Saturday, October 11, 2008

Obama opens a double-digit lead in new NEWSWEEK poll

Pulling Away
Jonathan Darman
Newsweek Web Exclusive

The global financial meltdown has caused a dramatic shift in the 2008 presidential race, according to the latest NEWSWEEK poll. With four weeks left in the presidential campaign, Barack Obama now leads John McCain by double digits, 52 percent to 41 percent among registered voters—a marked shift from the last NEWSWEEK poll, conducted one month ago, when the two candidates were tied at 46 percent.

McCain booed for calling Obama 'decent'

Republican candidate's supporters showing anger at rallies
The Associated Press
updated 1:52 p.m. ET, Sat., Oct. 11, 2008

LAKEVILLE, Minn. - The anger is getting raw at Republican rallies and John McCain is acting to tamp it down. McCain was booed by his own supporters Friday when, in an abrupt switch from raising questions about Barack Obama's character, he described the Democrat as a "decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States."

Ethics report concludes improper actions in so-called Troopergate case

GOP's Palin denies abuse of power finding
The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Alaska Governor Sarah Palin says she did not abuse her power as governor, despite a legislative investigation which found she violated state ethics laws by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper.
After the results of the investigation were released, Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, was asked by a reporter if she abused her power as governor. She replied, "No, and if you read the report you'll see that there was nothing unlawful or unethical about replacing a cabinet member. You gotta read the report, sir."

Friday, September 26, 2008

McCain Loses His Head - by George Will

Tuesday, September 23, 2008; Page A21
"The queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. 'Off with his head!' she said without even looking around."
-- "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journal to editorialize that "McCain untethered" -- disconnected from knowledge and principle -- had made a "false and deeply unfair" attack on Cox that was "unpresidential" and demonstrated that McCain "doesn't understand what's happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does."..............Read the Entire Article -

Sunday, September 21, 2008

NYT: McCain tests fundraising limits

The New York Times
updated 12:13 a.m. ET, Sat., Sept. 20, 2008

Senator John McCain toiled for years to push a campaign finance overhaul through Congress. After the measure finally passed, Trevor Potter, a lawyer and vigorous advocate for reforming the system, was instrumental in defending the law from challenges and pressing for strict enforcement.

Now, as Mr. McCain makes his final sprint for the White House, Mr. Potter is again helping Mr. McCain, but this time by maneuvering to wring the maximum out of campaign finance laws in ways that some contend are at odds with the spirit of the reforms they championed.
The tactics appear to be legally permissible. And some argue that the McCain campaign is simply doing what is necessary in the face of the record fund-raising by his Democratic rival for president, Senator Barack Obama, and Mr. Obama’s decision to bypass public financing and its attendant spending limits.

But critics point out Mr. McCain is capitalizing on legal loopholes that a watchdog organization headed by Mr. Potter has fought against.

“There are very, very few lawyers in the country that are better at exploiting campaign finance loopholes than Trevor Potter,” said Bradley A. Smith, a former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “Of course, that’s one of the odd things about the McCain campaign: ‘Here’s the rules we want, but we’ll play by the rules that are here.’”

Finessing the limitsMr. McCain was an author of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, known as the McCain-Feingold law, an ambitious measure that supporters hoped would help drive big money out of politics. He has also helped sponsor legislation to improve the public financing system for elections and attacked Mr. Obama for backing away from a pledge to participate in it for the general election if his opponent accepted public money as well.

But now, as Mr. McCain’s top legal adviser, Mr. Potter, a former F.E.C. chairman, and his team have been helping the campaign finesse the strict spending limits it faces under public financing. Although Mr. McCain is supposed to be out of the business of private fund-raising after he received his $84 million infusion from the Treasury this month, it is sometimes difficult to tell.
This month, the McCain campaign began running banner Web advertisements asking for donations to the McCain-Palin Compliance Fund, a fund-raising vehicle rooted in a 1980s F.E.C. ruling that candidates who accept public financing can still collect private donations for legal and accounting costs for complying with campaign finance laws.

Only a careful observer, however, would have noticed the advertisements’ fine print, which said donations to the fund would be used to pay for “a portion of the cost of broadcast advertising,” as well as other expenses.

That would seem to be a far cry from the legal and accounting exemption. But the F.E.C. issued an advisory opinion last year that said Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign could use its compliance fund to cover up to 5 percent of its advertising costs, because of the several seconds candidates must devote in their advertisements to a disclaimer.

The Campaign Legal Center, founded by Mr. Potter, joined with Democracy 21, a watchdog group, to file a strongly worded brief opposing the practice, warning that it would be exploited.
'Reserves the option'The McCain campaign declined to make Mr. Potter available for an interview. Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the campaign, said in a statement that the campaign had not yet paid for advertising with its compliance fund but “reserves the option to do so under this recent, clear F.E.C. precedent.”

The centerpiece of McCain-Feingold was its efforts to rein in “soft money,” or unregulated contributions, in national elections. But McCain fund-raisers continue to build much of their efforts around the solicitation of large contributions of up to about $70,000 for a special joint fund-raising account for the Republican National Committee and several state parties, which can spend money on behalf of the campaign, called McCain-Palin Victory 2008.

