contender to vote in favor of a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited desecration of the U.S. flag. The amendment failed by one vote with 66 senators supporting it, while 34 senators voted against it. The amendment needed 67 votes to be approved. Other possible Democratic presidential candidates -- Sens. Joe Biden (Delaware), Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York), Chris Dodd (Connecticut), John Kerry (Massachusetts) and Russ Feingold (Wisconsin) -- voted against it. GOP senators eyeing 2008 bids -- George Allen (Virginia), Sam Brownback (Kansas), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tennessee), Chuck Hagel (Nebraska), John McCain (Arizona) and Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania) -- all voted in favor of the amendment. But Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who is the front runner to become Majority Leader in 2007, and GOP Sens. Robert Bennett (Utah) and Lincoln Chafee (Rhode Island) voted against it. See the full vote results.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/28/2006 10:54:00 AM ET | Permalink
    No pay for you!
    From The Morning Grind

    Senate Democrats vowed Tuesday to block automatic pay increases for members of Congress unless the minimum wage is increased from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour.

    "We're going to do anything it takes to stop the congressional pay raise this year and we're not going to settle for this year alone," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said. (Full story)

    Republicans oppose the Democratic proposal because they argue it will hurt small businesses and instead have offered an alternative that is tied to tax breaks. Expect Democrats to try and use this issue to rally their political base for the midterm elections.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/28/2006 10:53:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Kerry whipping votes for Bush?
    From The Morning Grind

    In a speech Tuesday advocating line item veto authority, President Bush singled out Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) for their help in promoting the idea. Wait, John Kerry? The same person who challenged Bush for the White House in 2004 and is now one of the President's fiercest critics on Iraq? That would be the one, reports CNN's Shawna Shepherd.

    "I remember campaigning against him in 2004, and I remember him talking about the line-item veto, and I appreciate the fact that he's living up to the political promises he made," Bush said. "It's a good sign, and I applaud Senator Kerry for taking the lead on the line-item veto. And I hope members of his party listen to his justifications for that important piece of legislation."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/28/2006 10:52:00 AM ET | Permalink
    But Bush and Kerry lock horns in Missouri
    From The Morning Grind

    President Bush heads to Missouri today to attend a fundraiser for Sen. Jim Talent (R-Missouri) and the State Republican Party. RNC officials tell the Grind that 500 people will attend the early evening event (see details below in Dayahead) that will raise $1 million. Proceeds will be split evenly between Talent and the Missouri Republican Party. Polls show that Talent is facing a difficult re-election campaign against Democrat Claire McCaskill. Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) called on his political supporters to donate to McCaskill and two other Democrats in an e-mail appeal sent on Tuesday. CNN's Robert Yoon reports that former Attorney General Janet Reno will appear at a July 19 fundraiser for McCaskill in St. Louis.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/28/2006 10:51:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Glory day$
    From The Morning Grind

    In less than one hour, Democratic donors received fundraising solicitations Tuesday from three of the most well known Democrats in the nation. And only one is currently serving in office. Former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) all sent out appeals for donations on the behalf of others, as the Democratic Party tries to fill its war chests in its quest to take back control of Congress in November. Gore asked on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; President Clinton requested donations for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; while Sen. Clinton sought donations for Mike Arcuri, who is running for retiring Rep. Sherwood Boehlert's (R-New York) seat.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/28/2006 10:50:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
  • President Bush heads to Missouri today to help raise money for Sen. Jim Talent (R-Missouri). But first he holds a 4:15 p.m. ET meeting with military personnel who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq at the VFW-Overland-St. Ann Memorial Post #3944 in St. Louis, Missouri. At 6:20 p.m. ET, Bush attends the Talent fundraiser at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis. Press Secretary Tony Snow conducts a 10:20 a.m. ET on-camera briefing.

  • The Senate gaveled into session at 9:30 a.m. ET. The House turned the lights on at 10 a.m. ET.

  • The Democratic women senators were scheduled to take the Senate floor this morning at 9:30 a.m. ET to discuss their "Checklist for Change" legislative goals.

  • House Republicans hold a 10 a.m. ET news conference outside room HC-6 in the Capitol following their weekly meeting.

  • House Democrats hold a 10 a.m. ET news conference outside room 345 of the Cannon House Office Building following their weekly meeting.

  • Senate Democrats hold a 10:15 a.m. ET news conference on Iraq in room S-211 of the Capitol.

  • Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds an 11 a.m. ET news conference with religious and political leaders in the Massachusetts State House to urge the Legislature to pass the Protection of Marriage Amendment.

  • GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), Saxby Chambliss (Georgia), John Cornyn (Texas), Johnny Isakson (Georgia), Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania), Jeff Sessions (Alabama), John Thune (South Dakota) and David Vitter (Louisiana) hold an 11 a.m. press conference in the Senate Radio & TV Gallery to discuss immigration and border security.

  • Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (Illinois), Edward Kennedy (Massachusetts) and Chuck Schumer (New York) hold an 11 a.m. ET conference call to discuss the rising cost of tuition and student debt.

  • House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Edward Royce (R-California) hold an 11:30 a.m. ET news conference on border security in the House Radio & TV Gallery.

  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman meets with grassroots supporters in Michigan and attends fundraisers that are expected to raise $30,000. His first stop is at the Macomb Victory Center in Shelby Township at 1 p.m. ET, followed by a 5 p.m. ET meeting at the Flint Victory Center in Flint.

  • Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean delivers a 1 p.m. ET speech to the League of United Latin American Citizens conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

  • Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) attends a pro-immigration rally at 3 p.m. ET at the Holiday Inn on New Jersey Avenue in D.C. with "thousands of Irish."

  • Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. kicks off his re-election campaign at 5 p.m. ET in Arbutus, Maryland.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/28/2006 10:48:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    ROBERTS ASK DNI TO REPORT DAMAGE DONE BY SWIFT DISCLOSURE: Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, asked the director of national intelligence on Tuesday to assess any damage to American counterterrorism efforts caused by the disclosure of secret programs to monitor telephone calls and financial transactions. Mr. Roberts, Republican of Kansas, singled out The New York Times for an article last week that reported that the government was tracking money transfers handled by a banking consortium based in Belgium... In his letter to John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence, Mr. Roberts wrote that "we have been unable to persuade the media to act responsibly and to protect the means by which we protect this nation." New York Times: Damage Study Urged on Surveillance Reports

    HOUSE RESOLUTION WILL CONDEMN SWIFT LEAK AND PUBLICATION: House Republican leaders are expected to introduce a resolution today condemning The New York Times for publishing a story last week that exposed government monitoring of banking records. The resolution is expected to condemn the leak and publication of classified documents, said one Republican aide with knowledge of the impending legislation... Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), working independently from his leadership, began circulating a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) during a late series of votes yesterday asking his leaders to revoke the Times's congressional press credentials. The Hill: GOP bill targets NY Times

    FLAG BURNING BAN FALLS SHORT IN SENATE BY A SINGLE VOTE: The Senate rejected by a single vote yesterday an effort to amend the Constitution to allow Congress to ban desecration of the American flag, after a two-day debate freighted with political calculations and sharp disputes over the limits of free speech. The 66 to 34 vote fell just short of the two-thirds majority required to approve a constitutional amendment and submit it to the states for ratification... As expected, three Republicans -- Robert F. Bennett (Utah), Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) and Mitch McConnell (Ky.) -- voted against the amendment. Fourteen Democrats voted for it. The House approved the measure 286 to 130 last year. Washington Post: Senate Rejects Flag Desecration Amendment

    "A DECLARATION THAT HE 'WILL DO AS HE PLEASES'": Senators on the Judiciary Committee accused President Bush of an "unprecedented" and "astonishing" power grab on Tuesday for making use of a device that gave him the authority to revise or ignore more than 750 laws enacted since he became president. By using what are known as signing statements, memorandums issued with legislation as he signs it, the president has reserved the right to not enforce any laws he thinks violate the Constitution or national security, or that impair foreign relations. A lawyer for the White House said that Mr. Bush was only doing his duty to uphold the Constitution. But Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, characterized the president's actions as a declaration that he "will do as he pleases," without regard to the laws passed by Congress. New York Times: Bush's Use of Authority Riles Senator

