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Political Scene

- - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

IRS

New phone app to track refunds

For people who just can't enough of the Internal Revenue Service, the federal tax collection agency is coming out with a new phone application.

The app, called IRS2Go, allows taxpayers to track their tax refunds and get tax tips from the IRS. It's free, and available for people who use iPhones or Androids.

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said the agency is using the app to become more accessible to taxpayers. For other tech-savvy taxpayers, the agency produces videos for YouTube, and has a Twitter news feed.

WHITE HOUSE

Counsel tapped as solicitor general

Donald Verrilli Jr., a deputy counsel to President Obama, was chosen Monday to be the next U.S. solicitor general.

Mr. Obama announced his intention to nominate Mr. Verrilli. If confirmed by the Senate, he would succeed Justice Elena Kagan as the lawyer representing the executive branch of government before the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a private attorney, Mr. Verrilli has argued 12 cases before the justices and has participated in more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court.

Mr. Verrilli began serving in the Obama administration at the Justice Department, where he worked on national security policy and domestic issues before moving to the White House.

Mr. Verrilli was in private practice for more than two decades in the Washington office of the Jenner & Block law firm focusing on First Amendment, telecommunications and intellectual property law.

Arguing on behalf of the music industry in 2005, Mr. Verrilli won a Supreme Court ruling in MGM Studios v. Grokster that opened online file-sharing companies to potential liability.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama touts family support

President Obama is announcing new governmentwide initiatives to support military families, including programs aimed at preventing suicide and eliminating homelessness.

Mr. Obama says the government has an obligation to help military families as they support loved ones fighting for their country. Obama said he often meets with service members who say their top concern is making sure their families are taken care of.

The White House said government agencies will now coordinate on ways to enhance physical and psychological health, ensure excellence in military children's education, develop career opportunities for military spouses, and increase child care availability.

POLITICS

Report finds Bush White House politicking

The White House Office of Political Affairs during the George W. Bush administration violated the law by giving political briefings to political employees, concludes a government report issued Monday.

The report said the electoral success of the Republican Party and possible strategies for achieving it often were on the agenda at some of 75 political briefings at 20 federal agencies from 2001 to 2007.

The Office of Special Counsel concluded that such briefings should take place away from the federal workplace during nonbusiness hours and that attendance should be completely optional.

Those who gave the briefings said they were intended to boost morale among political appointees and provide an overview of the "political landscape."

However, witness testimony, e-mail messages and PowerPoint slides used at some of the briefings indicate that the meetings were more overtly political.

ARCHIVES

Official: Historian changed document

The National Archives said a longtime Abraham Lincoln researcher has confessed to tampering with a presidential pardon so he could claim credit for finding a document of historical significance.

According to the Archives, Thomas P. Lowry, 78, of Woodbridge, Va., used a fountain pen to change the date on a pardon by Lincoln from April 14, 1864, to the year 1865. Officials said the change made it appear that Mr. Lowry had discovered a document languishing in the Archives that was likely Lincoln's final official act before he was assassinated.

Tampering is a federal crime, but the Archives said Mr. Lowry cannot be prosecuted because he altered the pardon in 1998 and the statute of limitations has expired.

Calls to Mr. Lowry's home were not immediately returned Monday.

DELAWARE

Biden called for jury duty

WILMINGTON | Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. won't have to serve on a Delaware jury.

He reported to court this morning in Wilmington for jury duty along with about 100 other people after receiving a jury summons.

Mr. Biden, along with other prospective jurors, was dismissed shortly after noon.

Mr. Biden told the News Journal that he is no different than anyone else, and that it's "an honor to be a part of the system."

He and several Secret Service agents waited with other prospective jurors. During a break, staffers poured in from a side door to consult with him.

Mr. Biden said he had to make several calls on a secure phone during the break, including one to President Obama.

SEC

Ex-Innospec CEO settles charges

Federal regulators will settle civil charges against a former chief executive at Innospec Inc., who they say approved bribes to Iraqi and Indonesian officials to get more business supplying a chemical used to refine oil.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Monday that Paul Jennings agreed to pay $229,037 to settle charges that he played a key role in the bribery scheme starting in 2005. Mr. Jennings neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but agreed to refrain from future violations of securities laws.

The British specialty chemicals maker pleaded guilty in March to criminal charges of bribery, defrauding the United Nations and violating the U.S. embargo against Cuba. It agreed to pay $40.2 million in a settlement with several U.S. and British agencies.