- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 7, 2010

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Top RNC official tells Steele he quits

A top Republican resigned Tuesday from his party’s governing body, deepening a controversy around Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele as the party tries to focus on November congressional elections.

Sean Mahoney, a member of the RNC from New Hampshire, quit in a letter to Mr. Steele, the latest fallout after revelations that a party organizer billed the RNC for $2,000 spent at a sex-themed club in Los Angeles.

Mr. Mahoney denounced the “out-of-touch, free-spending culture of Washington” that he said dominates Congress and said “the same mentality has seeped into our national party.”

“Let me be clear so that there is no misunderstanding,” Mr. Mahoney wrote. “I don’t care if the $2,000 was spent in February at a strip club or a pizza parlor. This is a matter of principle. That $2,000 should have been used to promote our conservative ideals.”

Mr. Mahoney’s resignation followed a shake-up at the RNC on Monday in which Chief of Staff Ken McKay became the highest official to leave since the nightclub scandal erupted.

CALIFORNIA

Feinstein endorses Newsom in primary

SAN FRANCISCO | Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, is endorsing Gavin Newsom’s bid for lieutenant governor.

In a statement released Tuesday by Mr. Newsom’s campaign, Mrs. Feinstein said the San Francisco mayor is committed to ensuring prosperity for every Californian and has a drive for innovative reform.

She said California needs Mr. Newsom’s kind of “solutions-based leadership.”

Mrs. Feinstein’s endorsement wasn’t a big surprise because the San Francisco Democrats have been friends for years. But it could be a boost for Mr. Newsom, who has had a hard time gaining popularity outside the San Francisco Bay area.

Mrs. Feinstein is consistently ranked as California’s most popular politician.

In the June 8 primary, Mr. Newsom is competing against Los Angeles City Council member Janice Hahn for the Democratic nomination.

SENATE

FBI makes arrest in threatening calls

SEATTLE | A Washington state man has been charged with threatening to kill Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, over her support for health care reform.

Court documents say federal agents arrested Charles Alan Wilson in Yakima on Tuesday.

An FBI agent’s probable cause statement says Mrs. Murray’s office in Seattle reported the threats, which were left on voice mail from a blocked telephone number. Agents said they traced the calls to Mr. Wilson’s home in Selah, near Yakima.

Mrs. Murray’s office told the FBI that it had been receiving harassing messages from the caller for months but that the calls became more threatening as Congress was voting on health care legislation.

Excerpts of the expletive-laced messages transcribed in court documents show the caller saying that he wanted to kill the senator, and it would just take one piece of lead.

HHS

Scam alert issued on health care law

Scam artists are taking advantage of the new health insurance law to peddle phony policies.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that she is warning state officials about a proliferation of scams involving phony health insurance policies. Federal investigators are also on the lookout.

Some of the hustlers are going door to door claiming that a limited open-enrollment period to buy health insurance is now. But the big expansion of coverage won’t take effect for another four years, and door-to-door salespeople are unlikely to be part of the plan.

“Unfortunately, scam artists and criminals may be using the passage of these historic reforms as an opportunity to confuse and defraud the public,” Mrs. Sebelius wrote in a letter to state insurance commissioners and attorneys general.

In the letter, released Tuesday, she urged vigorous prosecution of anyone caught selling fraudulent policies.

EDUCATION

$350 million offered to revamp testing

The Department of Education is looking to hand out up to $350 million to states willing to revamp how they test students.

The money is designed to encourage states to develop standardized tests that accurately measure how much a child has learned each year and ensure that the student is ready for college or a career after high school.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday that the tests must be designed to accurately depict what students know and can do. The criteria for the grants were created in response to 10 public meetings held across the country since last year.

The money is part of the $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” grant competition, which encourages states to embrace innovative programs to improve student achievement and turn around low-performing schools.

IRS

Tax cases loom for Swiss bank clients

U.S. prosecutors are aiming to bring a flurry of new cases against individuals, charging that they evaded U.S. taxes using accounts at the giant Swiss bank UBS AG, according to sources familiar with the proceedings.

The sources, who were not authorized to comment on the record, said the cases will be prosecuted in New York City and are intended to create a splash of media attention before the April 15 tax filing deadline.

The government has secured a handful of guilty pleas from UBS clients, after UBS admitted that it helped taxpayers avoid U.S. taxes. UBS paid the government $780 million and gave information about 250 accounts to U.S. authorities.

The Internal Revenue Service and its attorneys want to make a “big splash” to remind people of their duty to report offshore income, one source said.

DEFENSE

Troops queried on gays in military

Troops are asking what changes are in store for them if Congress lifts a ban on openly gay service members.

A working group tasked by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to examine the impact on lifting the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy convened its first survey meeting Tuesday with rank-and-file troops.

Service members were picked at random to attend the meeting, which was held in the Pentagon’s auditorium. Participants said questions were raised on bunking arrangements and military benefits.

NEW JERSEY

Sen. Menendez appeals ruling on recall

TRENTON, N.J. | Sen. Robert Menendez has asked New Jersey’s highest court to hear the case of a “tea party” group’s efforts to recall him.

Attorneys for Mr. Menendez filed appeal papers Monday.

State Supreme Court spokeswoman Winnie Comfort said there is no time frame for the justices to decide whether to hear the case.

A state court ruled last month that the activists have the right to try to throw the Democrat out of office. The court stopped the group from proceeding because of the likelihood of an appeal.

The case pits the New Jersey Constitution, which allows recalls, against the U.S. Constitution, which does not.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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