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Inside Politics

GOP

Top fundraisers betting on Perry presidential bid

Texas Gov. Rick Perry hosted a group of top national Republican fundraisers Tuesday in Austin, leaving at least one of the 20 or so big-money bundlers in attendance convinced that he's going to jump into the presidential race.

"If I had to bet my own money on it, I sure would bet that this man is coming into it and coming into it big time and serious," a top Republican fundraisers who attended the dinner told The Washington Times. "They gave you every indication, wink and nod that they are going to go."

Mark Miner, the governor's spokesman, told The Times that the meeting was one of many that are happening as the governor contemplates a potential run.

"It's part of the decision-making process," he said.

Mr. Perry has flirted with a White House run for months, and political insiders predict he's probing to see whether he can raise the money needed to compete in the primary season and in a general election against President Obama, who recently raised $86 million for his 2012 campaign.

ELECTION

Joe the Plumber has Cain's back in 2012

It's official: Joe the Plumber supports Herman the Pizza Guy.

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, who as "Joe the Plumber" became a household name after Barack Obama and John McCain used his name 11 times in their final debate in 2008, is standing behind GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain even as the former Godfather's Pizza CEO faces controversy about a string of recent comments.

On his Twitter account Tuesday, Mr. Wurzelbacher praised Mr. Cain for telling The Washington Times this week that he would attack Iran if it "mess[es] with Israel."

Tweeted Mr. Wurzelbacher: "Our 'Leadership' has been pussyfootin around Iran for far too long. We need a Strong leader."

On Sunday, he seconded Mr. Cain's statement on "Fox News Sunday" that communities should be allowed to ban mosques: "I stand 100% behind Mr. Herman Cain on this issue. Thomas Jefferson knew this 'Religion' was dangerous."

Cain campaign spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael told The Washington Times that Mr. Cain and Mr. Wurzelbacher had been friends since the days of Herminator PAC, which Mr. Cain used to raise money for candidates in the 2010 midterm elections. Mr. Wurzelbacher has since appeared at a number of Cain events and in a campaign video.

Politico reported last week that Mr. Cain's second-quarter campaign expense report listed a $10,000 payment to Mr. Wurzelbacher for "events." Ms. Carmichael said the money was for "speaking fees" and that Mr. Wurzelbacher was not a paid consultant.

HOUSE

Lawmakers unveil effort to honor aide to Giffords

Lawmakers say they hope to honor the first congressional aide murdered while performing official duties by naming a meeting room at the Capitol Visitor Center in his honor.

Gabriel Zimmerman served as the community outreach director for Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and was one of six people killed in January during a shooting rampage outside a supermarket in Tucson that wounded the three-term Democratic congresswoman.

Arizona lawmakers joined Mr. Zimmerman's family during a news conference Wednesday announcing the effort, which will require Congress to pass a resolution.

Mr. Zimmerman's mother, Emily Nottingham, said she hoped her son's work and ideals would be remembered more so than his death when visitors come to the Capitol.

Lawmakers said Mr. Zimmerman epitomized the thousands of congressional aides who work to help constituents and for the public good.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama postpones sending trade pacts to Hill

President Obama is putting off sending final legislation on three key free-trade agreements to Capitol Hill until September because of the protracted talks over raising the nation's debt limit, two people familiar with the discussions said Wednesday.

Mr. Obama's aides were ready to send the trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to lawmakers this week, the two said. But congressional leaders from both parties asked the administration to delay the agreements until after Congress returns from its August recess. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the delay has not been formally announced.

The president has been a vocal supporter of the trade deals, touting them as job creators that could give the economy a much-needed jolt. The business community and most lawmakers, particularly Republicans, have also rallied around the agreements.

NORTH CAROLINA

Edwards in $2M dispute over matching funds

RALEIGH | The Federal Election Commission is considering whether former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards's 2008 presidential campaign should repay the Treasury about $2.3 million.

The FEC is scheduled to consider at its meeting Thursday whether to order the repayment. Federal auditors say all but about $200,000 of that sum came from matching funds.

The campaign collected a total of nearly $13 million in matching funds after it was approved in December 2007. Mr. Edwards dropped out of the presidential race Jan. 30, 2008.

FEC auditors say Mr. Edwards's campaign understated its cash and overstated its expenses. At issue is how much Mr. Edwards' campaign was entitled to receive as a result of qualifying for matching funds and the cost of winding down the effort.

Mr. Edwards' attorneys say the Democrat doesn't owe anything.

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