    BUSH JOGS WITH DOUBLE AMPUTEE IRAQ VET: Shortly after Army Staff Sgt. Christian Bagge lost parts of both legs in Iraq when a roadside bomb tore through his Humvee last June, he vowed to not let the injury prevent him from doing things he could do before he was wounded. "I want to run. I want to swim. I want to mountain bike. The biggest goal of all is just to do what I did before," Bagge, 23, told CNN in an interview last month. On Tuesday, he did one of those things. He ran side-by-side with President Bush on the spongy black jogging track that rings the South Lawn of the White House. "And he ran the president into the ground, I might add," Bush said after jogging about a quarter-mile. USA Today: Amputee Iraq vet fulfills wish, jogs with Bush

    AMERICANS "PAYING UNUSUALLY CLOSE ATTENTION" TO MIDTERMS: Americans are paying unusually close attention to the congressional elections in November, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. They are more inclined to deliver significant gains to Democrats than in any year since Republicans won control of the House and Senate in 1994. Those surveyed are more concerned about national issues than local ones -- a situation that favors Democrats hoping to tap discontent over the Iraq war and gasoline prices -- and prefer Democrats over Republicans on handling every major issue except terrorism. USA Today: Poll show Americans keeping an eye on Congress

    DEMS THREATEN TO BLOCK PAY RAISE FOR CONGRESS: Seeking to leave town on a political high note, Senate Democratic leaders vowed on Tuesday to block their own annual pay raise unless Republicans also allow for a boost in the federal minimum wage. Democrats offered few details about how they plan to carry out their promise to stop Congress' scheduled 2 percent pay hike from going into effect next January. But they said they have more than 40 Senate Democrats aligned behind them and will succeed in freezing Members' pay unless Congress approves a minimum wage increase by the end of the 109th. "They can play all the games they want... but we're going to do everything to stop the Congressional pay raise being put in - the right way, the wrong way or any way," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Roll Call: Reid Threatens Member COLA

    A PATH TOWARDS AGREEMENT ON IMMIGRATION? With the House and Senate stalemated over how to overhaul immigration law, the contours of one potential path to an agreement have begun to emerge. The House has approved a bill that focuses on improving border security and cracking down on illegal hiring. Many of the conservative Republicans who are dominant in the House have said that these security measures must be firmly in place before the House begins discussions about elements of a Senate-passed bill that would create a guest worker program and offer steps to citizenship for most illegal immigrants now in the U.S. Los Angeles Times: Senate May Budge on Immigration

    BUSH CALLS FOR LINE-ITEM VETO: President Bush, urging the Senate to pass the line-item veto, on Tuesday criticized House Democrats who didn't back the measure even though they've called for federal spending restraint. A line-item veto would allow the president to cut certain provisions in spending bills without vetoing the entire measure. The House passed such legislation last week 247-172. Thirty-five Democrats joined with most Republicans in voting for the bill... The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Democrats generally oppose the measure, and not all Republicans are excited about the idea. AP via Yahoo! News: Bush urges Senate to pass line-item veto

    LOBBYIST PAID FOR LUXE TRIPS TO CAPE COD Four Massachusetts congressmen have attended luxurious Fourth of July weekends at Cape Cod's exclusive Wequassett Inn in Chatham with representatives of various interest groups, courtesy of a little-known nonprofit group started by a longtime lobbyist. The lobbyist, Jeanne Campbell, received millions of dollars in contracts to lobby Congress through her Washington-based firm, Campbell-Crane. Her clients, including several Massachusetts agencies and companies, routinely attend the Fourth of July events. The trips to the Wequassett Inn, where room rates range from $475 to $1,300 per night, are intended as seminars where industry representatives can discuss legislative issues with members of Congress. But government watchdog groups say they represent a common route around federal lobbying restrictions. Boston Globe: A lobbyist link in congressmen's visits to Cape

    NELSON SAYS HE'LL FILIBUSTER DRILLING BILL: Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says he would start a filibuster in the Senate to block a measure on offshore drilling if it passes the House, which is expected to vote on the bill this week. The bill would end a 25-year ban on drilling off much of the U.S. coastline. It could bring rigs as close as 50 miles from Florida's beaches. Rising fuel prices have increased support for drilling in environmentally sensitive areas. The bill last week cleared the House Resources Committee 29-9 with bipartisan support. AP via Yahoo! News: Nelson vows to filibuster drilling bill

    CANNON FENDS OFF PRIMARY CHALLENGER: U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon dodged another political bullet Tuesday, winning the Republican Party's nomination for the 3rd Congressional District, late returns of the 2006 primary election showed. Cannon withstood his greatest intra-party challenge yet, coming this year from John Jacob, a millionaire who pumped more than $400,000 into his effort to unseat the five-term incumbent. Cannon won 56-44 percent. In the end, Cannon crushed Jacob and all of his money - a victory near in size to Cannon's 2004 Republican primary win over former state Rep. Matt Throckmorton. And Throckmorton spent a fraction of what Jacob did. Deseret Morning News: Cannon victorious: Congressman crushes challenger, 56-44%

    MD'S EHRLICH KICKS OFF REELECTION BID TRAILING O'MALLEY: Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. starts his reelection campaign today significantly trailing Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, according to a new Washington Post poll. Although the state's voters give the governor good marks for the job he's done, they also appear inclined to return a Democrat to the governor's mansion. Ehrlich kicks off his campaign today at his boyhood home in the Baltimore suburb of Arbutus, attempting to become the state's first Republican governor in 50 years to serve a second term... The poll shows Ehrlich trailing O'Malley by 11 percentage points among registered voters and 16 points among those who say they are "absolutely certain" to vote in the Nov. 7 election. Washington Post: Poll Shows Ehrlich Lagging As He Opens Reelection Run

    THE FLUFF WAR IS OVER: A Massachusetts lawmaker is trying to get himself out of a sticky situation by dropping his opposition to Marshmallow Fluff. An amendment proposed by Sen. Jarrett Barrios to limit the availability of Fluff in schools sparked impassioned defense of the marshmallow spread, a lunch box staple of children for generations... Colin Durrant, spokesman for Barrios, D-Cambridge, said Barrios was abandoning the proposed amendment to the school nutrition bill. Barrios originally proposed the limitation after he learned his third-grade son was given a Fluffernutter as his school lunch. "It got to the point where the larger story overshadowed or obscured his original goal, which was to have a discussion about what is a healthy and nutritious meal for kids in school," Durrant said Tuesday. AP via Yahoo! News: Mass. lawmaker drops opposition to Fluff
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/28/2006 09:31:00 AM ET | Permalink
    3 dead, 2 missing as waters rise north of D.C.
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two teenagers were feared dead after disappearing in a swollen Maryland creek, while the bodies of three other people were found near where they were swept away by a flash flood Tuesday night, authorities said.

    Leaks in an earthen dam prompted the early morning evacuation of families and pets from 1,200 Montgomery County homes, but the dam was holding steady as of Tuesday morning, officials said. (Full story)

    Maryland authorities early Wednesday evacuated some 1,200 homes near Rockville, after engineers noticed a hole in a nearby dam in Rock Creek Park, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County's emergency operations center told CNN.

    Rockville is about 25 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. The entire metro area was flooded by nearly a foot of rain on Sunday and Monday. Flash foods in some areas forced authorities in the Capitol to shut down several government facilities.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/28/2006 09:15:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Ex-Cheney aide requests more time in CIA leak case


    I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, seen here last October, has been charged on five counts.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense lawyers for indicted former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby asked the trial judge Tuesday for additional time to prepare a new request for sensitive presidential briefing notes to help in his defense.

