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Inside Politics

- - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CAMPAIGNS

Gingriches owed as much as $500,000 to Tiffany's

Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich's family at one point owed as much as a half-million dollars to luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co.

Financial disclosures filed by Callista Gingrich show she or her husband also owed as much as $50,000 to American Express. Mrs. Gingrich, who worked as an aide in the U.S. House until 2007, was required to disclose debts of more than $10,000 and the rules allow reporting of a broad range of figures.

ENERGY

Interior chief asks for shorter drilling time

The Obama administration is asking Congress to shorten the time energy companies get to start drilling on public lands they lease, as part of the government's strategy to boost oil and gas production.

Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar pushed a series of measures Tuesday in testimony before a Senate panel considering drilling legislation. The proposals expanded on plans announced by President Obama over the weekend to speed up drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, on Alaska's North Slope and off the Atlantic Coast.

PRESIDENT

Obama ducking White House press?

It's been more than a month since President Obama answered any questions from the White House press corps, and restive reporters are taking note.

The last time Mr. Obama appeared before White House reporters was April 5, when he took a few questions in the briefing room about budget negotiations to avert a government shutdown. Prior to that, Mr. Obama held a news conference on March 11.

At the White House daily briefing on Tuesday, Associated Press reporter Jim Kuhnhenn asked presidential press secretary Jay Carney why "we haven't had an opportunity to ask the president anything" in six weeks.

Mr. Carney said reporters will have opportunities to question the president if they are traveling with him next week to the G-8 summit in France.

WASHINGTON

Justice Breyer cites rule of law in annual Holocaust ceremony

Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer says the rule of law is important in protecting mankind from the evils of arbitrary power. He made the comments Tuesday as he led annual ceremonies in the Capitol to remember the Holocaust.

Justice Breyer told the several hundred people on hand, including members of Congress and Holocaust survivors gathered in the Capitol Rotunda, that he was there "as a judge and a Jew."

CONGRESS

Congressman wants Justice to back off CIA interrogators

Rep. Mike Rogers, Alabama Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the Justice Department should stop investigating CIA interrogators for alleged abuse of detainees under the George W. Bush administration. Mr. Rogers said the interrogators' work helped lead to the killing of terrorism mastermind Osama bin Laden.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. obtained by the Associated Press, Mr. Rogers says the interrogation program was a "vital part of the chain" that led to the successful raid on bin Laden's hide-out in Pakistan.

Since 2009, the Justice Department has been investigating cases involving CIA interrogation tactics, including what the CIA inspector general called a mock execution.

CAMPAIGNS

Obama tries to fire up frustrated supporters

Angling for a second term, President Obama tried to fire up supporters Monday night, saying failure to get everything they want as fast as they want should motivate and not dissuade them.

"When you think back to these last 2½ years, I want you to do so not with complacency, not with full satisfaction, but I want it to motivate you," Mr. Obama told about 600 supporters at a campaign fundraiser at the Capital Hilton.

Mr. Obama also spoke at a dinner with about 60 high-dollar donors at the St. Regis Hotel.

MISSOURI

Rep. Akin to challenge McCaskill for U.S. Senate

CREVE COEUR, MO. — Rep. W. Todd Akin, a Republican, has entered Missouri's U.S. Senate race while casting himself as "the literal, exact opposite" of Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat.

Mr. Akin, 63, has represented a U.S. House district in suburban St. Louis for the past 10 years and previously served for a decade in the Missouri House.

He joins former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman as the only Republicans officially in next year's Senate race. St. Louis businessman John Brunner also is considering a Senate campaign.

COMMEMORATION

Obama celebrates Jewish contributions to nation

President Obama honored the contributions of Jews to America on Tuesday, recognizing Jewish-Americans in the arts, science, the military, business and industry, and in public and community service.

May is Jewish American Heritage Month.

From wire dispatches and staff reports