- - Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mitt Romney’s wife is reinforcing her husband’s refusal to make public several years of tax returns, saying “we’ve given all you need to know” about the family’s finances.

Ann Romney told ABC News she thinks the Obama campaign’s attacks on her husband have been “beneath the dignity of the presidency.” She also says people will decide for whom to vote based on whether their lives would be better under Mitt Romney or President Obama.

She said that ultimately she thinks voters are “going to fire the coach.”

Mrs. Romney said the family gives 10 percent of its income to the church and her husband took no salary during his four years as governor of Massachusetts. She said that should be enough to put aside people’s concerns about her husband’s finances.

CAMPAIGN

First lady will lead campaign-mobilizing effort

First lady Michelle Obama is taking on a more prominent political role, launching a nationwide effort to get every supporter of President Obama to get more involved in his re-election campaign — and to get somebody else more engaged, too.

The “It Takes One” program urges supporters to start by taking one action that will help expand the campaign.

In a video message to supporters released Thursday, Mrs. Obama suggests such actions as helping one new voter get registered, recruiting one more volunteer or bringing a friend to the next phone bank.

The Obama campaign says Mrs. Obama will lead the It Takes One program. That represents a significant increase in her role in her husband’s re-election effort.

PENTAGON

Panetta orders crackdown on classified data leaks

The Pentagon announced Thursday that it is taking new steps to try to clamp down on leaks of classified information, saying unauthorized disclosures undermine national security and in some cases rise to the level of criminal acts.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said in a statement that Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has ordered him to join the Pentagon’s top intelligence official in monitoring all “major, national level” news media reports for unauthorized disclosures of secrets.

Mr. Panetta also reiterated guidance issued by his predecessor, Robert M. Gates, that the Pentagon’s public affairs office should be the only source of defense information provided to the news media in Washington.

Mr. Little announced these steps after Panetta testified in closed session before the House Armed Services Committee on the matter of recent leaks of classified intelligence information. Joining Mr. Panetta at the hearing was the Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, and the Pentagon’s top attorney, Jeh Johnson.

A separate Defense Department document obtained by the Associated Press spells out the steps the Pentagon has taken to reduce the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Among the 10 steps were better training of Pentagon personnel if they suspect a threat from an insider or observe a leak, clearer instructions on what constitutes a leak and an online reporting system for significant security incidents.

NEW YORK

For rent: Flat where Obama crashed in 1980s

NEW YORK — The New York City apartment where Barack Obama lived in the 1980s is available for rent. But there’s no guarantee it’ll inspire presidential aspirations in the next occupant.

The website listing states: “Live Like the President!!!.” But a Citi Habitats broker listing the apartment this week told the Wall Street Journal that the flat was “a typical New York City walk-up.”

The two-bedroom railroad apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side is listed for $2,400 a month.

When Mr. Obama shared the 109th Street apartment with a roommate while attending Columbia University, the monthly rent was $360.

Broker Zak Kneider says he had received nine emails inquiring about the apartment by Wednesday evening.

PENTAGON

Military members can march in uniform for gay pride

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — The Defense Department on Thursday announced it is allowing service members to march in uniform in a gay pride parade for the first time in U.S. history.

In a memorandum sent to all its branches, the department said it was making the allowance for San Diego’s Gay Pride Parade on Saturday even though its policy generally bars troops from marching in uniform in parades.

The Defense Department said it did so because organizers had encouraged military personnel to march in their uniform and the event was getting national attention. The move came only weeks after the Pentagon itself marked June as gay pride month. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta vowed in a video message to remove as many barriers as possible to making the military a model of equal opportunity.

Last year, San Diego’s Gay Pride Parade had the nation’s largest contingency of active-duty troops participate before the military lifted its ban on openly gay service members. About 200 service members last year wore T-shirts with their branch’s name.

ILLINOIS

Witness in Blago probe gets short prison term

CHICAGO — A judge on Thursday sentenced one of the most unsavory figures to emerge from the investigation of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to just 5½ years in prison, heeding praise for the former political insider as one of the most important cooperating witnesses in the state’s sordid history of corruption.

Moments before the judge announced the sentence for money laundering and fraud, a somber Stuart Levine stood ramrod straight at a courtroom podium, apologizing for a laundry list of scams in which he used influence on state boards to line his pockets with millions of dollars.

“I wish to express my deep regret to the people of Illinois,” said the admitted former drug addict and serial swindler, now 66.

Later, Judge Amy St. Eve acknowledged Levine played central roles in bringing several public figures to justice. But she said he also cheated business partners, hospitals, charities and others — once even swindling a dead friend’s estate and the man’s deaf daughter out of $2 million.

“You are certainly one of the most corrupt individuals this district has ever seen,” the judge told him.

Levine, who must report to prison on Sept. 27, faced a possible life sentence. In the end, though, the judge chose to impose the term prosecutors recommended in a 2006 plea deal.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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