- - Sunday, July 25, 2010

JUSTICE

Coburn assisting Ensign investigation

Sen. Tom Coburn is providing information to the Justice Department for its investigation into whether Nevada Sen. John Ensign broke the law in an attempt to keep an affair with a staff member secret, Mr. Coburn’s office said Saturday.

Mr. Coburn discussed his role as counselor to the Republican Mr. Ensign in 2008 when Mr. Ensign was having an affair with Cynthia Hampton, a former campaign staffer. At the time, the Oklahoma Republican had advised Mr. Ensign to end the affair and was seeking to mediate a dispute with Mrs. Hampton’s husband, Doug.

Federal authorities are trying to determine whether Mr. Ensign skirted federal rules to help Doug Hampton find lobbying work.

The Justice Department has requested copies of some of Mr. Coburn’s e-mail, and the senator’s office said he was cooperating in providing e-mail that pertained to the probe.

DEMOCRATS

Dean: Charges could oust Rangel

Democratic Rep. Charles B. Rangel deserves to expelled from Congress if the ethics charges against him are true, former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean said Sunday.

“He did some things that look like they ought to get him thrown out of Congress. And if it turns out that he did them, he’s going to get thrown out,” Mr. Dean said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Mr. Dean said, however, that the New York lawmaker “is owed a fair process” to fight it out. “If he wants to cut a deal [with prosecutors], that’s his business.”

The 80-year-old Democrat, one of the most senior members of Congress, has denied any wrongdoing and says he welcomes the opportunity to clear himself.

Democrats fear if Mr. Rangel doesn’t make a deal, his anticipated trial before a congressional panel in September will undermine their chances to retain control of the House of Representatives in the November election.

The House ethics committee announced unspecified charges against Mr. Rangel Thursday after a breakdown in negotiations with his lawyers. Talks have resumed, Democratic Party aides said. Charges are to be disclosed this week.

The ethics panel has been examining for nearly two years a number of allegations against Mr. Rangel, including that he failed to pay taxes on a villa and he improperly used his office to solicit contributions to a college center named in his honor.

ALASKA

Parnell restores calm after Palin’s exit

JUNEAU | Perhaps Sean Parnell’s greatest accomplishment so far as governor of Alaska is that he is not Sarah Palin.

In the year since inheriting the job when Mrs. Palin resigned, Mr. Parnell has quietly gone about restoring a sense of calm that many Alaskans craved after the storm-that-was-Sarah. Barring any major missteps, that alone may be enough to help him carry next month’s GOP primary and win the office he wasn’t expecting to hold.

Mr. Parnell is not considered particularly vulnerable, according to the nonpartisan, Washington-based Rothenberg Political Report, despite challenges from Republicans Ralph Samuels and Bill Walker and a Democratic contender this fall.

“I don’t think anyone outside of Alaska knows who Sean Parnell is, and that’s a good thing for him,” said the Report’s political editor, Nathan Gonzales.

HOUSE

GOP promises fight against tax increase

Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, is promising a fight against a tax increase he says is coming next year.

Tax cuts enacted during George W. Bush’s presidency are scheduled to expire in January and in his weekly Republican radio and Internet address, Mr. Pence promised GOP opposition to the expiration “with everything we’ve got.” He said if the cuts expire, it would mean the largest tax increase in U.S. history.

Partly out of voter concern over the rising federal budget deficit, Democrats are undecided over whether to extend the cuts, as Republicans advocate.

Mr. Pence said Obama administration economic policies have failed and accused Democrats of “pushing more spending, more regulation, and right around the corner, more taxes.”

Mr. Pence said Americans “know we can’t tax and spend and bail our way back to a growing economy.”

GOP

Gingrich to decide on bid after fall vote

Republican former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Mr. Gingrich said Sunday he will decide after November’s congressional elections whether he will make a run for the White House in 2012.

Mr. Gingrich has openly explored entering the wide-open contest for the 2012 Republican nomination to challenge President Obama, making recent visits to early battleground states Iowa and New Hampshire. Mr. Gingrich said he had been to 10 states in the past two weeks.

“I think that’s a decision we’ll make in February or March,” Mr. Gingrich said on “Fox News Sunday” of a presidential run. “This is a very hard family decision because it’s such a deep commitment and it is so absorbing.”

A White House campaign by Mr. Gingrich, who led the Republican takeover of Congress in the 1994 election, got a qualified endorsement from former Democratic Party chairman and presidential candidate Howard Dean.

Mr. Dean said Mr. Gingrich would provide intellectual depth to a Republican Party that he said lacked ideas.

“They desperately need some intellectual leadership and, whatever you think of Newt Gingrich, he can supply intellectual leadership,” Mr. Dean said on Fox. “So I hope he does run.”

Mr. Gingrich laughed and called Mr. Dean’s comment “the kiss of death” in a Republican primary.

FAA

Northwest Airlines didn’t follow orders

A government report says that for more than a decade Northwest Airlines repeatedly failed to follow federal safety orders but wasn’t held accountable by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The report by the Transportation Department Inspector General’s Office confirmed many of the allegations brought by a whistleblower in 2005 and again in 2008 of a cozy relationship between FAA managers and the airlines they are charged with inspecting.

FAA inspector Mark Lund charged that FAA managers at the safety office that oversaw Northwest routinely allowed the airline to avoid penalties or fines by voluntarily disclosing failures.

From wire dispatches and staff reports