- - Thursday, January 27, 2011

ALASKA

Palin’s PAC has $1.3M

ANCHORAGE | Sarah Palin’s political action committee ended 2010 with at least $1.3 million in cash on hand, according to financial forms filed Wednesday with the federal government.

The disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission show Sarah PAC raised more than $275,000 in the last six weeks of 2010. Those donations, mostly smaller amounts, came from 607 donors scattered across the country.

The PAC raised at least $3.5 million in 2010, and handed out $463,500 to candidates and political causes.

Tim Crawford, the PAC’s treasurer, told the Associated Press in e-mail he was “very happy with cash on hand and very happy with our results this cycle.”

The PAC report noted two checks were never cashed, one for $2,500 to the campaign of Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, and another for $5,000 to Rep. Mike Coffman, Colorado Republican.

Mr. Crawford surmised the checks might have been lost in the mail, and he stopped payment on them.

The PAC’s more than $200,000 operating disbursements in the past six weeks of the year were for such things as media and issue consulting, speechwriting, travel expenses and legal fees.

Mrs. Palin, a former Alaska governor and the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, has said she is considering running for president in 2012.

PENTAGON

Gates defends future cuts

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned that Congress was causing a “crisis on my doorstep” by failing to approve a key spending bill, inaction that could create a funding shortfall hurting the military.

U.S. lawmakers have not passed the fiscal 2011 Pentagon appropriations bill and the Pentagon, like the rest of the federal government, is operating under a stopgap measure that keeps funding at 2010 levels.

Mr. Gates, in comments made public by the Pentagon on Thursday, appeared to take aim at lawmakers who have voiced opposition to the Obama administration’s plans to trim defense spending from 2012 through 2016.

“It’s one thing to talk about [fiscal 2012] and then to express concerns about something that may or may not happen in four or five years, but I have a crisis on my doorstep,” Mr. Gates said.

“Frankly, that’s how you hollow out a military even in wartime. It means … fewer flying hours, fewer steaming days, cuts in training for home-stationed ground forces, cuts in maintenance and so on.”

Mr. Gates said congressional inaction would effectively force the Pentagon to operate with $23 billion less than Mr. Obama requested.

BAILOUT

GM withdraws federal loan bid

General Motors, in another sign of its progress since a government-led bankruptcy, said Thursday it is withdrawing its application for $14.4 billion in federal loans it had sought to help build more fuel-efficient cars.

GM, which has posted three straight profitable financial quarters since its 2009 bankruptcy, said it no longer needed the loans because the company’s cash position has improved. GM applied for the loans in 2009 to modernize plants to build fuel-efficient vehicles.

“This decision is based on our confidence in GM’s overall progress and strong, global business performance,” said Chris Liddell, GM vice chairman and chief financial officer. Mr. Liddell said withdrawing the application was “consistent with our goal to carry minimal debt on our balance sheet.”

The $25 billion low-interest loan program is administered by the Energy Department. It was created by a 2007 law to help car companies retool older factories to build more environmentally friendly cars.

Separately, GM said it would explore ways to increase production of the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car. GM’s vice president of global design, Ed Welburn, said at the Washington Auto Show that GM would also accelerate its distribution of the Volt, making it available to dealers in 50 states by the end of the year.

LABOR RELATIONS

States rebuff federal threat

Four states are vowing to fight the federal government in a bid to preserve state measures that guarantee workers the right to secret ballots in union elections.

Attorneys general from Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah signed a letter Thursday pledging to defend changes to their state constitutions approved by voters on Nov. 2.

“These state laws protect long-existing federal rights and we will vigorously defend any legal attack upon them,” the attorneys general said in a letter to the National Labor Relations Board.

Earlier this month, the labor board threatened to sue the states, saying the constitutional amendments conflict with federal law.

NLRB spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland said the board is reviewing the letter.

Business groups sought the state measures because they fear Congress could pass a new “card check” law requiring every employer to recognize a union if a majority of workers simply sign cards instead of holding secret-ballot elections. Democrats failed to muster enough votes in the Senate last year to pass such a measure.

Unions have pushed the card-check process in hopes of making it easier to form unions when businesses actively resist organizing efforts.

HOUSE

Chairman says VA review needed

The Republican chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee says a review is needed to ensure that money for veterans’ programs is spent wisely.

But his newly appointed Senate counterpart, Democrat Patty Murray, says she will be watching Republicans “like a hawk” to ensure veterans get their financial due.

Rep. Jeff Miller from Florida leads the House vets committee. His party has promised governmentwide spending cuts.

Mrs. Murray was named chairwoman of the Senate committee on Thursday. She says she’s heard promises before that veterans’ services wouldn’t be cut, only to find out they have.

The House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees have jurisdiction over the Veterans Affairs Department, the nation’s second-largest agency. It provides benefits checks and medical services to the nation’s 22 million veterans.