    The motion for an extension is unopposed by prosecutors, led by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. The prosecutor last October convinced a jury to hand up a five-count indictment against Libby, who then resigned as Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff.

    Libby's trial is set for January on allegations he lied to investigators and a grand jury about CIA operative Valerie Plame. Her identity and employment began circulating more widely among reporters in 2003 after her diplomat-husband, Joe Wilson, publicly criticized part of the basis for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

    Prosecutors have submitted a document identified as Vice President Cheney's hand-written notes in the margin of Wilson's opinion piece published in the New York Times.

    Libby's attorneys have said their defense will include evidence their client may have been distracted by urgent national security matters in the time frame Libby was being questioned about Plame.
    Posted By Paul Courson, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/28/2006 09:08:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Flag burning amendment fails to clear Senate by lone vote
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A constitutional amendment giving Congress the power to outlaw flag burning failed to clear the Senate by a single vote Tuesday, extending 16 years of frustration for lawmakers who insist the addition is necessary to protect the Stars and Stripes from unpatriotic sacrilege. (Full story)

    In the final vote, 66 senators voted for the measure, with 34 opposed. However, as a constitutional amendment, it needed a two-thirds majority -- 67 votes -- to pass and move on to the states for ratification.

    The amendment would have reversed a controversial 1989 decision by the Supreme Court, which ruled 5-to-4 that burning the American flag was a political statement protected by the First Amendment. While the amendment itself didn't proscribe flag desecration, it would have given the Congress the constitutional power to do so.
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 6/28/2006 09:05:00 AM ET | Permalink
    GOP Senator targets media leaks
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, honing in on leaks to the media, asked National Intelligence Director John Negroponte Tuesday to assess the damage following the publication of classified information on government efforts to obtain bank records of suspected terrorists.

    The New York newspaper and the Los Angeles Times reported last week that the Treasury Department had subpoenaed information from SWIFT -- a financial clearinghouse that exchanges transactional information between banks -- as part of anti-terrorism probes since the 9/11 terror attacks.

    The New York Times won a Pulitzer this year for its reporting on another classified program -- the National Security Agency's use of eavesdropping without court warrants to monitor calls from people suspected of having links to terrorists, as long as one party was outside the United States.

    Critics contend the program violated federal law governing wiretaps, which requires the approval of a special court.
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 6/28/2006 09:02:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Tuesday, June 27, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Presidential power-grab?
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following three questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    When is it OK for the president to revise, interpret or disregard a law?

    When the American people no longer have the guts to stand up for themselves. Are we there?
    John, Lexington, S.C.

    Never. Revising is in the hands of our Congress. (And considering the Congress we have, God help us, but it IS their job.) Interpreting is in the hands of the courts. (See comment above.) As for disregarding, that makes you a criminal -- regardless of your title.
    Carla, Birmingham, Alabama

    When it would be OK for any American citizen to revise, interpret or disregard a law. Unfortunately, this administration missed that particular civics lesson (along with many others) in junior high school.
    C., Kentfield, California

    ****

    How can the government avoid spending $2 billion in fraud and waste the next time there's a disaster?

    As soon as the Hurricane Center in Miami declares a hurricane strike is imminent, fire everyone above the GS-8 pay level in FEMA. The savings will be so immense entire new cities could be built.
    Jean, Naples, Florida

    That would call for a massive overhaul of the way things are done in Washington. First, get rid of the lobbyists. Second, Congress must have the backbone to deny the president "emergency no bid contracts." Considering the Katrina response, had they done so, and given the jobs to local contractors, with oversight, New Orleans would have been rebuilt by now.
    Richard, Portland, Oregon

    Demand that Congress oversee all spending. They would not have as much vacation time, but the way I see it, we are paying them for a full year's work and only getting, heck, maybe a couple of months of actual time from them.
    Kay

    ****
    Is enough being done to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke?

    As a former smoker, I'd rather party with my smoking friends than with non-smoking acquaintances. Many of the latter tend to be self-involved, dried-up and priggish. Their obscenely healthy bodies will probably live forever, preying on the medical system long after their brains have given up the ghost.
    Dave

    As one who's forced to sit across the room from the smoking section, the answer is no. Cough, wheeze, choke, cough some more. Not a restaurant in the country should allow smoking inside their doors.
    Jack, East Moline, Illinois

    That's easy: No! If smokers want to commit suicide, don't take me along.
    Cliff, Ruskin, Florida
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 6/27/2006 06:19:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Hillary's new hire: Courting the "netroots"
    Since the 2004 Presidential campaigns, when Howard Dean and Wesley Clark turned the Web into a powerful fundraising tool, political candidates have increasingly turned their attention to the Internet. But raising money requires raising buzz. Several possible 2008 Democratic candidates - including Clark, Mark Warner, Tom Vilsack, and Bill Richardson - reached out to bloggers in Las Vegas earlier this month at the YearlyKos convention, named after Daily Kos, the most popular liberal blog. Warner spent over $50,000 on a party for bloggers replete with a vodka-chilling ice sculpture and Elvis impersonators.

    Now some Democrats jockeying for 2008 position are putting popular bloggers on their payrolls to bolster "e-cred." The latest is Hillary Clinton, who hired Peter Daou, author of Salon's popular "Daou Report" and former blog outreach coordinator for the John Kerry campaign.

    But where exactly is the line between blogger and consultant, especially for those in the online community who move in and out of the Washington establishment? Some bloggers, of course, promote their favorite candidates simply out of admiration. Daou, for one, said in a statement that, "I have worked diligently to separate my personal opinions and my consulting clients' interests from my desire to present an unfettered view of the political debate on blogs and message boards."

    Still, bloggers' affiliations with campaigns can be muddy, unlike those of more traditional "Boys on the Bus" reporters. Warner's Forward Together PAC hired liberal blogger Jerome Armstrong, formerly of MyDD.com, as a consultant late last year. In recent days, Armstrong has been accused, most directly by the New Republic, of using his sway with friend and leading liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas to "hype" Armstrong's political clients.

    Both Armstrong and Moulitsas have strongly denied the allegations.
    Posted By Peter Hamby, CNN Internet Team: 6/27/2006 04:41:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online
    "Involuntary smoking"
    The Surgeon General has just released the most comprehensive look at second-hand smoking in 20 years. What's the result? Smoking is a certifiable "health hazard" for everyone involved.

    New York crimes?
    Conservative Web sites rail on the New York Times and Bill Keller for revealing, along with the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, the government's efforts to track terror financing. We'll bring you the latest.

    East coast gets soaked
    Water levels are rising, roads are flooding. We are tracking the wet weather.

    Risky business
    NASA says the Space Shuttle Discovery crew has a 1-in-100 chance of perishing in outer space. How safe are they?

    Watch "The Situation Room" at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, ET for these stories and more from our Internet reporters.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 6/27/2006 04:39:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Immigration and incumbency are tested in Utah
    From The Morning Grind

    Immigration reform and incumbency is put to the test today in Utah, when voters will choose a Republican nominee for a Provo-based House seat.

    Rep. Chris Cannon (R), who is considered to be a point person for President Bush on immigration, is fighting for his political life against wealthy businessman John Jacob (R). Jacob has built his primary campaign challenge on the idea that Cannon is weak on immigration and it is time for a change. Cannon is hoping that voters dismiss these attacks, but he acknowledged in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley and Sasha Johnson, that it will be close.

    "Immigration is sort of the issue of our age, or time, at least," he said.

    While Cannon argues that he is a strong proponent of tightening the border, he agrees with Bush that it is unrealistic to think law enforcement is capable of arresting all the illegal aliens living in the U.S. and deport them back to their home countries.

    "You know we need to secure the border," he said. "But there are a lot of things we need to do. But this is about what we do with people living among us currently in the shadows and whether we are going to try and kick them out with the police force, what that would entail and the cost, or whether we create a program that is sensible."

