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Inside Politics

- - Monday, November 28, 2011

HOUSE

Top aide for panel has Solyndra ties

The top GOP aide to a House committee investigating Solyndra Inc. once worked for a lobbying firm that helped the now-bankrupt solar-panel company apply for a half-billion-dollar federal loan.

Gary Andres, staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was a vice chairman at Dutko Worldwide until December, when he was appointed to his current post by GOP Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, chairman of the energy panel. The committee is investigating Solyndra, which received a $528 million Energy Department loan in 2009. The company later went bankrupt and laid off 1,100 workers.

The Kalamazoo Gazette reported Monday that Solyndra paid Dutko $30,000 in 2008 to handle its application for the federal loan. Alexa Marrero, a spokeswoman for the committee, said Mr. Andres never worked on behalf of Solyndra.

SUPREME COURT

Texas asks justices to stop redistricting

The Supreme Court has been asked to stop a federal court from implementing a congressional redistricting map in Texas that increases the number of minority-majority districts.

The state's attorney general, Greg Abbott, filed the request with the high court on Monday. The court-drawn map was drafted after minority groups challenged the original plan passed by the Republican-dominated state Legislature.

The map drawn by the San Antonio-based federal court would ensure minorities made up the majority in three additional Texas congressional districts. If the 2012 elections were held under the court's map, Democrats would have an advantage as they try to win back the U.S. House and try to claim more seats in the GOP-controlled state Legislature.

The court-ordered map will remain in place until the legal disputes are resolved.

SENATE

Democrats to back Obama payroll tax cut

Senate Democrats are advancing President Obama's plan to cut every worker's payroll taxes in half next year paid for by a 3.25 percent tax surcharge on the very wealthy.

The $248 billion plan would cut Social Security payroll taxes from 6.2 percent to 3.1 percent in hopes of propping up the still-weak economy. It would also cut the portion of the tax paid by employers on the first $5 million of their payroll.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats will hold a test vote on the plan later this week.

Republicans are likely to oppose the plan because it would put a permanent surcharge on income exceeding $1 million.

FLORIDA

Mack to announce run for Senate

SARASOTA — Rep. Connie Mack IV is expected to announce his entry in the U.S. Senate race to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Mr. Mack will first have to win the primary. Buoyed by name recognition, Mr. Mack surged to the top of a Quinnipiac University poll even before officially entering the race. His father is former Sen. Connie Mack III and his great-grandfather is Hall of Fame baseball manager Connie Mack.

Also seeking the nomination are former Sen. George LeMieux, former state Rep. Adam Hasner, retired Army Col. Mike McCalister and former steakhouse chain CEO Craig Miller.

WISCONSIN

Governor recall effort claims 300,000 names

MADISON — Organizers of the effort to recall Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker said Monday they have collected 300,000 signatures, more than half of what is needed to force an election.

The United Wisconsin coalition needs 540,208 signatures by Jan. 17 to force a recall election sometime in 2012. The coalition reported Monday that more than half the number needed had been collected in just 12 days, with signatures coming from all 72 Wisconsin counties.

KANSAS

Governor says staff overreacted to tweet

TOPEKA — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback apologized Monday for his office's response to a disparaging Twitter post by a high school senior who was attending a school function at the state Capitol.

"My staff overreacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize," Mr. Brownback said in a Monday statement emailed to the Associated Press. "Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms."

Emma Sullivan, 18, of the Kansas City suburb of Fairway, Kan., was taking part in a Youth in Government program last week in Topeka, Kan., when she sent out a tweet from the back of a crowd of students listening to Mr. Brownback's greeting. From her cellphone, she thumbed: "Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person (hash)heblowsalot."

She said she was just joking with friends, but Mr. Brownback's office, which monitors social media for postings containing the governor's name, contacted the youth program. Miss Sullivan said she spent nearly an hour in the principal's office and was told to apologize in writing to the governor.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Huntsman hopes to break up banks

EXETER — Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman Jr. has released a plan to break up the nation's biggest banks.

The former Utah governor said officials haven't done enough to protect against future taxpayer bailouts. He said too many banks are still considered "too big to fail."

Mr. Huntsman planned to discuss his financial overhaul plan with New Hampshire voters Monday night.

Along with capping the size of banks, he wants larger financial institutions to pay fees to help cover any future bailouts.

Fearing a global financial collapse, federal officials sent billions of dollars to large banks during the financial crisis.

Mr. Huntsman also wants to shut mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and repeal the law, known as Dodd-Frank, that overhauled the financial system.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Bachmann tries to regain tea party supporters

COLUMBIA — White House hopeful Michele Bachmann is questioning GOP presidential rival Newt Gingrich's consistency on the issues as she tries to reclaim tea party support in South Carolina.

Mrs. Bachmann said Monday that she hasn't been a longtime Washington insider, as was the former House speaker and some other candidates. She noted that she founded the congressional Tea Party Caucus.

Mrs. Bachmann listed a group of 37 South Carolina conservatives who are supporting her campaign. This, as Mr. Gingrich begins three days of campaigning in the first-in-the-South primary state. Polls suggest Mr. Gingrich has become one of the leading conservative alternatives to the front-runner, Mitt Romney.

Mrs. Bachmann will be in the state for three days beginning Friday as she promotes her new book.

From wire dispatches and staff reports