- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 13, 2008

CAMPAIGN FINANCES

Biden releases financial records

Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife Jill on Friday released a decade of their personal financial records, showing a veteran U.S. senator who earned less than many of his congressional colleagues.

The Bidens’ move is designed to pressure Republican vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin to release her financial records. An aide to Republican presidential nominee John McCain said the campaign would release the documents but gave no indication when that would happen.

The Bidens earned $319,853 in 2007. Mr. Biden reported $161,708 in income from the U.S. Senate and another $71,000 in royalties for his book, “Promises to Keep.”

The tax return shows the Bidens paid the alternative minimum tax that the senator has argued should be changed “so millions of middle-income Americans are not hurt by a tax intended to make sure the wealthiest pay their share.” The Bidens claimed an income of $280,146 last year under that provision, and paid $66,273 in income taxes.

CAMPAIGN

Mrs. Obama cooks with Paula Deen

Michelle Obama took a break recently from the campaign trail to get her hands messy breading shrimp as she helped prepare a deep-fried dinner with the Food Network’s first lady of Southern cooking, Paula Deen.

The wife of Democrat Barack Obama got cozy with Mrs. Deen in the kitchen during a recent taping of the Savannah celebrity cook’s TV show “Paula’s Party,” scheduled to air on the cable network Sept. 20.

Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Deen swapped stories about their families’ favorite meals as they cooked fried shrimp and french fries at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, where the network converted a cafeteria into a TV kitchen.

“She was getting her hands dirty,” Mrs. Deen said in an interview Friday. “I think they are like us - they like real food, not a bunch of prissy food.”

Mrs. Obama told Mrs. Deen her husband’s personal favorite is a steaming bowl of chili, and the first meal she ever cooked for him was a seafood gumbo. Mrs. Deen, one of the Food Network’s biggest stars, traveled to Norfolk for the taping three weeks ago.

Mrs. Deen has also invited Republican John McCain’s wife, Cindy, and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, to spend equal time in her kitchen.

ENERGY

Reid says consensus building on energy

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he sees “increasing consensus” about what to do next to tackle the country’s energy problems.

With the House and Senate planning to take up energy legislation next week, Republicans and Democrats have moved closer to agreement on some expansion of offshore oil drilling. Senators are discussing ideas for dealing with the energy issue Friday in a daylong summit with academics and executives from oil, auto and other industries.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell cautioned against taking “half measures.” Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, says conservation alone isn’t enough, and it’s essential to increase domestic oil production.

Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, says the only “silver bullet” is reducing the use of fossil fuels by developing alternative energy sources and encouraging conservation.

WHITE HOUSE

Highway funds restored in bill

Two months after the White House called a highway trust fund rescue plan a “gimmick” and threatened a presidential veto, President Bush is expected to sign legislation infusing $8 billion into the financially teetering fund that supports road and bridge projects across the country.

That change of heart came after the administration acknowledged last week that the trust fund, which derives its revenues from the federal gas tax, was going broke much faster than anticipated and that Washington would have to begin delaying payments to states for construction work as early as this month.

That could have meant the loss of thousands of high-paying construction jobs just weeks before the election.

“I’m glad the Republicans came to their senses - you can’t play politics with 300,000 jobs when we’re in a recession,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The House on Thursday voted 376-29 on the measure to transfer $8 billion from the Treasury’s general fund to shore up the 52-year-old highway trust fund. The Senate approved the measure by a voice vote on Wednesday after several Republicans who had held up the legislation for months agreed to let it go forward.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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