    Jacob disagrees with Cannon and was able to convince a majority of Republicans attending the State GOP Convention last month to support him. Jacob received 52 percent of the delegate vote to Cannon's 48 percent.

    "There's no question that we're on the different side of the issue and I feel like it's one of the most important things that we have to deal with right now," Jacob told CNN's Crowley and Johnson in a separate interview.

    Later, Jacob said that in addition to Cannon's views on immigration he believes "it's an anti-incumbent year" and that should help him win the primary.

    "I respect Chris," Jacob said. "I respect anyone who spent 10 years in the Congress, but we have great things to do. It's not being done unfortunately."

    If Jacob wins, he said he thinks the message to Washington will be that Americans "want to be represented and not governed." As for what it says about people's views on illegal immigration, he added, "We as a country are supposed to protect those who live here. By securing our borders, that's a national security item that needs to be dealt with and I think that's the message that goes back to Washington DC."

    Cannon said that if he wins the primary, his colleagues will see that "you don't have to worry about xenophobes.

    "You can focus on America and what is good for America and where we are going, because America is a wonderful place," he said.

    The winner of today's primary is all but assured a seat in Congress next year. Cannon won re-election in 2004 with 63 percent of the vote, while Bush carried the 3rd District by a whopping 77 percent of the vote.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/27/2006 11:08:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Common denominators: God and poverty
    From The Morning Grind

    There are no two polar opposite politicians in the Senate these days than Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) and Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania). For conservatives, Clinton symbolizes liberalism at its core, while liberals believe that Santorum is the flag bearer of conservatism. Santorum even wrote a book refuting Clinton's own title "It Takes a Village." To hammer his point home, Santorum titled his book, "It Takes a Family."

    So what do these two senators have in common? It appears God and an overwhelming desire to end poverty. Clinton and Santorum, as well as Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas), will address the "Sojourners' Pentecost 2006: Building a Covenant for a New America" conference tonight.

    Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, says more and more people of faith are focusing on poverty and are asking what can be done to eliminate it. Wallis, a self described populist, said for too long "the religious right had used social issues for partisan purposes and those issues now are not on the table."

    "For a long, long time, our religious right has sort of held the stage when it comes to faith and politics," he said in an interview with the Grind. "Now, they have to share the stage. Times have changed."

    Wallis acknowledged that there remains disagreement among the various religions on many issues, but added that "what we do about poverty has become a big unifying issue." As for what political party is best addressing the poverty issue, Wallis quickly replied: neither.

    "God is not a Republican or a Democrat," Wallis said. "But we have got an agenda and neither party has a plan to end extreme poverty around the world or needless poverty here at home in the richest country in the world."

    Much like other powerful religious leaders, Wallis is politically savvy and is often called upon by lawmakers to talk about religion. Democrats frequently consult him on how to best reach out to faith voters, while conservatives such as Brownback and Santorum share his goals on ending poverty. And he does not hesitate to warn Democrats and Republicans the political consequences if they ignore the poverty issue.

    "I think by 2008, (potential presidential candidates) are going to face a religious community that is really bird dogging them on the issue of poverty," he said. "And at every forum or candidate rally they are going to be asked 'What is your plan?' And they better have one."

    Freshman Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) delivers the keynote address to the group on the issue of "faith and politics" tomorrow morning. But a leading political voice on eliminating poverty, former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina), will not be speaking at this year's conference. Wallis said that Edwards keynoted last year's event and noted that Edwards had delivered a speech on poverty at the National Press Club last week.

    "He is right now the Democrat who is making poverty a moral issue more than any of the others," Wallis said.

    And Wallis acknowledged that it is probably no coincidence that four speakers at this year's conference are considering or at least have been mentioned as potential presidential candidates in 2008.

    "A whole lot of moderate evangelicals and their votes are up for grabs," he said. "Politicians do the math."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/27/2006 11:07:00 AM ET | Permalink
    John McCain and Grover Norquist on the same page
    From The Morning Grind

    Another odd couple joins Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), several business, labor and religious groups today to call for immigration reform. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist attend a 2:30 p.m. ET news conference in room 430 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building to call on Congress to approve "comprehensive immigration reform," a code phrase for the immigration proposal favored by President Bush and the Senate. As chairman for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, McCain investigated Norquist's business dealings with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. To say there is no love lost between McCain and Norquist would be an understatement.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/27/2006 11:06:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Nelson uses Bush in a campaign ad
    From The Morning Grind

    Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) fires back at his GOP opponent, Pete Ricketts, today with a 30 second TV ad that uses video of President Bush praising the Nebraska Democrat. Ricketts has accused Nelson of not being conservative enough for Nebraska.

    "He is a man with whom I can work, a person who's willing to put partisanship aside to focus on what's right for America," Bush is seen saying at an event last year in Omaha. The ad, obtained by the Grind, is running statewide.

    Interestingly enough, Nelson was at the White House this morning to discuss the line item veto with the President.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/27/2006 11:04:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today...
  • President Bush was scheduled to meet with senators at 9:15 a.m. ET to discuss the line item veto. He then delivers a 10:50 a.m. ET speech on this subject at the JW Marriott Hotel. The President participates in a 1:20 p.m. ET photo opportunity with Staff Sergeant Christian Bagge, an Iraq war veteran. At 1:45 p.m. ET, Bush meets with the National Endowment for Democracy Award recipients. The President closes his public schedule by going for a 3:45 p.m. ET jog around the South Lawn with Bagge, a double amputee.

  • The Senate gavels into session at 9:45 a.m. ET and resumes debate on the Flag Protection Amendment. Votes are expected after 2:15 p.m. ET. The House came into session at 9 a.m. ET and votes are expected.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a 10 a.m. ET hearing on "Presidential Signing Statements" in room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

  • Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean was scheduled to speak at 8:30 a.m. ET at the "Sojourners' Pentecost 2006: Building a Covenant for a New America" conference being held at the National City Christian Church on Thomas Circle in Northwest, WDC. Dean then will throw the opening first prior to the Baltimore Orioles-Philadelphia Phillies baseball game at 7:05 p.m. ET in Baltimore.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and other Democrats hold a 10:45 a.m. ET news conference on the issue of prescription drugs prices in room H-204 of the Capitol.

  • "Sojourners' Pentecost 2006: Building a Covenant for a New America" conference opens it second day with Dean and then at 11 a.m. ET the group holds a news conference in the Upper Senate Park where Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and a "prominent Congressional Democrat" will speak. Sens. Brownback, Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) and Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) will speak between 5 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. ET in room 902 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

  • House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) holds an 11:30 a.m. ET pen-and-pad session with reporters in room H-107 of the Capitol.

  • Sens. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) hold an 11:30 a.m. ET news conference in the Senate Radio & TV gallery to discuss the redeployment and withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

  • Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut), a potential presidential candidate, delivers a noon speech to the National Partnership for Women and Families annual luncheon at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Connecticut Avenue.

  • Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) and several of his GOP colleagues are joined by retired Army Major Gen. Patrick Brady, chairman of the Citizens Flag Alliance, at 12:15 p.m. ET to talk about the Flag Protection Amendment in room S-230 of the Capitol.

  • House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) holds a 12:30 p.m. ET pen-and-pad session with reporters in room H-306 of the Capitol.

  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman addresses the League of United Latin American Citizens conference at 1 p.m. ET being held at the Midwest Airlines Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He then heads to Michigan for a 7 p.m. ET fundraiser for the State Republican Party that is expected to raise $10,000.

