- The Washington Times - Monday, January 18, 2010

PRESIDENCY

Bush phoned Clinton while in White House

George W. Bush had a special phone friend during his White House years: Bill Clinton.

Asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” whether it was true that he often called Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush replied: “I don’t know about often, but I did. I called him. He didn’t call me because he knows how busy a president is. I called him and we chatted on occasion.”

Neither Republican Bush nor Democrat Clinton said just what they discussed.

“I was always pleased when he called me,” Mr. Clinton said as he sat beside Bush for the interview. “I make it a practice never to bother the president. I don’t call President Obama either. … They got plenty to do.”

Mr. Bush’s eight years in office followed Mr. Clinton’s two terms. While poles apart politically, the ex-presidents said they consider themselves to be friends.

“We have developed a very honest, good friendship,” Mr. Clinton said. “And we’ve made our disagreements respectful and we’ve had a good time doing it.”

The two met Mr. Obama at the White House on Saturday and taped segments for five Sunday news shows to appeal for private donations for Haiti relief.


IRS

Online tax filing to speed refunds

Want a quick tax refund? File your federal return online and have the refund deposited directly into your bank account.

The Internal Revenue Service launched its online filing system Friday with a promise that people who do their taxes electronically will get refunds in as few as 10 days.

For those who file paper returns, refunds are expected to take four weeks to six weeks, said David R. Williams, the agency’s director of electronic tax administration.

“We really encourage people to file electronically,” Mr. Williams said, adding that it’s fast, free and safe.

“We believe e-file is safe and secure and we work with the tax software industry to make sure it stays that way,” he said.

Some workers have started to receive tax forms from employers and financial institutions. Individual income taxes for 2009 are due April 15.

CONSERVATIVES

Donors’ private data faxed to lawmaker

Credit card numbers and other personal information about more than 100 contributors to a conservative Web site unexpectedly showed up by fax at a Democratic lawmaker’s office.

Rep. Bart Stupak, Michigan Democrat, said that over recent weeks his office has received 139 faxes from ExposeObama.com, a Web site run by the National Campaign Fund, a political action committee. The faxes included the names, addresses, e-mail addresses, credit card information and employment information of donors.

The information, which included contribution amounts, was attached to an e-mail urging lawmakers to oppose health care legislation backed by President Obama and congressional Democrats.

“This apparent breach of personal information could easily lead to these individuals falling victim to identity theft if placed in the wrong hands,” Mr. Stupak, chairman of a House subcommittee on investigations, said Friday.

Mr. Stupak said he contacted the individuals to warn them that their personal information may have been compromised, and wrote a letter to Floyd Brown, a conservative activist who is chairman of the National Campaign Fund and runs the Web site. Mr. Stupak said he told Mr. Brown that he was concerned “they may also be sending it to others, thus compromising the identities of the 139 individuals.”

Mr. Brown did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

TREASURY

Mortgage relief plan aids 7% of applicants

The Obama administration’s mortgage relief plan provided help to only 7 percent of borrowers who signed up last year, another black mark for the struggling program.

About 900,000 borrowers have enrolled in the $75 billion program since it began in March, the Treasury Department said Friday. As of last month, about 66,500 homeowners had received permanent relief. Another 46,000 have been approved, and their relief should be finalized soon.

The plan aims to make borrowers’ mortgages more affordable by reducing the mortgage interest rate to as low as 2 percent. The borrowers receive temporary modifications, which are supposed to become permanent after they make three payments on time and complete necessary paperwork, including proof of income and a letter explaining the reason for their financial hardship.

The Treasury Department is pressing the 102 mortgage companies that are participating in the program to improve their numbers.

The mortgage companies say they have struggled to get homeowners to return the necessary paperwork. Wells Fargo executives project that only about half of the borrowers who enrolled last summer will wind up being approved.

The rest either won’t send back all the required documents or will be deemed ineligible according to the government’s formula. Collecting the documents upfront would make the process much easier, said Mike Heid, co-president of Wells Fargo & Co.’s mortgage division.

HOUSE

Snyder drops out of Arkansas race

Rep. Vic Snyder, Arkansas Democrat, says he won’t seek re-election to an eighth term.

The 62-year-old says he wants to spend more time with his wife and four young children, including a set of year-old triplets.

Mr. Snyder has held the seat from Arkansas’ 2nd District since 1997. His record in the House includes standing against proposed federal bans on same-sex marriage and late-term abortions.

He also voted for health care reform, which was thought to have weakened him this year.

He has fended off competitors with relative ease and had no Democratic opposition in the upcoming primary.

Former interim U.S. attorney and Karl Rove aide Tim Griffin, Little Rock restaurateur Scott Wallace and David Meeks of Conway are seeking the Republican nomination.

FED

Inflation ‘hawk’ wants to keep rates low

Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Va., says the economic recovery needs to be firmly rooted before the central bank reverses course and begins to raise interest rates.

The comments are especially interesting because Mr. Lacker has a reputation for being an inflation “hawk.” Hawks worry more about low borrowing costs and other special support stoking inflation, while “doves” worry more about rising unemployment.

Mr. Lacker says he will be “looking for the time at which economic growth is strong enough and well-enough established” as a precursor to boosting the Fed’s key bank lending rate, now at a record low near zero.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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