- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2010

INAUGURATION

Christie sworn in as N.J. governor

TRENTON, N.J. | Republican Chris Christie has been sworn in as New Jersey’s 55th governor.

The former federal prosecutor recited the oath with his wife and children at his side in Trenton’s War Memorial Tuesday.

A National Guard artillery battery fired a 19-gun salute.

Kim Guadagno was then sworn in as the state’s first lieutenant governor. The position is a new one in New Jersey.

Mr. Christie is expected to stress change in his inaugural address.

Mr. Christie largely used taxes and the economy to defeat Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in November.

FEDERAL RESERVE

Bernanke asks GAO to review bailout

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke took the unusual step Tuesday of asking Congress’ investigative arm to conduct a “full review” of the Fed’s role in bailing out insurance giant American International Group.

The Fed chief’s move is aimed at defusing criticism of the government’s $182 billion rescue. The bailout sparked public outrage and demands in Congress for more information, especially after it was revealed that millions in bonuses would go to employees in the AIG division that was most responsible for the company’s need for a bailout.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has a probe under way that seeks to provide a fuller picture of the AIG bailout. Those lawmakers are especially interested in details involving AIG’s payments to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms that did business with AIG. Some lawmakers wonder why the firms were fully paid and why concessions weren’t demanded.

Congress passed a law last year giving the Government Accountability Office authority to review Fed documents in the AIG bailout.

FBI

Former staff contacted in Ensign sex case

The FBI is investigating the sex-and-money case involving Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, who has acknowledged arranging for a payment of nearly $100,000 over an extramarital affair with a former campaign staffer and helping the woman’s husband find employment as a lobbyist.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Ensign, Rebecca Fisher, would not say Tuesday whether the senator talked with the FBI.

Mr. Ensign acknowledged the affair with Cynthia Hampton in June. He also helped her husband, Doug Hampton, gain employment with a lobbying firm and his parents provided the Hamptons with a payment of nearly $100,000 that they described as a gift.

Watchdog groups have asked the Justice Department to investigate the payment as well as Mr. Hampton’s interactions with his former boss and staff once he began lobbying for clients.

A person familiar with the FBI’s review said agents recently contacted Mr. Ensign’s former co-chief of staff, John Lopez. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the FBI’s involvement and said the FBI did not issue a subpoena but only contacted Mr. Lopez. The person would not provide any other details about the FBI’s discussions with Mr. Lopez.

WHITE HOUSE

No events to mark 1st year in office

Don’t expect any partying at the White House on Wednesday.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs says nothing special is being planned to mark President Obama’s first year as president. Mr. Obama took the oath of office on the steps of the Capitol around noon on Jan. 20, 2009.

Mr. Gibbs acknowledged that Wednesday is an “anniversary of types” but says the staff isn’t focused on marking the first year.

HOUSE

Boehner taps former Contract director

House GOP leader John A. Boehner’s new chief of staff will be the same person who directed the Contract with America that became the political banner under which Republicans swept to power in 1994.

Mr. Boehner’s announcement Tuesday that Barry Jackson would run his office came a week after he assigned a GOP colleague to craft a new political platform for this November to define the party’s drive to retake the majority it lost to the Democrats in the 2006 election.

“By bringing the director of the Contract with America back to the Hill during this important time for the nation, we’re sending a message that Republicans are serious about listening to the people, building a principled and lasting majority and renewing the drive for smaller, more accountable government,” the Ohio lawmaker said.

Mr. Jackson succeeds Paula Nowakowski, Mr. Boehner’s chief of staff who died earlier this month. Mr. Jackson served as Mr. Boehner’s chief of staff and as executive director of the House Republican Conference in the 1990s.

Led by Newt Gingrich, House Republicans in 1994 ran behind the 10-point Contract with America that included such issues as tax cuts, welfare reform, term limits, limiting lawsuits and greater defense spending.

ENERGY

Gasoline price falls from 15-month high

After soaring to the highest level in 15 months, U.S. gasoline prices fell over the past week on cheaper crude oil costs, the Energy Department said on Tuesday.

The national average price for regular unleaded gasoline declined 1.2 cents during the week to $2.74 a gallon, which was still up 89 cents from a year earlier, the department’s Energy Information Administration said in its weekly survey of service stations.

Cheaper gasoline mirrored the drop in crude oil prices, which fell below $80 a barrel last week. The price of oil makes up more than half the cost for gasoline.

However, the EIA has said it still expects the pump price to top $3 a gallon nationwide at times this spring and summer, the heaviest driving seasons.

In its weekly price survey, the EIA found the West Coast had the most expensive gasoline at $2.95 a gallon, down 1.3 cents. By city, Los Angeles had the highest price at $3.07, down 3.2 cents.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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