- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 6, 2009

SENATE

Union’s boast derails nominees

Two senators announced Wednesday that they were putting a hold on the nomination of Daniel Elliott to chair the Surface Transportation Board, after the United Transportation Union (UTU) suggested its campaign donations helped make the nomination happen.

The nomination of Mr. Elliott, and of Joseph Szabo as administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration - both of whom worked for the UTU - “is tribute to the political influence of the UTU, which flows from the UTU PAC,” said Mike Futhey, UTU International President, in a news release. “We have good reason to expect President Obama to reach into the UTU ranks for other appointments in the near future.”

The words were bandied about at Senate Commerce Committee meeting, with Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, referring to “this UTU idiocy.”

He called on Mr. Futhey to write a letter of apology to the committee.

The committee’s top Republican, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, suggested a hold on the nominee until the panel received assurances that the union wasn’t suggesting any undue influence. Mr. Rockefeller quickly endorsed it.

KENTUCKY

Ron Paul’s son to run for Senate

FRANKFORT, Ky. | Rand Paul, the son of 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul, ended months of speculation Wednesday by saying he will run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated next year by fellow Republican Jim Bunning.

The Bowling Green ophthalmologist told the Associated Press he is entering the race and plans to run as a candidate with “outsider” credentials.

Mr. Paul had been considering a campaign even before the 77-year-old Mr. Bunning announced last week that he intends to retire when his second term ends.

Two other Republicans - Secretary of State Trey Grayson and western Kentucky businessman Bill Johnson - have already announced they’re running for Mr. Bunning’s seat. Two major Democrats, Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, are seeking their party’s nomination.

“It’s about time we have someone who is an outsider and not a career politician in Washington,” Mr. Paul said. “Nothing ever seems to change, even when we think we vote for change.”

RELEASE

‘Squeaky’ Fromme to leave prison

Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, the Charles Manson cult follower who tried to kill President Ford, is scheduled to be released from prison next week, ABC News reports.

Fromme, now 60, took aim at the president with a semiautomatic .45 caliber pistol on Sept. 5, 1975. There were four bullets in the gun’s magazine, but none in the chamber and an alert Secret Service agent grabbed the gun from Fromme.

Fromme was a devoted member of the Manson “Family.” At the time of the assassination attempt, Manson and several of his followers were serving life terms for killing nine people in his grisly Helter Skelter plot to start a race war.

She told her defense attorney that she targeted Mr. Ford because she wanted to garner attention for a new trial for Manson.

Seventeen days after Fromme’s assassination attempt, another Manson “Family” member, Sara Jane Moore, also tried to kill the president. Ms. Moore was released from prison earlier this year.

JUSTICE

Former lawmaker avoids prosecution

Former Rep. Tom Feeney says the Justice Department has told him it has dropped a criminal investigation relating to a golf trip he took to Scotland with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The Florida Republican said in a statement that he was “pleased but not surprised” by the department’s decision not to charge him with a crime. He was defeated for re-election last year after Democrats criticized his ties to Abramoff and is working as a lobbyist in Tallahassee.

“I have maintained from the start that I engaged in no wrongdoing in connection with the Scotland trip or in response to inquiries by the House ethics committee,” Mr. Feeney said in a statement provided by his attorney, Bill Taylor.

“I am thankful to have this chapter of my life closed, and look forward to spending time with my family, growing my law practice, and continuing to serve the people of Florida as a private citizen,” he said.

SENATE

Iraqi nomad led U.S. to dead pilot

A U.S. senator says the key to finding the remains of a pilot missing for nearly 20 years turned out to be an Iraqi nomad who as a child witnessed the pilot’s desert burial.

Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat, said the Iraqi led U.S. Marines to another nomad who knew the actual burial site of Navy Capt. Michael “Scott” Speicher.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, Mr. Nelson noted that the military had followed many fruitless leads over the past eight years. He said the Pentagon came to believe the answer would be found in the Bedouin tribes based in the area when Capt. Speicher’s jet went down on the first night of the 1991 Gulf War.

The Pentagon said over the weekend the remains were found last month and were positively identified as Capt. Speicher on Saturday.

REPUBLICANS

Cornyn silent on Ensign’s future

The head of the Senate’s Republican campaign arm is not saying for now whether he will back embattled Nevada Sen. John Ensign for re-election in three years.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas oversees the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He says he is focusing on the 2010 election and wants to give Mr. Ensign - also a Republican - and his family space to work through their troubles.

Mr. Ensign acknowledged in June he had an affair with a former campaign aide. His attorney has also said Mr. Ensign’s parents paid the woman and her family $96,000 after learning about the affair.

Mr. Ensign has not said whether he’ll seek re-election in 2012. It’s also not certain whether Mr. Cornyn will be heading the Senate Republicans’ campaign operation then.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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