  • Former President Clinton returns to New Hampshire today for a series of events including a lunch with former political supporters. He then joins Dr. Susan Lynch, wife of Gov. John Lynch (D), at a 3:30 p.m. ET forum on childhood obesity at the Parkside Middle School in Manchester. Tonight, about 200 people will join Clinton at a State Democratic Party fundraiser that is expected to raise between $40,000-$45,000. Clinton sent out an e-mail fundraising letter on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this morning.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/27/2006 10:58:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    A "DISGRACEFUL" ACT THAT DOES "GREAT HARM" TO THE NATION: President Bush offered an impassioned defense of his secret international banking surveillance program yesterday, calling it a legal and effective tool for hunting down terrorists and denouncing the media's disclosure of it as a "disgraceful" act that does "great harm" to the nation. The president used a White House appearance with supporters of troops in Iraq to lash out at newspapers that revealed the program, which has examined hundreds of thousands of private banking records from around the world. His remarks led off a broader White House assault later amplified by Vice President Cheney and Treasury Secretary John W. Snow. Washington Post: Surveillance Disclosure Denounced

    BUSH APPROVAL UP IN NEW POST-ABC POLL: President Bush's approval rating rebounded from its lowest point a month ago and now stands at 38 percent. That is five points higher than it was in May, though still weak enough to cause Republicans to worry about their electoral chances in November. But the survey offered some hopeful signs for Bush and the Republicans as they prepare for the midterm elections. The big advantage that Democrats held on virtually every major issue has narrowed or reversed. On the question of which party is best able to handle the situation in Iraq, the Democrats' 14-point advantage in last month's Post-ABC poll has been cut in half; they now have a 47 percent lead over Republicans' 41 percent. Washington Post: Nation Is Divided on Drawdown Of Troops

    WILL IRAQ'S NEW GOVT. NEGOTIATE WITH INSURGENTS? Several Sunni-led insurgent groups have approached the Iraqi government to try to start negotiations after the Iraqi prime minister's presentation on Sunday of a limited plan for reconciliation, a senior legislator from the prime minister's party said Monday. The groups have made no demands yet, but wanted to express their views to top government officials, said the legislator, Hassan al-Suneid. "There are signals" from "some armed groups to sit at the negotiating table," said Mr. Suneid, who, like the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, belongs to the Islamic Dawa Party, a conservative Shiite group. New York Times: Some Insurgents Are Asking Iraq for Negotiations

    TO PASS IMMIGRATION BILL THIS YEAR, BUSH HAS "GOT TO GET INVOLVED": The security of the border should be the No. 1 priority for an immigration bill, Sen. Arlen Specter said yesterday, and he's open to a compromise that sets goals for border and interior enforcement ahead of a guest-worker program and path to citizenship for illegal aliens. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said that in order for Congress to produce an immigration bill this year, President Bush must lobby personally on specific details in the bill -- something he has not done. "The president's got to be there. He's got to get involved, in my opinion, in the negotiations. Now, he has not yet been willing to do that," the Pennsylvania Republican told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. Washington Times: Specter puts borders first

    HEARING TODAY ON WHITE HOUSE "SIGNING STATEMENTS": A bill becomes the rule of the land when Congress passes it and the president signs it into law, right? Not necessarily, according to the White House. A law is not binding when a president issues a separate statement saying he reserves the right to revise, interpret or disregard it on national security and constitutional grounds. That's the argument a Bush administration official is expected to make Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who has demanded a hearing on a practice he considers an example of the administration's abuse of power. "It's a challenge to the plain language of the Constitution," Specter said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm interested to hear from the administration just what research they've done to lead them to the conclusion that they can cherry-pick." AP via Yahoo! News: Bush ignores laws he inks, vexing Congress

    $2 BILLION IN "SCAMS, SCHEMES, AND STUPEFYING BUREAUCRATIC BUNGLES": Among the many superlatives associated with Hurricane Katrina can now be added this one: it produced one of the most extraordinary displays of scams, schemes and stupefying bureaucratic bungles in modern history, costing taxpayers up to $2 billion. A hotel owner in Sugar Land, Tex., has been charged with submitting $232,000 in bills for phantom victims. And roughly 1,100 prison inmates across the Gulf Coast apparently collected more than $10 million in rental and disaster-relief assistance. There are the bureaucrats who ordered nearly half a billion dollars worth of mobile homes that are still empty, and renovations for a shelter at a former Alabama Army base that cost about $416,000 per evacuee. New York Times: 'Breathtaking' Waste and Fraud in Hurricane Aid

    SCOTUS STRIKES DOWN VERMONT'S STRICT CAMPAIGN LIMITS: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down keys parts of Vermont's 1997 campaign finance law that sought to limit how much money state candidates can raise and spend on elections. The nine-member court was hardly unanimous -- issuing six separate opinions in the case -- but the end result is Vermont's limits on campaign contributions are too low and limits on campaign spending restrict candidates' right to free speech. One side hailed the decision as a victory for free speech. The other called it a sad day for democracy. "It's not totally unexpected, but it's disappointing," said Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell, who argued in defense of the law before the court in February. Burlington Free Press: High Court Rejects Vermont's Campaign Limits

    FLAG VOTE MAY COME TODAY: Culminating emotional debate on patriotism and individual rights in the age of terrorism, the Senate is preparing to vote as early as Tuesday on a constitutional amendment to ban the burning or desecration of the U.S. flag. It could become the first change to the Constitution approved by Congress in 35 years. Supporters and opponents said the count would be a cliffhanger, likely coming within one vote either way of the 67 needed for a two-thirds majority, which would send the amendment to the states. If the Senate joins the House in approving the amendment, ratification by three-fourths of the states (at least 38) appears likely because many have passed resolutions saying they would ratify it. Chicago Tribune: Senate expects close flag amendment vote

    120 SECURITY THREATS TO THE THREE MOST COMMON E-VOTING MACHINES: Most of the electronic voting machines widely adopted since the disputed 2000 presidential election "pose a real danger to the integrity of national, state and local elections," a report out Tuesday concludes. There are more than 120 security threats to the three most commonly purchased electronic voting systems, the study by the Brennan Center for Justice says. For what it calls the most comprehensive review of its kind, the New York City-based non-partisan think tank convened a task force of election officials, computer scientists and security experts to study e-voting vulnerabilities. The study, which took more than a year to complete, examined optical scanners and touch-screen machines with and without paper trails. Together, the three systems account for 80% of the voting machines that will be used in this November's election. USA Today: Analysis finds e-voting machines vulnerable

    MURTHA LAYING GROUNDWORK FOR LEADER BID: It's been two weeks since Rep. John Murtha (Pa.) formally suspended his campaign for Majority Leader - a position that will exist for Democrats only if they win back the House in November - but indications abound that the race between Murtha and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) is still very much alive. It was on June 13, four days after he stunned his Democratic colleagues by announcing his challenge to Hoyer, that Murtha put his bid on hold, yielding to concerns publicly expressed by some Democrats that a full-fledged leadership campaign would needlessly divide and distract the Caucus at the height of midterm election season. Since then, Murtha has stopped publicly lobbying for the job during television appearances and privately asking Members to commit to him. But a loose collection of the Pennsylvanian's loyalists remain busily at work counting heads, making sure Murtha has a solid blueprint in hand should the campaign officially restart four months from now. Roll Call: Shadow Race for Leader Rolls On

    PARTIES ARGUE OVER WHERE DeLAY LIVES: Former Rep. Tom DeLay testified Monday that he lives and votes in Virginia, bolstering the Republican Party's claim that he is ineligible to appear on the November ballot in Texas. DeLay resigned from Congress and decided against re-election earlier this year while under indictment on campaign-finance charges. GOP leaders want to select another Republican to replace DeLay on the ballot. They say they are permitted to do that under state election law because DeLay has moved out of Texas. But the Democrats want to block any other Republican from being listed on the ballot for the suburban Houston district, where former Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson is running. Democrats would be helped by keeping DeLay's name and legal troubles before the public. AP via Yahoo! News: DeLay testifies he lives, votes in Va.

