- - Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The National Federation of Independent Business is endorsing Republicans over Democrats by a better than 10-1 margin in congressional races this year. But when the small business group needed someone to head its campaign for rolling back federal regulations, it turned to former Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.

Ms. Lincoln lost her seat in 2010 in an avalanche of defeats for vanishing Southern Democrats. In part it was because conservatives believed she was too close to President Obama and liberals thought she was too distant from Democratic issues.

Ms. Lincoln doesn’t feel strange joining the NFIB’s cause and bringing her centrist approach to efforts to stop what it calls a tidal wave of federal regulations. She says there’s “a place for compromise” and calls herself “a problem-solving Democrat.”

EDUCATION

Historically black colleges given $228 million in grants

The Education Department is awarding $228 million in grants to historically black colleges and universities.

The five-year grants will go to schools in 19 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Schools can use the money to expand their campuses, acquire science equipment, develop counseling programs and train faculty.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the grants will enable historically black colleges to help students who grapple with financial challenges as they pursue post-secondary education.

Most of the schools receiving grants are in the South.

The largest grants will go to Florida A&M University in Tallahassee; Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, La.; Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss.; and St. Philip’s College in San Antonio. Those schools will receive more than $5 million each.

FEC

Court ruling reverses decision over election ads

An appeals court has reversed a lower court ruling that likely would have led to greater disclosure of who is paying for certain election ads.

In March, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the Federal Election Commission overstepped its bounds in allowing groups that fund certain election ads to keep their financiers anonymous.

But Tuesday’s ruling by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia sent the case back to Judge Jackson — with instructions to refer the matter to the FEC for further consideration.

Judge Jackson had ruled that “Congress spoke plainly” in passing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law — and did not delegate authority to the FEC to narrow the disclosure requirement. But the appeals court said the law was “anything but clear.”

CAMPAIGN

Chamber’s ad buy aids GOP Senate candidates

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is hammering Maine independent candidate Angus King and Democratic incumbents in Montana and Ohio in a new round of ads designed to help Republicans grab control of the Senate.

The ads, which begin airing Tuesday, focus on Mr. King’s fiscal record as governor, criticize Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester on health care and energy, and weigh in against Ohio’s Sen. Sherrod Brown for his votes on energy. Mr. Tester and Mr. Brown have been top targets of the chamber for months as the nation’s largest business lobbying group has spent tens of millions of dollars in some eight Senate races and dozens of House contests.

Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate, 51-47, plus two independents who usually vote with the Democrats.

UTAH

Howell says Hatch too old to serve

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch’s opponent says the 78-year-old Utah Republican is just too old to serve.

In an email to supporters, Democrat Scott Howell warned that if re-elected, Mr. Hatch may “retire or die before his term is through.”

Mr. Howell, who is 58, added that Mr. Hatch isn’t a bad guy, “but he is an old guy.”

Hatch campaign manager Dave Hansen called the comments outrageous and offensive, noting they come from a candidate with no shot at winning in November.

Utah hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970.

Republicans are trying to gain four seats-and control of the Senate-in the November election. The goal seemed in reach a few months ago but is now uncertain.

From wire dispatches and staff reports