- The Washington Times - Friday, April 2, 2010

ETHICS

Watchdog seeks probe of lawmakers’ house

A government-watchdog group says it has filed ethics complaints against lawmakers who have rented rooms in a controversial Capitol Hill town house.

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) cites news reports that say House members and some senators have paid below-market rents to live in a house on C Street Southeast that is owned by a Christian prayer group known as the Fellowship. CREW wants the House and Senate ethics committees to determine whether the monthly rent, reported to be around $950, is below the market value. If so, CREW says, the discount could amount to an illegal gift.

A spokesman for one resident of the house named in CREW’s complaint, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, said the rent covers a furnished room and shared bathroom. It does not include meals, housekeeping in his room or parking and is therefore in line with market prices.

Democratic Reps. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania and Bart Stupak of Michigan said they no longer live in the house, but that while there, the rent was fairly assessed.

Other lawmakers named in the complaint did not respond to calls for comment. They are Republican Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and John Ensign of Nevada, neither of whom currently live in the house. Also named in the complaint were Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, and Reps. Heath Shuler, North Carolina Democrat, and Zach Wamp, Tennessee Republican.

RADIO

Administration backs radio fees

The Obama administration is supporting legislation to make radio stations pay royalties to performers when they play their music.

The Commerce Department’s general counsel says the bill would “provide a level playing field for all broadcasters.”

That counsel, Cameron Kerry, made the comments in a letter sent Thursday to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Satellite radio, Internet radio and cable-TV music channels already pay fees to performers and songwriters. However, AM and FM radio stations pay royalties only to the songwriters - not the performers.

The National Association of Broadcasters opposes the proposal, saying it threatens thousands of radio jobs.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Democrats skip race against Thune

PIERRE | South Dakota Democrats have failed to find a candidate to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune.

Democratic Party officials had acknowledged earlier they might not find anyone to run against Mr. Thune, a popular politician who is seeking a second term in the Senate. The lack of a Democratic candidate became official Thursday when election officials posted the final list of candidates who submitted nominating petitions to run for statewide offices and the Legislature in the June primary.

State Senate Minority Leader Scott Heidepriem of Sioux Falls, the Democratic candidate for governor, said the party decided not to field a candidate in a futile race against Mr. Thune.

“We just concluded that John Thune is an extremely popular senator who is going to win another term in the Senate,” Mr. Heidepriem said.

HUD

Deadline looms for foreclosure money

LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. | Cities, counties and states are having trouble spending some of the $4 billion given to them by Congress to help buy up abandoned homes and properties.

A Housing and Urban Development report finds that a third of more than 300 local governments that got money during the foreclosure crisis have barely made a dent in it a year later.

With the money came rules that some local officials say were confusing and often changed, making it hard to spend the cash. And the houses they did look to buy were often grabbed out from under them by better bids.

Now time is closing in, with a use-it-or-lose-it deadline looming just a few months away. The money will be gone if governments don’t commit it to projects by September.

CENSUS

90% of Hispanics to fill out census

What boycott? Close to nine in 10 Hispanics say they intend to participate in the 2010 census, with immigrants more likely to say the government count is good for their community and that personal information will be kept confidential, according to a new poll.

The Pew Hispanic Center survey, released Thursday, appears largely to put aside concerns that Hispanic discontent with the government’s slow progress on immigration reform will curtail participation in the high-stakes count now under way. The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders had suggested a Hispanic boycott of the census to protest the lack of action on immigration.

Hispanics, who make up roughly 15 percent of the nation’s population, still tend to lag other racial groups when it comes to mailing in census forms. But the latest survey suggests the numbers may be improving and that, contrary to conventional notions, the hardest to reach may not be fearful immigrants, but rather disenchanted Hispanics born in the U.S.

The findings come as 52 percent of U.S. households had sent in their 10-question census forms leading into the April 1 “Census Day” on Thursday. To mark the occasion, the White House said President Obama had filled out and turned in a census form for his multigenerational family, which includes daughters Malia and Sasha and mother-in-law Marian Robinson. The White House didn’t immediately respond to questions about how Mr. Obama, the child of a white mother and a black father, had identified his race.

JUSTICE

Officials support AP digital news registry

Justice Department officials say they support a proposal by the Associated Press to create a voluntary registry to help news organizations detect unlicensed use of their content on the Internet.

Christine Varney, the head of the department’s Antitrust Division, notified the AP of its position in a letter.

The proposed registry would be a database of news content from many different outlets, specifying how that content can be used.

The registry is designed to help news organizations monitor where stories go on the Internet - and deter Web sites from posting AP content without paying licensing fees.

Miss Varney says such a registry may offer a new way for news content users to understand the terms of use and licenses for Internet news.

MISSOURI

Lawmakers retaliate against activists

Missouri lawmakers responded with a flood of e-mails of their own after an animal rights activist and her group clogged their inboxes with unwanted messages.

Activist Brenda Shoss and the advocacy group Kinship Circle e-mailed Missouri House members last week, urging them to vote against a bill allowing a horse slaughterhouse to open in Missouri.

Republicans and Democrats say the volume of e-mails - hundreds from all over the world - made it hard to find those from people in their districts.

Some lawmakers responded by forwarding Miss Shoss any e-mail with the word “horse” in it.

She says she also received taunting calls, some making neighing sounds, and one caller sang a version of the theme song from “Mr. Ed,” the 1960s television show about a talking horse.

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