- - Monday, October 22, 2012

Outside political groups are spending nearly the same as congressional campaigns themselves in about two dozen competitive elections this year.

A study released Monday finds super PACs and other independent groups dropped about $24.8 million on ads affecting the 25 most-competitive House races. That’s compared with about $24.9 million that the candidates’ campaigns have spent on the airwaves.

New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice finds the phenomenon affects Democrats and Republicans. It also finds Democratic candidates are more often reliant on donors who give in smaller amounts.

Super PACs are flourishing this election thanks to loosened rules that allow them to raise and spend unlimited sums of cash. Those groups and other nonprofits are driving the presidential election alone to cost about $2 billion.

CIA

Ex-CIA officer likely to plead guilty in leak case

A former CIA officer accused of leaking the names of covert operatives to journalists is expected to enter a guilty plea as part of a plea deal.

A change of plea hearing was scheduled for Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria for John Kiriakou. He initially pleaded not guilty to the charges that he disclosed the names of two covert CIA operatives.

The apparent change comes shortly after Mr. Kiriakou lost a key pretrial ruling that established a lower legal burden for prosecutors to prove their case. Mr. Kiriakou’s lawyers had argued unsuccessfully that prosecutors should have to prove that Mr. Kiriakou intended to harm the U.S. through his alleged leaks. Such a strict legal standard had been imposed recently on a leaks prosecution against two pro-Israel lobbyists.

But U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled last week that such a high standard should not apply to Mr. Kiriakou, a government employee with top-secret security clearances who knew well the dangers of disclosing classified information.

Instead, prosecutors would only have to show that Mr. Kiriakou had “reason to believe” that the information could be used to injure the U.S.

Court records do not make clear exactly what charges Mr. Kiriakou would plead to. When he was indicted in April, he was charged with one count of disclosing classified information identifying a covert agent, three counts of illegally disclosing national defense information and one count of making false statements. He faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted on all counts in the indictment.

ILLINOIS

Rush: Ailing Jackson en route to Mayo

CHICAGO — An Illinois congressman who visited ailing Congressman Jesse L. Jackson Jr. says the Chicago Democrat looks good but is in fragile condition.

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