    HILLARY HIRES TOP BLOGGER: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign has hired Peter Daou, one of the most prominent political bloggers in the nation, to help disseminate her message in a forum that has not always been that hospitable to her. The move underscores the degree to which bloggers - the authors of Web logs, or blogs - have begun to transform American politics. In many cases, candidates have even set up their own blogs, with staffers answering questions, presenting policy proposals and posting campaign literature and videos. Mrs. Clinton, who is up for re-election this year and is a possible presidential candidate for 2008, has been a frequent target of bloggers, particularly liberals who are angry over her refusal to disavow her vote in 2002 to authorize President Bush to use force in Iraq. New York Times: A Well-Known Political Blogger Is Hired by the Clinton Campaign

    BLOOMBERG'S ACCIDENTAL ENDORSEMENT? City Councilman David Yassky, locked in a racially charged congressional race, was all smiles yesterday as Mayor Bloomberg introduced him as "Congressman Yassky." Speaking at the first groundbreaking to come from last year's Williamsburg-Greenpoint re-zoning, the mayor praised Yassky - but press secretary Stu Loeser insisted there was no endorsement, just "a slip of the tongue." Yassky is the only white in a four-person Democratic primary. New York Post: Bloomy's Oops
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/27/2006 09:32:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Monday, June 26, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Prosecuting newspapers?
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following three questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    Should newspapers be prosecuted for reporting on the government's surveillance of financial records?

    Yes, the media needs to be held accountable for giving up America's homeland security methods of getting information. They aren't just hurting the president, they are hurting people who want our defensive methods to be successful.
    Lynn, Robertsdale, Ala.

    No, they should not be prosecuted. Since the Republican-led Congress isn't taking their job seriously and doing oversight on this administration, our last line of defense is the media.
    Lee, Fairfield, Iowa

    As I recall, the original idea was for the media to do surveillance on government to keep it honest. Is the handwriting on the wall when government goes after a reporter's sources, or removes protections for whistle blowers, or classifies any criminal acts as "secret"?
    Richard, Portland, Oregon

    ****
    If you had $44 billion, whom would you give it to?

    The sad part is that if each of us who doesn't have $44 billion would give 10% of our wealth/income to charitable groups, we would have a greater impact than Mr. Buffett and Gates. It is the combined effect of those of us who aren't named Brad and Angie, and have never made the cover of People that could provide the real change and rescue for this world.
    Vicki, Hiawassee, Georgia

    All the children's hospitals in North America. I think children from infancy to age 18 should have free hospitalization when a hospital stay is required. All expenses while in the hospital would be paid. Children cannot be responsible for the economic levels of their families.
    John, Alabama

    The poor in the U.S. and Katrina victims only.
    Debbie, Milroy, Pennsylvania

    ****
    What's more important than Congress passing an amendment to ban flag burning?

    Just about everything is more important than the flag burning debate. But flag burning and gay issues will be in the forefront as long as the Republicans need issues they can use to get people to go to the polls.
    David, Sacramento, Calif.

    What's more important than a flag burning amendment? Let's see... the national debt, a war of choice, huge tax cuts in time of war, out-of-control gas prices, no real plan to secure our ports or our southern border, the all-out war on the American middle class...
    Nick, Indianapolis, Indiana
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 6/26/2006 06:07:00 PM ET | Permalink
    FBI abandons efforts to obtain Connecticut library records
    From Senior Producer Carol Cratty

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI has abandoned efforts to obtain library records from a Connecticut library association, the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the library in its legal fight against the request, announced Monday.

    The ACLU heralded the move as a major victory in protecting the privacy rights of Americans.

    The ACLU said it received a letter from the FBI Friday saying "the FBI would not seek to enforce" a national security letter sent to Library Connection and also would no longer prevent the organization from making the letter public.

    The FBI sent the national security letter (NSL) to Library Connection in July 2005 seeking all records pertaining to a particular computer as part of a terrorism investigation. In using a national security letter, the FBI was not required to seek the approval of a judge to gain access to the information. Library Connection also was prohibited from disclosing the FBI had requested records.

    Library Connection, a consortium of 26 Connecticut libraries which share a central computer system, sought the help of the ACLU and filed suit.

    "It's nice that we've been vindicated," said George Christian, the association's executive director.

    Ann Beeson, legal director of the ACLU, called the FBI's decision to drop the matter "a victory not just for librarians but for all Americans who value their privacy." She said it effectively will end the litigation in the Connecticut case.

    However, the ACLU has a client in New York state facing a similar predicament -- an anonymous internet service provider who received a national security letter and is trying to fight it in court.

    The FBI said in a statement from Assistant Director John Miller that the investigation under which it had sought the library records was now complete. But, Miller said, the investigation could have been more quickly completed if Library Connection had complied with its request for specific information about a specific threat.

    "The NSL states that the FBI was seeking specific information on any subscriber or billing information relating to a specific computer used within the 45 minute time period on the day the threat information was transmitted from a library's computer," he said. " ... Obtaining information that could lead to the identity of the person who used a specific computer, at a specific time, to transmit threat information would have helped the FBI more efficiently investigate and evaluate an alleged threat involving terrorism."

    Ultimately, Miller said, the threat was discounted. He added it was "disingenuous" for the Beeson to claim that "preventing the FBI from obtaining information about who used a computer to send information about a potential terrorist threat during a 45 minute period constitutes 'a victory not just for librarians but for all Americans who value their privacy.'"

    The national security letter sent to Library Connection and now made public states all the employees were prohibited from "disclosing to any person that the FBI has sought or obtained access to information or records." That included anyone whose records were sought.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/26/2006 04:22:00 PM ET | Permalink
    U.S. refuses to deal with Somalia's new Islamic leader
    From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration said it won't deal with the new leader of the Islamic militia that captured Somalia's capital because of his alleged ties to al Qaeda, but officials are still studying the "shifting sands" to determine the group's intentions for the country.

    Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was appointed leader this weekend of the Islamic Courts Union, which wrested control of Mogadishu from a U.S.-backed coalition of warlords earlier this month. He is the former leader of al-Ittihad al-Islami, a Somali group that the State Department has designated a terrorist organization.

    Al-Ittihad al-Islami, which the State Department says carried out a number of attacks against Ethiopian forces and was blamed for a series of bombings in 1996 and 1997, is now largely broken up. But Aweys remains on both U.S. and United Nations "watch lists" of people with ties to al Qaeda.

    "Certainly, of course, we're not going to work with somebody like that," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday. "And course, we would be troubled if this is an indicator of the direction that this group would go in."

    But he said "there are a lot of shifting sands here, in terms of the leadership and the composition of this group."

    "We're going to try to get a better picture of exactly what the relative weight of influence is within this group of various individuals and various factions," McCormack said.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/26/2006 03:40:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Tony Snow declined to talk about an investigation into the SWIFT leak
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House spokesman said Monday a Treasury
    Department program that obtained international financial records aimed at
    tracking terrorist money was legitimate, but declined to say whether a leak
    investigation would be launched.

    "I will refer any questions about leak investigations to the Department
    of Justice, as well as any questions about how one may proceed in terms of
    legal options," he said. "Here you have a program that was demonstrated as
    legal and effective, that had demonstrated its worth in terms of helping
    apprehend Hambali, the mastermind of the Bali bombing, of finding a man in
    Brooklyn who had contributed $200,000 in terror financing, had broken up a
    number of terror cells."

    Treasury Department officials unsuccessfully lobbied both the New York
    Times and the Los Angeles Times not to run stories about the collection of
    financial data from SWIFT, a clearinghouse based in Belgium that exchanges
    transactional information between banks, handling about $6 trillion in
    transactions each day.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/26/2006 03:12:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Morning Grind


    Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania)

    Murtha's a star on the campaign trail

    Eight months ago, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) choked back tears when he called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq saying the "military has accomplished its mission and done its duty."

    It was a stunning statement from this decorated Marine veteran, who had established a long record in Congress of being a hawk on defense matters. Republicans criticized Murtha, but he was immediately showered with praise by likeminded Democrats.

