Obama signs bill to aid lending, hiring
Scoring a prized political victory five weeks before the Nov. 2 elections, President Obama on Monday signed a bill to help small businesses expand and hire by cutting their taxes and creating a $30 billion loan fund.
Mr. Obama said the incentives will help small businesses right away. But any hiring may not be enough to help some Democrats ahead of crucial midterm elections in which voters are expected to vent their frustrations over a slow-growing economy and an unemployment rate near 10 percent.
The bill had been delayed for months, blocked in the Senate by Republicans. Most in the GOP objected to the loan fund, comparing it to the 2008 financial industry bailout and arguing that it would encourage banks to make loans to risky borrowers. Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican, and Sen. George LeMieux, Florida Republican, helped Democrats break the filibuster this month - and the bill passed.
Mr. Obama said small businesses are "the anchors of our Main Streets," creating most of the jobs in the country.
The bill creates a $30 billion government fund to help encourage lending to small businesses, many of which have been having difficulty securing bank loans and credit. The fund will be available to community banks, which could use the money to leverage billions of dollars more in loans.
The legislation also includes about $12 billion in tax breaks for small business - eight separate tax cuts that take effect Monday. One such provision increases to $500,000 the amount of investments that businesses would be allowed to write off this year and next.
Expansion proposed for tracking money
The Obama administration is proposing that banks report all electronic money transfers in and out of the country, expanding its anti-terrorism requirements for financial institutions.
Officials at the Treasury Department's financial crimes enforcement network said Monday that the new requirement would boost their ability to track the source of funding for terrorists.
Banks currently are required to report cash transactions only if they exceed $10,000. They are also required to keep records on all electronic transfers of money in and out of the country above $3,000 and provide that information to law enforcement officials if asked to do so.
The proposed expansion of reporting requirements would not take effect until 2012.
Critics contend that requiring banks to report all money transfers involving foreign depositors would represent a massive expansion in government access to personal data.
Under current requirements, financial institutions each year file about 14 million reports on transactions in excess of $10,000.
Stevens prosecutor commits suicide
A Justice Department prosecutor killed himself while under investigation over whether he and other attorneys in the prosecution of Sen. Ted Stevens acted improperly in the case, officials said.
Nicholas A. Marsh, 37, committed suicide on Sunday, two years after being part of the Justice Department team that convicted Mr. Stevens on corruption charges that were eventually thrown out. Mr. Marsh's suicide was confirmed by his attorney, Robert Luskin.
"I think Nick loved being a prosecutor and I think he was incredibly fearful that this would prevent him from continuing to work for the Justice Department," Mr. Luskin said Monday. "It's incredibly tragic after all this time when we were on the verge of a successful resolution."
The prosecutors in the Stevens case failed to disclose evidence favorable to the defendant as Supreme Court precedent requires. The omission was so serious that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. stepped in and asked a federal judge to throw out Stevens' convictions, which the judge did.
Stevens, a longtime Republican senator from Alaska, lost his Senate seat in an election shortly after his October 2008 conviction. He died in a plane crash in August.
GOP donors appeal ruling on Crist refunds
Republicans aren't giving up their quest for refunds of donations they gave Gov. Charlie Crist's U.S. Senate campaign before he abandoned the GOP to run as an independent.
The attorney for two GOP donors said Monday he will appeal a Naples judge's denial last week of class-action status in the case. The ruling means each contributor to the Mr. Crist campaign would have to seek a refund through individual court action.
Some Republicans contend Mr. Crist should return at least $7.5 million given to his Senate bid before he left the GOP and became an independent last spring. Mr. Crist's attorneys say donors have many reasons besides party affiliation to contribute money.
An appeals court in Tallahassee is being asked to prevent the Mr. Crist campaign from spending the money in question.
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