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Inside Politics: GOP fires vendor over questionable registrations

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Republicans fired a vendor who submitted 106 questionable voter registration forms in Florida's Palm Beach County.

The Republican Party of Florida and the Republican National Committee on Thursday said they cut ties with Virginia-based Strategic Allied Consulting. The Florida party hired the firm to help turn out voters in the close-fought state that is the linchpin of both President Obama's and Republican Mitt Romney's strategies.

An attorney for Strategic Allied Consulting, Fred Petti, says the firm identified one person who submitted the registrations and fired the person. Mr. Petti says the company is cooperating with Florida election officials.

MISSOURI

Akin says Sen. McCaskill acts less 'ladylike' in 2012

JEFFERSON CITY — Republican Senate candidate W. Todd Akin says that Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill wasn't very "ladylike" in their recent debate in the Missouri Senate race.

Mr. Akin claimed Thursday that Mrs. McCaskill thinks he has a good shot at winning election. He cited as evidence the fact that Mrs. McCaskill "came out swinging" during their first debate last week.

Mr. Akin contrasted that with Mrs. McCaskill's demeanor during her 2006 debates against then-Sen. Jim Talent, when he said, "She had a confidence, and was very much more sort of ladylike and all."

Mr. Akin's remark was denounced by Washington Sen. Patty Murray, who is chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. She called it "demeaning to women and offensive to all."

TAXES

Report: Federal agencies behind in paying taxes

The Internal Revenue Service needs to take a closer look at the federal government in its search for tax scofflaws.

A Treasury Department watchdog office said Thursday that 70 federal agencies owed about $14 million in unpaid taxes at the end of last year.

Federal agencies are exempt from paying federal income taxes, but they are responsible for turning over employment taxes, mainly Social Security and Medicare taxes, that their employees must pay.

The treasury inspector general for tax administration said 40 of these delinquent tax accounts totaling about $2.6 million were still open three years after being identified, and in 80 percent of those cases, the investigations had been suspended. The offending agencies were not identified.

The $14 million isn't a lot compared to the $768 billion in employment taxes the IRS collected in 2011.

MEMORIAL

$1.2 million federal grant awarded to help fund 9/11 memorial

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. — The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the National Park Service $1.2 million to finish work on an access road at the 9/11 Flight 93 Memorial in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The memorial in Shanksville marks the grounds where a hijacked United Airlines jet crashed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Investigators determined the hijackers likely planned to crash the plane in Washington, D.C., but were thwarted when the 40 passengers and crew fought back and the plane crashed in a field.

Each year, about 400,000 visitors to the memorial use the road.

A private group, the Flight 93 National Memorial Campaign, has said it still needs to raise about $5 million more to complete the entire memorial, which includes a learning center and a tower with 40 wind chimes.

SENATE

Major rental car companies agree on safety-recall plan

ALBANY, N.Y. — Five of the biggest names in car rentals nationwide have agreed to stop leasing vehicles under safety recalls, a move that is expected to bolster pending legislation, according to two U.S. senators.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, told the Associated Press that the agreement involving Enterprise, Hertz, Avis, Dollar Thrifty and National will pave the way for legislation covering the industry. The bill is expected to be voted on during the upcoming lame duck session in Congress.

"This historic agreement will be a major improvement in auto safety, particularly since rental car companies are the largest purchasers of new vehicles in the nation," a coalition of consumer groups and relatives of people who died in rental-car crashes said in a statement.

FEMA

$42.6M in trailer settlements approved after Gulf hurricanes OK'd

NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge gave his final approval Thursday to a $42.6 million class-action settlement between companies that made and installed government-issued trailers after hurricanes in 2005 and Gulf Coast storm victims who claim they were exposed to hazardous fumes while living in the shelters.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt ruled from the bench after hearing from attorneys who brokered a deal resolving nearly all remaining court claims over elevated levels of formaldehyde in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Roughly 55,000 residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas will be eligible for shares of $37.5 million paid by more than two dozen manufacturers. They also can get shares of a separate $5.1 million settlement with FEMA contractors that installed and maintained the units.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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