- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 30, 2004

Federal investigators probing the practices and finances of the Baltimore City Council are examining the travel records of council President Sheila Dixon, her attorney said.

In response to a public information request filed by the Baltimore Sun, lawyer Neal M. Janey wrote in a letter dated May 24 that records “concerning travel undertaken by the City Council president” are not available “until after completion of the federal grand jury investigation.”

“If you need access to those records before that time,” Mr. Janey wrote, “you should contact the United States attorney.”

U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio began the probe with subpoenas for documents issued in September and October, according to copies of subpoenas the newspaper has obtained. Earlier this year, Mr. DiBiagio broadened his search by issuing subpoenas to several minority developers for information detailing their dealings with Miss Dixon and three former city officials.

Mr. DiBiagio also has subpoenaed most of the council members to testify before the grand jury, the newspaper has reported.

His office has refused to confirm or deny an investigation.

The initial subpoenas to council members required them to turn over documents detailing gifts, loans or outside income they received in the past five years. Investigators also requested information on council members’ hiring practices, office budgets, expense accounts and relations with two local businessmen: banker Edwin F. Hale Sr. and Arrow Parking owner Benjamin Greenwald.

• Kerry woos Virginia

Democrat John F. Kerry will make a push into Republican-leaning Virginia with new TV commercials this week.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee will have the state to himself. A senior adviser to President Bush said the re-election campaign will not respond with ads of its own because Republicans believe the state is solidly behind the president.

Virginia, a state that Mr. Bush won by 8 percentage points in 2000, has gone to Republicans in presidential elections for decades.

Mr. Kerry’s campaign believes population shifts over the past few years have made the state more “northern” in its politics and more Democratic in its voting patterns. His advisers say the race is close in the state.

Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, agrees the landscape is ripe for a Democratic presidential win, saying parts of rural Virginia still are feeling the sting of the economic downturn.

bChao in Richmond

The Virginia Republican Party’s convention this weekend in Richmond will feature U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

Mrs. Chao will speak Friday at the chairman’s dinner. She served as deputy secretary of transportation in the administration of the first President Bush and also was director of the Peace Corps and president of the United Way of America. She is the wife of Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

Organizers expect more than 1,200 people getting together to elect the party’s delegates to the Republican National Convention.

• Hager moving up

President Bush will nominate John H. Hager, Virginia’s former lieutenant governor and the state’s first homeland security chief, to a senior position in the U.S. Department of Education.

Mr. Hager, 67, will be Mr. Bush’s nominee for assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, the White House announced last week.

“This has been in the pipeline for several weeks,” said Mr. Hager, a Republican who served Democratic Gov. Mark Warner as the first director of the Office of Commonwealth Preparedness, until he stepped down April 30.

Mr. Hager was elected lieutenant governor in 1997 in the first Republican sweep of the top three statewide elected offices.

A retired Richmond tobacco executive, Mr. Hager brought to politics deep ties to Virginia’s business leaders. In 2001, however, the state Republican Party’s dominant social conservatives nominated one of their own, then-Attorney General Mark L. Earley, for governor in a hard-fought convention. Mr. Earley lost to Mr. Warner.

Mr. Hager’s son, Henry Hager, is a former White House aide who works for Bush’s re-election campaign.

• Challenger: Part I

The 12 Democratic central committees of Maryland’s 1st Congressional District last week picked Kostas Alexakis to face Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest in the November general election.

The central committees had to select a replacement for Ann Tamlyn of Centreville, who won the Democratic primary in March but withdrew from the race for health reasons.

The central committees selected Mr. Alexakis over Harry Sampson by a vote of 59-41 Saturday at the Grasonville Firehouse. Mr. Alexakis, a former Baltimore resident who lives in Grasonville, finished second in the primary. Mr. Sampson, of Chesapeake City, finished fourth.

Mr. Alexakis, 49, said his campaign will focus on jobs, education and the environment.

• Challenger: Part II

A 25-year-old Democrat who has never run for public office before will challenge U.S. Rep. J. Randy Forbes for the 4th District seat in Congress in the November general election.

Jonathan R. Menefee was nominated at a convention at Prince George County High School. Mr. Menefee and Mr. Forbes are both from Chesapeake.

Mr. Menefee, who is at the minimum age to run for the House of Representatives, worked with the presidential-nomination campaign of North Carolina Sen. John Edwards in New Hampshire and a U.S. Senate campaign of Blair Hull in Illinois.

He is human-resources director for the Puryear Trucking Co.

Mr. Menefee said he supports raising taxes on those who make more than $500,000 a year and lowering them on those who make under $50,000. He called for tougher fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles and federally sponsored research into alternative fuels.

• No more e-mails

Now that the Virginia General Assembly has passed a budget after a record 115-day deadlock, contact from constituents has gone down for some lawmakers.

Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican, for one, said he was getting 200 e-mails a day about the budget debate. Some said they wanted taxes raised and others implored Mr. Albo to hold the line.

“There were a few [not-so-nice opinions of me] thrown in there,” he said. “But now my e-mail has gone down 90 percent.”

This column is based on wire service reports.

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