- - Thursday, December 30, 2010

SENATE

Ethics panel drops complaint against Dodd

The Senate Select Committee on Ethics has dismissed a complaint alleging that outgoing Sen. Christopher J. Dodd obtained a cottage in Ireland at a low price as an improper gift from a businessman.

The Connecticut Democrat says the allegations by a conservative group were baseless and politically motivated.

Judicial Watch questioned last year whether the price Mr. Dodd paid for the seaside home in County Galway was so low that it amounted to a gift from real estate businessman Edward “Bucky” Kessinger.

The committee said the evidence does not support the allegations. Mr. Dodd said in his statement that he appreciates the committee’s conclusion.

Mr. Dodd is retiring in January after three decades in the Senate.

COLORADO

Ex-Rep. Salazar weighs state agriculture post

Outgoing Rep. John Salazar could remain in public service after leaving Washington.

Mr. Salazar told the Pueblo Chieftain that Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper has offered him a job as agriculture commissioner and that he and his wife are giving it strong consideration.

Mr. Salazar lost to Republican Scott Tipton in November’s election after serving three terms in Congress representing western and southern Colorado.

A potato farmer and rancher in the San Luis Valley, Mr. Salazar was a candidate for U.S. agriculture secretary after Barack Obama was elected president. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack got the job.

REDISTRICTING

Lawmakers seek to avoid redistricting fiasco

DENVER | Colorado’s legislative leaders are hoping to avoid another redistricting fiasco like the one 10 years ago that ended up in court.

On Thursday, they appointed a 10-member legislative committee of five Democrats and five Republicans to tour the state and get opinions from voters on the most important issues facing their congressional districts for the next 10 years.

House Speaker-designee Frank McNulty says legislative leaders want to take a new approach, drawing fair boundary lines and avoiding the partisan battle in the last go-around. The fight lasted for seven years.

Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper, who has veto power, says voters want lawmakers to quit political wrangling and says he wants competitive districts.

MISSOURI

Former governor cancels campaign loan

Former Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt has wiped out a $300,000 loan he made to the 2008 campaign of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. The decision frees Mr. Kinder to focus on fundraising for his own likely gubernatorial campaign.

Lawyer Jared Craighead confirmed the loan cancellation Thursday to the Associated Press. Mr. Craighead handles campaign-finance issues for Mr. Kinder and is a close political ally of Mr. Blunt, having served in his gubernatorial administration.

Mr. Blunt waited until almost the last moment possible to forgive his loan to Mr. Kinder.

Mr. Kinder created a debt service committee for his 2008 campaign on June 30, 2009. Missouri law requires those committees to be shut down within 18 months.

Although he is not officially a candidate, Mr. Kinder has been preparing to challenge Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon in 2012.

MISSISSIPPI

Bryant to make governor bid official

JACKSON, Miss. | Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant will announce his campaign for governor next Monday and Tuesday during stops in seven Mississippi cities.

The 56-year-old Mr. Bryant is about to embark on his fourth year as lieutenant governor. It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in Mississippi politics that he’s running for governor in 2011 when Republican Gov. Haley Barbour completes his second-term. Mr. Barbour is barred by term limits from running again.

Mr. Bryant’s schedule calls for announcements Monday in Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Pearl, Meridian, Tupelo and Southaven. He will be in Indianola on Tuesday.

Mr. Bryant has served one term as lieutenant governor.

Mr. Bryant has spent most of his adult life in politics. He was a Hinds County deputy sheriff before representing Rankin County in the state House for five years. In 1996, then-Gov. Kirk Fordice, a Republican, appointed Mr. Bryant as state auditor when Democrat Steve Patterson left the job. Mr. Bryant was elected auditor in 1999 and 2003, and lieutenant governor in 2007.

March 1 is candidates’ qualifying deadline for statewide offices.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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