- - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A House Republican whose committee is investigating a lavish conference held by the General Services Administration says a high-ranking official with the embattled agency spent an extra night in Las Vegas after the conference at taxpayer expense.

The big-spending conference has resulted in a shake-up of the GSA leadership.

The latest development was reported by Rep. John L. Mica, a Florida Republican who chairs the House Transportation Committee. He said details of the additional spending were in a GSA inspector general’s report.

Mr. Mica said Tuesday night that the official billed three nights as government travel, while on the fourth he paid the government rate of $93. Mr. Mica said the extra cost of the suite, which cost more than $1,000 a night, “was apparently charged to the taxpayer.”

CONGRESS

GOP lawmaker says House Democrats are communists

A freshman Republican lawmaker says more than 75 House Democrats are members of the Communist Party.

Rep. Allen B. West of Florida made the comment at a town hall in Jensen Beach, Fla., on Tuesday. A constituent asked how many members of the legislature are “card-carrying Marxists.” Mr. West said he believes 78 to 81 House Democrats are members of the Communist Party. He provided no names.

In a statement Wednesday, Mr. West’s office said he was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The office cited a May 2010 article that appeared in the Communist Party USA pre-convention publication that referred to caucus members as allies. The article, however, carried the disclaimer that the party took no responsibility for the piece’s opinions.

The Palm Beach Post first reported the comments.

TAXES

Survey: States poorly track tax-incentive programs

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Most states are doing a poor job tracking whether their tax breaks for businesses are actually spurring job growth, including some that have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into corporate incentive programs even while grappling with record deficits, according to a new report.

The report released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States found that no state regularly takes a hard look at the effectiveness of all of its tax breaks. Twenty-five states and Washington, D.C., do little if any evaluation, including Illinois, which is among the states facing major budget struggles.

Only 13 were deemed to be doing enough, the study found.

It’s difficult to say just how much U.S. states spend combined on tax incentives, but they’ve become more common in the past decade, particularly since 2008 when the country sank into recession. Unemployment rose and the money available for state budgets shrank, yet researchers found that the tax breaks states handed out may not have produced the desired effect.

“Given that states are rebuilding their budgets and economies in the wake of the Great Recession, these are mistakes states can’t afford to make,” Pew senior researcher Jeff Chapman said.

DELAWARE

Gingrich: Supporters want him to stay in GOP race

NEWARK — Newt Gingrich said Wednesday that it’s still possible for him to win the GOP presidential nomination.

“It’s not over and he has not won it yet,” Mr. Gingrich said, speaking of Mitt Romney, who moved closer to claiming the nomination a day earlier after his chief rival, Rick Santorum, dropped out of the race.

“It’s very clear that Romney does not, today, have the majority of the delegates,” Mr. Gingrich said.

Mr. Gingrich is correct that Mr. Romney does not yet have the 1,144 delegates it takes to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention, but Mr. Romney is well on his way with more than half the total.

Mr. Gingrich, meanwhile, significantly trails the former Massachusetts governor and would need to win 94 percent of the remaining delegates to claim the nomination before the August convention, according to an Associated Press analysis of the delegate count. That’s an impossible task because most states use proportional systems to award delegates.

The former House speaker has not won delegates since March 13. But he said Wednesday that he will do better in upcoming contests now that Mr. Santorum is no longer running.

Mr. Gingrich vowed to campaign until the convention in Tampa, Fla., saying he wants to help the GOP reflect a “21st century conservatism.”

WASHINGTON

Tribes, government agree to $1 billion settlement

YAKIMA — The federal government will pay more than $1 billion to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by American Indian tribes over mismanagement of tribal money and trust lands, under a settlement announced Wednesday.

The agreement resolves claims brought by 41 tribes from across the country to reclaim money lost in mismanaged accounts and from royalties for oil, gas, grazing and timber rights on tribal lands.

The settlement was announced jointly by the Justice Department and the Interior Department, which manages more than 100,000 leases on tribal trust lands and about 2,500 tribal trust accounts for more than 250 federally recognized tribes.

“These settlements fairly and honorably resolve historical grievances over the accounting and management of tribal trust funds, trust lands and other nonmonetary trust resources that, for far too long, have been a source of conflict between Indian tribes and the United States,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said.

Ending the long-running dispute allows the governments involved to move beyond distrust and antagonism, and empowers Indian communities going forward, Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar said.

WHITE HOUSE

First lady marks 1-year point for military effort

Michelle Obama has been everywhere from a West Point mess hall to a NASCAR speedway in the past year to drum up support for military families, and now she’s capping the yearlong effort with a two-day, four-state tour to take stock of what’s been done.

Mrs. Obama is marking the anniversary of her “Joining Forces” initiative Wednesday with a White House ceremony during which she’ll recognize businesses, community groups and other organizations working to help members of the armed forces, veterans and military families.

Then she and Jill Biden, the wife of the vice president, will travel to Pennsylvania, New York, Louisiana and Florida to celebrate all things military.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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