Campaigns have used the joint fund-raising committees in the past, but the McCain campaign took the practice to a new level by linking them with state party accounts, which can accept contributions of $10,000, on top of the $28,500 collected for the national party, $2,300 for the compliance fund and, until recently, $2,300 for the campaign’s primary coffers.

Critics have contended that the large donations to the joint fund-raising accounts amount to a form of soft money. The Obama campaign has been using its own joint fund-raising committee with the Democratic Party, but it only recently created a separate account for the state parties, so the checks are not nearly as big.

“The real irony here,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, a watchdog group, “is we fought so hard to get B.C.R.A. through, McCain-Feingold through, with the whole intent of getting rid of those large donations, which everyone, including McCain, realized were potentially corrupting. And we’ve gone full circle with these large donations for the joint fund-raising committees.”

McCain fund-raisers certainly seem to pitch donations to the victory committee as supporting the ticket. The McCain campaign Web site attracts donors with a prominent “Contribute” button that sends them to a donation page for the committee, along with some lengthy disclaimers of the various entities that benefit from it.

By contrast, the Kerry campaign’s contribution button on its Web page in 2004 was more clearly labeled “Contribute to the Democratic Party.” The Obama campaign is not soliciting contributions for its joint fund-raising committee on its Web site.

Some lawyers said that some of the ways the McCain campaign is pushing its victory committee fit awkwardly with the broader mandate of public financing to halt private fund-raising, as well as rules that ban the designating of funds to party committees for specific candidates.
“I think it’s both an appearance and a legal question,” said Lawrence H. Norton, who left his post as general counsel to the F.E.C. last year.

But Mr. Rogers pointed to explanatory language used in literature by the joint fund-raising committees and said they undertook “substantial efforts to avoid any potential misunderstanding.”

Reputation as an activistMr. Potter built his reputation as an activist while he was F.E.C. chairman in the 1990s and later founded his reform-minded legal center. He took a leave this year from his position as president to devote himself to being the McCain campaign’s general counsel while also still maintaining a private practice.

Guided by Mr. Potter, the McCain campaign is also adopting one of the most controversial innovations introduced by the Bush campaign in 2004: the use of so-called hybrid advertisements, which allowed it to split the cost of television commercials with the Republican Party. The practice was later copied by the Democrats.

The F.E.C. deadlocked on the legality of the advertisements last year, paving the way for the McCain campaign to rely heavily on them. But Mr. Potter’s Campaign Legal Center joined Democracy 21 last year in a vigorous objection to the practice, labeling it a “scheme to evade the spending limits.”

Some election law lawyers speculated that the McCain campaign might push the envelope further and try to split the costs of its hybrid advertisements with state parties as well, or produce some advertisements in which the party picks up more of the cost.
Mr. Rogers said the campaign had no plans to change the 50-50 ratio for dividing the advertising costs but declined to comment on the state parties question.

Mr. Rogers said Mr. McCain’s detractors often insinuated that because of his reformist reputation “almost anything he does to raise or spend money is a violation of his principles.”
But Mr. Rogers said the campaign was complying with all laws.
Indeed, some lawyers argued that Mr. Potter and Mr. McCain were simply dealing with the realities of a close race.

“They’re taking full advantage of opportunities the law provides for them,” said Robert D. Lenhard, a former Democratic F.E.C. chairman.
This article, "McCain's Camp Tests Fund-Raising Limits," first appeared in the New York Times.

Copyright © 2008 The New York Times

Cheney must keep records, judge orders

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney must preserve a broad range of records from his time in office, a federal judge ordered Saturday, ruling in favor of a private watchdog group.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly found that the records are not excluded from preservation under Presidential Records Act, which gives the national archivist responsibility over the custody of and access to the records at the end of a president's final term.
The Bush administration had sought a narrow interpretation of the act to allow for fewer materials to be preserved by the National Archives.

"Defendants were only willing to agree to a preservation order that tracked their narrowed interpretation of the PRA's statutory language," Kollar-Kotelly said in her order. This position "heightens the Court's concern" that some records will not be preserved without an injunction.
Cheney chief of staff David Addington has told Congress that the vice president belongs to neither the executive nor legislative branch of government, AP reported. Instead, he said, the office is attached by the Constitution to Congress. The vice president presides over the Senate.
The lawsuit -- naming among its defendants Cheney, the Executive Office of President and the National Archives and Records Administration -- was filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, commonly known as CREW.

In response to the ruling, Cheney spokesman James R. Hennigan said that "we will not have any comment on pending litigation," according to The Associated Press.
The judge's order is the most recent setback to the Bush administration's position on openness of executive branch records.

In December, a federal judge ruled in another CREW lawsuit that the White House cannot hide behind a shield of privilege over release of its visitor logs.

U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth concluded that the information was a public records request, subject to Freedom of Information Act disclosure of "agency records."
The White House had claimed exclusive control of the documents, subject to the complete discretion of the president over their release.

CREW sought the visitor records of prominent conservatives James Dobson (Focus on the Family), Wendy Wright (Concerned Women of America) and seven others, including the late televangelist Jerry Falwell.

Friday, September 19, 2008


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