- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 29, 2009

COURTS

Campaign finance law unconstitutional

NEW HAVEN, Conn. | A federal judge has ruled that Connecticut’s public campaign finance law, seen by some as a possible national model, is unconstitutional because it discriminates against minor party political candidates.

Judge Stefan Underhill ruled late Thursday that a part of the law that provides a voluntary public financing scheme for candidates for statewide offices and state lawmakers puts an unconstitutional burden on minor party candidates’ First Amendment right to political opportunity.

He said the program, known as the Citizens’ Election Program, enhances major party candidates’ strength beyond their past ability to raise contributions, providing them public financing “at windfall levels.”

The Green and Libertarian parties and others sued the state, arguing the law makes it difficult for minor party candidates to meet the criteria for getting public funds for their campaigns.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the state will appeal the ruling to the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and will seek a stay of the ruling.

NEW JERSEY

Gadhafi won’t stay in Englewood

NEWARK | U.S. Rep. Steven R. Rothman said he’s been assured Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi won’t stay in Englewood, N.J., when he visits the U.S. next month to address the U.N. General Assembly.

The Libyan government has been renovating an estate there ahead of Col. Gadhafi’s first U.S. visit. But Col. Gadhafi is unwelcome in New Jersey, which lost 38 residents in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The attack killed 270 people and is widely thought to be the work of Libyan intelligence.

Col. Gadhafi angered the U.S. and Britain last week with the warm welcome given to Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was released Aug. 20 from a Scottish prison because he’s dying of cancer.

Mr. Rothman said Libyan officials told him Friday Col. Gadhafi won’t stay in New Jersey during his visit.

ALASKA

Problems found with Palin contributions

ANCHORAGE | The Federal Elections Commission has found that former Gov. Sarah Palin’s political action committee gave excessive contributions to two well-known Republicans.

The problem is highlighted in a letter sent to SarahPAC Treasurer Tim Crawford. He told the Anchorage Daily News that the problem has been fixed.

He said SarahPAC has sorted out the $5,000 contributions to Sens. John McCain and Lisa Murkowski, and the campaigns have already refunded $200 each.

Mr. Crawford blamed the problems on election software used to deal with required disclosures.

Federal law allows political action committees to give candidates up to $5,000 per election if they meet certain conditions. Lower limits of $2,400 per election can apply.

POSTAL SERVICE

More post offices may face cuts

The number of post offices being considered for possible closure to save money seems to be growing.

The Postal Service faces a potential deficit of $7 billion this fiscal year and has been looking for ways to save, including buyouts, spending cuts and closing offices.

Earlier this month, the service said 677 local branch offices were being studied for closing.

But Friday, in a letter to the Postal Regulatory Commission, the agency revised that number to “fewer than 750 stations and branches.”

The letter contained no details on which offices may have been added, though it said the commission would be receiving more information next week.

COURTS

International drug case dismissed

A judge has dismissed a major international drug case after the prosecution fell apart, and ordered that the suspected dealer should not be charged again.

Chinese-Mexican businessman Zhenli Ye Gon has been jailed for two years on charges of importing methamphetamine from Mexico into the U.S. Authorities said they seized more than $205 million, the largest drug-related cash seizure in history, from his Mexico City mansion when he was arrested.

The Justice Department asked U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to dismiss the case because one witness has recanted and another has refused to testify. The prosecutors had asked that he leave open their option to charge him again, but the judge signed an order Friday afternoon that denied that request.

ACCIDENT

Congressman hurt in boat crash

HELENA, Mont. | U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg and four other people were hospitalized but in stable condition Friday after their 22-foot boat ran into rocks in the dark.

“It was a pretty serious accident near Wayfarers state park,” Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Tom Palmer said.

The department said three people were flown to the hospital by helicopter after the accident sometime before midnight Thursday, but did not know if that included Mr. Rehberg, a Montana Republican. The others were taken by ambulance. All five, including Republican state Sen. Greg Barkus, were in stable condition.

The park was closed Friday while investigators worked at the crash scene.

Mr. Rehberg had been scheduled to hold town-hall meetings in Cut Bank and Shelby on Friday. Both were canceled.

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