Inside Politics

WHITE HOUSE

Mrs. Obama: Tired of ‘angry black woman’ stereotype

First lady Michelle Obama is challenging assertions she’s forcefully imposed her will on White House aides, saying she’s tired of people portraying her as “some kind of angry black woman.”

Mrs. Obama tells CBS News she hasn’t read New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor’s new book, which characterizes her as a behind-the-scenes force in the Executive Mansion whose strong views often draw her into conflict with President Obama’s top advisers.

She says she cares deeply about her husband and is “one of his biggest confidantes.” But Mrs. Obama also says she doesn’t read books about “other people’s impressions of people.”

NEBRASKA

Buffett offers to match GOP debt-reducing gifts

OMAHA — Billionaire Warren Buffett says he’s willing to match any contributions to reduce the national debt that Republican members of Congress make.

Mr. Buffett told Time magazine about his offer as part of a conversation about why he’s optimistic about the nation’s future.

Mr. Buffett, who is chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has been criticized by Republicans for his suggestion that Congress increase taxes on the “mega-rich,” such as him. Several Republicans suggested Mr. Buffett consider donating money to help the nation balance its books.

Mr. Buffett tells Time that he doesn’t think many Republicans will be willing to take him up on his offer to match their contributions. Mr. Buffett says he’d even triple anything Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave.

HOUSE

Committee continues review of Hastings

The House ethics committee has extended its review of sexual-harassment allegations against Rep. Alcee Hastings, Florida Democrat, opting not to launch a full-scale investigation for now.

A staffer at the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe leveled the allegations against Mr. Hastings, who formerly headed the congressional agency. The aide, Winsome Packer, accused Mr. Hastings of repeatedly making improper comments and touching her inappropriately. She is being represented by the conservative group Judicial Watch and has filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. Hastings, who hired her for the commission job.

Just because the committee has voted to extend the review of the matter, “does not itself indicate that a violation has occurred,” the panel’s chairman and ranking members, Reps. Jo Bonner, Alabama Republican, and Linda Sanchez, California Democrat, said in a statement.

The committee did not give itself a deadline to come up with a decision in the case.

The House ethics committee is acting on recommendations made by the Office of Congressional Ethics, a quasi-independent body tasked with looking into allegations against members and furthering their findings on to the full ethics panel for further review.

After interviewing Ms. Packer, identified as “Witness 1” in its report, as well as Mr. Hastings, the OCE found “probable cause” for the allegations and recommended that the ethics committee look into the manner.

Because several witnesses would not cooperate with its investigation, the OCE recommended that the ethics panel subpoena them, a power the office lacks.

The ethics committee also released a report of the OCE’s findings. In it, Ms. Packer details what she says are multiple accounts of Mr. Hastings behaving improperly, and Mr. Hastings disputes most of the accusations while corroborating some more innocuous details.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Romney raised $24M in 4th quarter of ‘11

MANCHESTER — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney raised $24 million during the last three months of 2011.

Mr. Romney’s campaign announced the year’s final fundraising numbers on Wednesday, a day after he won the New Hampshire primary. It’s his best fundraising quarter of the primary campaign so far. The former Massachusetts governor has $19 million to use in upcoming primaries as he looks to become the GOP nominee.

The total means that Mr. Romney raised $56 million in 2011. He announced his candidacy in June. Mr. Romney, a multimillionaire, didn’t make any personal contributions to the campaign. In 2008, he contributed more than $45 million of his own money. The announcement underscores Mr. Romney’s huge financial advantage over the conservative rivals scrambling to beat him in South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primary.

Mr. Romney, like many Republicans, has mocked President Obama’s use of a teleprompter, suggesting it speaks to an overall ineptitude of the commander-in-chief.

But there he was at his victory speech Tuesday — possibly one of the biggest speeches of his life — reading from a pair of teleprompters.

The two clear screens were hard to miss in front of the stage. They stood tall, well above the heads of the crowd that gathered on the floor of the Southern New Hampshire University dining hall to listen to the former governor’s speech, which ended up being very well-received.

Mr. Romney has dinged the president for using a teleprompter in the past. In 2008, he told talk-show host Glenn Beck that Mr. Obama “speaks well” and “reads the teleprompter well.”

OHIO

Santorum’s chance at delegates hampered

COLUMBUS — Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum won’t have a chance to vie for some of Ohio’s national convention delegates.

The state’s top election official said Wednesday that the former Pennsylvania senator won’t appear on the ballot at the district level in three congressional districts in the battleground state. That means nine of Ohio’s 66 delegates are off the table for him.

Ohio has a Republican primary system that requires people to vote twice. So while Mr. Santorum’s name won’t appear at the district level, voters could still choose to award him at-large delegates.

The party doles out 48 delegates from the March 6 primary based on how well candidates do in each of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts. The other 18 delegates are awarded at large.

Besides Mr. Santorum, candidates Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman Jr., Ron Paul, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney were certified for Ohio’s ballot.

IRS

Report: Shortchanging budget hurts taxpayers

Congress is damaging the Internal Revenue Service by shortchanging its budget, making it harder for the agency to help taxpayers, detect fraud and bolster revenue collection even as budget deficits surge, a government watchdog said Wednesday.

“The imbalance between its workload and its resources is becoming unmanageable,” Nina E. Olson, the national taxpayer advocate, wrote in her annual report on the IRS.

Ms. Olson, an independent watchdog within the agency, wrote that agency computers set aside 1.1 million tax returns seeking refunds last year for examination for possible fraud, a 72 percent increase from 2010.

Responding to that and similar problems, the IRS relies increasingly on software to detect bogus returns. But these computer programs make mistakes of their own and limit personal contact the agency has with taxpayers, and one result has been an erosion of the rights of people who have disputes with the IRS, the report said.

“The most serious problems facing U.S. taxpayers is the combination of the IRS’s expanding workload and the limited resources available to it,” Ms. Olson wrote.

Her report came days after the IRS said individuals and companies underpaid their taxes in 2006, the most recent year available, by $385 billion after audits and other enforcement efforts. In recent years, federal deficits have exceeded $1 trillion annually.

The agency collected about $2.3 trillion last year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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