- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 5, 2010

HOUSE

Staff quits after boss switches party

Freshman Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama has lost most of his staff after switching parties from Democrat to Republican last month.

Chief of Staff Sharon Wheeler said in a resignation statement Monday that the economy of north Alabama’s 5th District has benefited from decades of Democratic representation in Washington. The region relies heavily on defense and aerospace jobs.

She said Mr. Griffith “abandoned the legacy” of conservative Democratic leadership in the district, which includes Huntsville.

Several legislative aides and spokesman Sean Magers also quit.

Mr. Griffith is a former state senator. He narrowly won the seat last year but said on Dec. 22 that he could no longer support Congressional Democrats on health care and other policies.

SUPREME COURT

Case settled over prosecutors’ conduct

A multimillion-dollar settlement has ended a wrongful prosecution case from Iowa that was being considered by the Supreme Court.

The court on Monday agreed to dismiss the case from Pottawattamie County, Iowa, despite having heard arguments in November.

The Iowa county and two former prosecutors were being sued by two men because they had been sentenced to life in prison for a murder they didn’t commit.

The prosecutors argued they were immune from lawsuits because they were acting within the scope of their jobs. The Supreme Court was to decide whether that immunity would be enough to stop Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee’s lawsuits.

Under the settlement, the men will receive $12 million.

IRS

Tax preparers face regulations

The Internal Revenue Service plans to start regulating paid tax preparers, requiring them to register with the government, pass competency tests and adhere to ethical standards.

The new regulations, announced Monday, will not be in effect for the current filing season - individual tax returns are due April 15. But IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said tax preparers will be held to higher standards in future years as the IRS steps up its oversight.

More than 80 percent of taxpayers use a paid tax preparer or tax software to complete their yearly returns. However, paid tax preparers are unregulated in many states, unless they are also attorneys, certified public accountants or enrolled agents who represent taxpayers before the IRS.

RHODE ISLAND

Chafee joins race as independent

PROVIDENCE | Former Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who succeeded his father in the Senate but repeatedly broke ranks with party leadership until a Democrat defeated him, announced Monday that he will run as an independent candidate for governor of Rhode Island.

Mr. Chafee, 56, pledged fiscal responsibility in a heavily battered state economy as he entered an already competitive race untethered to either major political party and dogged by questions about whether he could raise enough money to remain a viable candidate.

But he touted himself before a roomful of supporters Monday as a strong fiscal conservative who had more leadership experience than other candidates and had the best ideas to revive a state facing massive budget deficits and nearly 13 percent unemployment.

“Running as an independent will free me from the constraints that party politics impose on candidates,” Mr. Chafee told supporters at a hotel in Warwick, where he served as mayor before joining the Senate. “This freedom will allow me to bring in the best people from major parties to solve our problems.”

TERRORISM

Federal court rejects Moussaoui’s appeal

RICHMOND | A federal appeals court on Monday upheld the conviction of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person to stand trial in a U.S. court in the Sept. 11 attacks.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected Moussaoui’s claim that he was denied potentially helpful evidence during his trial and was restricted in choosing his own counsel.

He is serving life in prison after pleading guilty to helping plan the attacks.

Moussaoui’s appeal said his right to choose his counsel was violated because the judge required that any attorney involved in his defense undergo a national security background check.

The appeal contended that it is unconstitutional to require government approval of a defendant’s hired or pro bono counsel.

The appeal also argued that Moussaoui’s rights were violated because his attorneys could not talk to him about potentially helpful evidence gleaned from classified material.

SENATE

Kerry undergoing 2nd hip replacement

BOSTON | Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts is undergoing a second hip replacement.

The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee will have his left hip replaced Monday at Massachusetts General Hospital. His right hip was replaced in August.

Kerry spokesman David Wade tells the Associated Press that Dr. Dennis Burke achieved such good results the first time that Mr. Kerry decided to have his other hip replaced. In both cases, the joints had become arthritic and inflexible from age and athletic activity.

Mr. Wade says the 66-year-old Mr. Kerry decided to have the operation now to ensure “he’d be back on his feet for the legislative period later this month.”

That could include a vote on a national health care plan that will require all 60 Democratic Senate votes.

Mr. Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz, is scheduled to resume breast cancer treatment this month.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Brown won’t seek a sixth term

CHARLESTON, S.C. | Republican Rep. Henry E. Brown Jr., a farm boy who rose to became one of South Carolina’s most powerful politicians, announced Monday he will not seek a sixth term in Congress so he can spend more time with his family.

“While this has been a difficult decision to make, I’m convinced that this is the right time for me to step down,” Mr. Brown said.

The 74-year-old said he wants to spend more time with his wife of 54 years, Billye, and his three children and five grandchildren.

Mr. Brown, first elected in 2000 in a reliably Republican district along the South Carolina coast, said he considered retiring two years ago but ran in 2008 because he felt he could make a contribution no matter who was elected president.

HOUSE

Abercrombie to run for governor

HONOLULU | Rep. Neil Abercrombie will resign at the end of February to run for Hawaii governor.

Mr. Abercrombie says he will step down from the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 28.

He says he’s resigning so that he can devote more time to his campaign and allow state elections officials to plan for a special election to replace him.

Mr. Abercrombie will run for governor against likely candidates including Democratic Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Republican Lt. Gov. James Duke Aiona.

INAUGURATION

Terrorist threat at inauguration

As millions converged on Washington last year to witness the inauguration of President Obama, security officials were concerned that among them were extremists traveling from Somalia to set off explosives as Mr. Obama took the oath of office, the New York Times reported on its Web site Monday.

The report, to coincide with the first anniversary of Mr. Obama’s inauguration, says that for 72 hours before the new president was sworn in, intelligence agencies worked around the clock trying to figure out whether the threat was real and what, if anything, should be done if a terrorist struck while millions watched on the Mall and tens of millions more saw the ceremony on television.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, the only Cabinet member who had been sworn in by Jan. 20, was spirited off to a secret location during the inauguration in case the worst happened.

In the end, the report turned out to be false: No terrorists traveled here to attack the inauguration. The story was little more than a rumor, fueled by a false report from a rival organization.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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