    Murtha continues to speak out against the war, but his words now have a sharper political edge.

    "To all the Republicans who sit in their air-conditioned offices and talk of the courage it takes for them to keep young kids in harm's way - I say enough," Murtha wrote in a fundraising letter sent Friday on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Karl Rove talking about 'cutting and running' while he sits on his big, fat backside-saying 'stay the course.' I say enough! That's not a plan! We've got to have a new direction, and it's clear we need more Democrats in Congress to get that done."

    His willingness to lock horns with President Bush and his top political advisor Rove on the issue of Iraq has made Murtha a political star on the campaign trail. Today, he attends a fundraiser in Pittsburgh for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. This event follows on the heels of Murtha's keynote speech at the Palm Beach County Jefferson-Jackson Dinner Saturday night in West Palm Beach, Florida. He heads to New Hampshire in late July to attend the Hampton Democratic Town Committee's annual picnic.

    At least once a week, the Pennsylvania Democrat is participating in a campaign event for House Democrats, and he has helped to raise more than $1 million for the DCCC, according to figures provided to the Grind by the campaign organization.

    A Murtha spokeswoman said he has received "hundreds of requests" since his November declaration. So many, the spokeswoman said, that "he could not have physically done them all since November."

    Wahid Mahmood, chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, told the Grind that he invited Murtha to speak because the Pennsylvania Democrat is a "well known Congressman, who has been very forthcoming and a steadfast leader on Capitol Hill for years." But Mahmood acknowledged that Murtha's willingness to take on the President is certainly part of the reason why he asked him to keynote the dinner this weekend.

    "What Jack Murtha is saying is we need a new direction in Iraq ... not the same rhetoric that this President and this political party are trying to tell us," Mahmood said. "What Jack Murtha is saying and many Americans are saying, 'We need a new direction.'"

    Should Democrats take control of the House in November, Murtha has said he will run for majority leader and most likely will seek to cash in all of his political "chits."

    ***

    With friends like these, who needs enemies?

    Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) can't seem to catch a break these days. First, he gets a primary challenger. And now some of his fellow Democrats are refusing to back his re-election. In the 2004 presidential election, Lieberman waited for former Vice President Al Gore to announce he was not running before throwing his hat in the ring. As the vice presidential running mate to the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee Gore, Lieberman pledged to stay out of the race if Gore decided to make another run. When Gore decided to skip the race, Lieberman got in, but it was seen by many people as too late. How did Gore reward Lieberman for his loyalty? He didn't. When the anti-war Gore was asked by Bloomberg earlier this month who he would support -- the pro-war Lieberman or his anti-war primary challenger Ned Lamont -- the former vice president said he would not take a side.

    "I am not involved," Gore said. "I typically do not get involved in Democratic primaries. Joe is my close friend. Joe and Hadassah are close to Tipper and me and it would be very difficult to oppose him. But I don't get involved in primaries typically. He's a great guy and he's right on a lot of other issues."

    Now comes along Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), who described Lieberman as a "fine guy" but would not commit to campaigning for the Connecticut Democrat when asked yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

    "I have a lot of admiration for Joe," Feingold said. "He's a fine guy. He helped me a great deal in campaign finance reform. I think Ned Lamont's positions on the issues are much closer to mine on the critical issues. I think that this is going to be something decided by the people of Connecticut. I'm not going to go up there, but I'll tell you this, Tim. I will support the Democratic nominee, whoever that is."

    And if Lieberman looses the August 8 Democratic primary to Lamont, and chooses to run instead as an Independent there is a good chance you will see Feingold campaigning against him.

    "If Joe Lieberman wins the primary, I campaign for him," Feingold said. "If Ned Lamont wins the primary, I campaign for him. I'll be supporting the Democrat."

    ***

    Senate Democrats go on the offense over Iraq

    Even though they are not empowered to conduct formal Congressional hearings, Senate Democrats will hold their own forum this afternoon to examine the use of pre-war intelligence before the U.S. invaded Iraq. Democrats will hear from several former CIA and State Department officials as well as a weapons inspector, according to Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan (North Dakota).

    Expected to testify at the 1:30 p.m. ET hearing: Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell; Paul Pillar, CIA official responsible for coordinating intelligence on Iraq; Carl Ford, assistant secretary of State for Intelligence and Research; Wayne White, State Department principal Iraq analyst; Rod Barton, senior advisor to the Iraq Survey Group; Michael Smith, reporter for the Sunday Times of London, and the first to report the existence of the so-called "Downing Street Memo"; and Joseph Cirincione, co-author of WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications.

    A Democratic source involved in planning the forum told the Grind last night that "Wilkerson will offer new details about how White House officials tried to pressure Colin Powell to talk about an Iraq-al Qaeda connection in his speech to the UN Security Council.

    "Wilkerson names who was present at meetings to prepare for that presentation, and describes a pointed exchange after Stephen Hadley urged Colin Powell to talk about an Iraq-al Qaeda connection," added the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    ***

    Protecting the flag

    The Senate takes up a constitutional amendment this afternoon that would make it a crime to desecrate the U.S. flag. The debate comes one week before the nation prepares to celebrate the Fourth of July. And Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), a potential presidential candidate, is making it clear where he stands on the issue. In an e-mail sent to political supporters last week, Frist asks them to sign a petition expressing support for the flag burning amendment. To illustrate his point, Frist uses a very vivid image of a U.S. flag against the backdrop of red hot flames. But he is not the only person supportive of the measure. As of this morning, 59 senators had signed on as cosponsors of the bill introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). But it is still not clear if Hatch will get the 67 votes needed for it to be approved.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/26/2006 10:24:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today...
  • President Bush meets with organizations that support the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan at 10 a.m. ET and then participates in a 10:35 a.m. ET photo opportunity with 2006 Presidential Scholars. Bush then delivers a noon speech to a Republican National Committee Finance lunch at Evermay that is expected to raise $1.3 million. Bush then hosts a 5:30 p.m. ET "Celebration of Black Music Month" at the White House. Press Secretary Tony Snow is scheduled to hold a 12:45 p.m. ET on-camera briefing at the White House.

  • The Senate gavels into session at 2 p.m. ET and at 4 p.m. ET takes up the Flag Desecration Resolution. No votes on Monday, but votes are expected to occur on Tuesday. The House comes back into session at 12:30 p.m. ET.

  • Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), a prospective presidential candidate, delivers an 11:30 a.m. ET speech on "energy independence, the environment, and global climate change" at Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts.

  • Vice President Cheney delivers 1:30 p.m. ET remarks at a fundraiser for Congressional candidate Adrian Smith at the Midtown Holiday Inn Convention Center Grand Island in Grand Island, Nebraska. Cheney then heads to Minnetrista, Minnesota, for a 5:30 p.m. ET fundraiser for Congressional candidate Michele Bachmann.

  • The Senate Democratic Policy Committee holds a 1:30 p.m. ET hearing on "pre-war intelligence relating to Iraq" in room 192 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

  • USAction and Anna Greenberg and Guy Molneux release the results of a new poll on "Swing voters in swing districts" at 2 p.m. ET in room HC-5 of the Capitol.

  • First Lady Laura Bush delivers a 2:05 p.m. ET speech to the American Library Association Town Hall Meeting on Libraries at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

  • Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has a 4 p.m. ET meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt to discuss healthcare at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Resources.

  • Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) hosts a fundraiser in New York City for his political action committee, VOLPAC, and Senate candidates: Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, state Sen. Tom Kean of New Jersey and John Raese of West Virginia. RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman will attend the fundraiser.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/26/2006 10:21:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    DEMS "IN SYNC" WITH GEN. CASEY? Senate Democrats reacted angrily yesterday to a report that the U.S. commander in Iraq had privately presented a plan for significant troop reductions in the same week they came under attack by Republicans for trying to set a timetable for withdrawal. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that the plan attributed to Gen. George W. Casey resembles the thinking of many Democrats who voted for a nonbinding resolution to begin a troop drawdown in December. That resolution was defeated Thursday on a largely party-line vote in the Senate. "That means the only people who have fought us and fought us against the timetable, the only ones still saying there shouldn't be a timetable really are the Republicans in the United States Senate and in the Congress," Boxer said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "Now it turns out we're in sync with General Casey." Washington Post: Democrats Cite Report On Troop Cuts in Iraq

    DEBATING THE "A"-WORD IN IRAQ: U.S. senators on Sunday called Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's national reconciliation plan a positive step but expressed concerns about its "amnesty" provision. Al-Maliki's plan, announced earlier in the day, would extend an olive branch to some Iraqi militants and grant the phased release of 2,500 detainees from Iraqi prisons. Part of the strategy spells out "amnesty for all prisoners who were not involved in any terrorist activity, war crimes or crimes against humanity." This could leave the door open to freeing someone who might have killed an American service member in battle. CNN: Senators wary of 'amnesty' in Iraq plan

    AMERICANS OPPOSE WITHDRAWAL TIMETABLE 51-47: There are still more Americans who oppose withdrawal than support it, but the margin is dwindling. And the latest Post-ABC poll continues to show little backing for an immediate exit from Iraq: Nearly eight in 10 say the United States should keep troops in Iraq for at least six months. The survey found that 47 percent of the country now favors setting a deadline for troops to exit from Iraq, up eight percentage points since December. Opposition to a firm timetable for withdrawal stands at 51 points, down from 60 percent seven months ago. Washington Post: Americans Increasingly Divided Over Iraq

    REP. KING WANTS TO PROSECUTE NYT OVER "SWIFT" DISCLOSURE: Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said he was outraged that such a sensitive method [of secretly tracing financial records through a banking consortium in Brussels] had been exposed and called for a criminal investigation into The Times. "I'm calling on the attorney general to begin a criminal investigation and prosecution of The New York Times, its reporters, the editors that worked on this and the publisher," Mr. King said on the same Fox News program. "What they've done here is absolutely disgraceful."... In a telephone interview on Sunday night, Mr. King said the reason was that "The Times is more of a recidivist" because of its publication of its article on the N.S.A. program last year. He added, however, that he believed that the actions of other news organizations, including The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, should also be examined. New York Times: Court Review of Wiretaps May Be Near, Senator Says

    SIX MONTHS LATER, LITTLE PROGRESS ON LOBBY REFORM: When Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) announced his resignation as majority leader in January -- soon after lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to corruption charges -- House Republicans panicked. Dozens of GOP lawmakers, fearing a political backlash, flooded the office of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) with urgent pleas for lobbying reform... But that was then. Six months later, the legislation has slowed to a crawl. Along the way, proposals such as Hastert's that would sharply limit commonplace behavior on Capitol Hill have been cast aside. Committee chairmen once predicted the bill would be finished in March, but the Senate did not pass its ethics bill until March 29 and the House passed its version May 3. The House has yet to name negotiators to draft the final package. Washington Post: Call for Lobbying Changes Is A Fading Cry, Lawmakers Say

    BUSINESS-FRIENDLY SCOTUS: Companies and business groups got most of what they sought in Chief Justice John Roberts's first U.S. Supreme Court term, including limits on antitrust and securities suits and the prospect of new caps on punitive damages next year. The high court last week wrapped up a 2005-06 business docket that also produced victories for companies on arbitration of customer disputes and corporate tax breaks. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business group, declared victory in 10 of the 14 cases in which it took a stance. Bloomberg: Roberts's First Term Gave Companies Most of What They Sought

    CHIEF BY DAY, DAD BY NIGHT: He takes the children to swimming lessons. He tries to keep 5-year-old Jack from using 6-year-old Josie's violin as a pretend weapon. At the end of the day, he helps put them to bed. In between, he presides over the Supreme Court. John Roberts is the first chief justice of the United States in at least a century to be raising small children. Most justices have been parents. Some, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, arrived at the court as fathers of young children, but that was long before the two-career baby boomer family that Roberts and his wife, Jane, a lawyer, represent. "In the 20th century, most of the justices were in their late 50s, most of the wives were stay-at-home mothers, and most of the kids were not around," says University of Chicago law professor Dennis Hutchinson, who has written on the history of the court. USA Today: Roberts plays dual roles: Chief justice and father

    CAN DEMS WIN A MAJORITY OF THE STATE HOUSES? Republicans control the majority of governorships -- 28 to 22 -- including the four biggest electoral states of California, New York, Texas and Florida. But the large number of Republican-held governorships at stake in the 2006 elections -- 22 of the 36 seats up for grabs -- has put the party at a decided disadvantage this year. Making things even more problematic for Republicans is the fact that they have eight open seats to defend, mostly because of term limits, while the Democrats have only one. It is tougher to defeat an incumbent and easier to win an open race, thus adding to the Republicans' vulnerabilities. Democrats need a net gain of four governorships to capture a majority of the state houses, and there are several states where they are favored to pick up Republican seats, with New York being the most likely. Washington Times: Governors' races stay tight

    THE "SO-CALLED HILLARY-HATERS": With his glasses, balding head and leprechaunish smile, Jonathan Tasini doesn't look like a political threat to anyone. But he has become a thorn in Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's side as she seeks a commanding re-election victory this year to provide momentum for a possible presidential run in 2008. Mr. Tasini is not, however, waging his attacks from the right, as one among the legions of so-called Hillary-haters. Instead, he is trying to rally fellow Democrats against her over a single theme: Mrs. Clinton's early and vociferous backing of the Iraq war. New York Times: A Democratic Bid That's Anti-Clinton All the Time

    THE HILLARY-WASHINGTON CONNECTION: Hillary Rodham Clinton has a family tie to the presidency - and it's not just through her husband, Bill. The senator, who hopes to become the country's first female commander in chief, can trace her roots back to the same part of northeast England as the nation's first president, George Washington, according to a report in The Times of London. Researchers, using a computerized genealogy system that has helped millions of Americans trace their British ancestry, found Clinton descended from a coal-mining family in County Durham, England. Her great-grandfather, Jonathan Rodham, immigrated to the United States in 1881 and found work in coal fields in Scranton, Pa. Washington was the descendant of a family who lived just 10 miles away from Clinton's British relatives. Hill isn't the only politician with an unusual ancestral tie. According to researchers, President Bush is connected by one blood line to Wild Bill Hickock, the Western gunfighter. New York Post: Hill, By George

    KERRY GEARING UP FOR A SECOND RUN? Senator John F. Kerry has intensified his quest to regain the Democratic presidential nomination with a sharp move to the left, presenting himself in high-profile speeches and Senate debates as an unfettered lawmaker and would-be presidential candidate who learned from his 2004 loss that he must fight harder for what he believes... "I think I'm a much better candidate at this point in my life than I've ever been before -- much more knowledgeable, much more confident, much clearer and brief, to the point, and highly focused," Kerry said in an interview, noting that those campaign skills would apply equally to a 2008 run for the Senate or the presidency. Boston Globe: Democrats split on a 2d run by Kerry

    THE "FLUFF" WAR, WEEK 2: The Fluff war of 2006 began innocently enough, when 8-year-old Nathaniel Barrios asked one of his daddies to make him a Fluffernutter, his new favorite sandwich from school. State Sen. Jarrett T. Barrios was indignant. He and his partner run a healthy household. Since when was one of their two sons eating peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff? When the Democratic legislator filed a measure to limit the amount of marshmallow spread that Massachusetts schools can serve at lunch, the Fluff flap broke out in full force... State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein, also a Democrat, was one of two legislators who instantly retaliated with bills to make the Fluffernutter the official state sandwich. Los Angeles Times: Marshmallow Fluff Is the Stuff Legislation Is Made Of
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/26/2006 09:34:00 AM ET | Permalink
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