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Inside Politics

- - Sunday, July 31, 2011


Administration opposes release of Nixon testimony

Thirty-six years after Richard Nixon testified to a grand jury about the Watergate break-in that drove him from office, a federal judge on Friday ordered the secret transcript made public.

But the 297 pages of testimony won't be available immediately, because the government gets time to decide whether to appeal.

The Obama administration opposed the transcript's release, chiefly to protect the privacy of people discussed during the ex-president's testimony who are still alive.

Nevertheless, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth agreed with historians who sued for release of the documents that the historical significance outweighs arguments for secrecy, because the investigations are long over and Nixon has been dead 17 years.

Nixon was interviewed behind closed doors near his California home for 11 hours over two days in June 1975, 10 months after resigning the presidency. Two grand jurors were flown in, and the transcript was read to the rest of the panel sitting back in Washington. It was the first time a former U.S. president testified before a grand jury. Bill Clinton became the first sitting president to do so during the Monica Lewinsky investigation.

At the time of his testimony, Nixon could not be prosecuted for conduct related to Watergate because he had been pardoned by President Ford. Ten days after Nixon testified, the grand jury was dismissed without making any indictments based on what he told them.


Commission draws lines that strengthen Democrats' grip

SACRAMENTO — A citizens commission established by voters to independently create California's legislative and congressional districts delivered its first set of maps Friday, voting to adopt new boundaries that appear to give majority Democrats even more power in the nation's most populous state.

The 14-member California Citizens Redistricting Commission approved final draft versions of district maps for Congress, the state Assembly and Senate, and the state Board of Equalization, which administers sales and use taxes.

Even before the vote, the drafts were being heavily scrutinized by political parties, communities and minority groups because they will be used in state elections for the next decade, helping shape California's congressional delegation, the nation's largest, and the composition of the 120-member state Legislature.

Redistricting experts said the new maps are likely to reduce the influence of Republicans even further.

Democrats are hoping the redrawn districts will allow them to achieve the two-thirds majority needed in the Legislature to pass tax increases, while the number of Republicans California sends to Congress — now 19 — could be reduced.

Two of the commission's Republican members, Michael Ward of Anaheim and Jodie Filkins Webber of Norco, voted against the new congressional boundaries.

Final certification is due by Aug. 15, allowing time for public viewing.


Perry backs constitutional limit defining marriage

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, though just last week he said New York's gay marriage law is fine with him.

Mr. Perry, 61, has said social issues should be decided state by state and even remarked that New York's passage of gay marriage law was that state's business.

Still, he said he would support a constitutional amendment that takes away the power of the states to decide who can get married.

"Yes, sir, I would. I am for the federal marriage amendment," he said. "And that's about as sharp a point as I could put on it."

But Mr. Perry told the Associated Press in a telephone interview Saturday that a presidential campaign would concentrate on jobs, not evolution or gay marriage. "The issue that is most important and most on people's minds is jobs," he said.

Mr. Perry also says the theory of evolution has holes in it and that a creator, not an accident, is responsible for life.

Some conservatives are urging Mr. Perry to run for the Republican nomination for president. The Texas governor tells the AP he will decide by Labor Day whether to make a bid.


Pro-Democratic outside groups raised $10M

Outside fundraising groups supporting President Obama and Democratic candidates raised a combined $10 million during the first six months of 2011, providing the first glimpse into how Democrats intend to compete with outside Republican groups planning to pour millions of dollars into next year's elections.

Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, independent groups founded by former Obama White House aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, said Friday they raised more than $5 million, while the research arm for the outside Democratic groups, American Bridge, collected $3.07 million. Political action committees supporting Democrats in the House and Senate raised more than $2 million.

The fundraising totals were dwarfed by Mr. Obama's campaign and the Democratic National Committee, which collected a combined $86 million from April through June, as many top donors focused on Mr. Obama's initial fundraising quarter.

Supporters of both parties have created outside groups designed to influence the 2012 elections, taking advantage of a landmark 2010 Supreme Court decision that allowed these groups to spend lavishly on campaigns with few restrictions.

From wire dispatches and staff reports