Thursday, March 2, 2006

Two accuse Conyers

Two former aides to Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, have charged that he repeatedly violated House ethics rules, the Hill newspaper reports.

Deanna Maher, a former deputy chief of staff in Mr. Conyers’ Detroit office, and Sydney Rooks, a former legal counsel in that office, shared numerous letters, memorandums and copies of e-mails, handwritten notes and expense reports with the Hill, reporter Jonathan E. Kaplan wrote.

In letters sent separately by each woman to the House ethics committee, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, they said Mr. Conyers demanded that aides work on several local and state campaigns and forced them to baby-sit and chauffeur his children. They also charge that some aides illegally used Mr. Conyers’ congressional offices to enrich themselves.

Miss Maher said she no longer could work for Mr. Conyers in such an unethical environment and quit in May 2005. Miss Rooks had left Mr. Conyers years earlier; she was a full-time staffer at the office from 1997 to 1999. Before she left, Mr. Conyers placed her on paid administrative leave for several months. He stopped paying her in April 2000.

“I could not tolerate any longer being involved with continual unethical, if not criminal, practices which were accepted as ‘business as usual,’ ” Miss Maher wrote in a letter to the ethics panel dated Jan. 13.

A spokesman in Mr. Conyers’ office referred questions to Stanley Brand, a lawyer who regularly defends public officials charged with wrongdoing, the Hill reports.

Mr. Brand said, “We’ve responded fully and completely over two years ago to what the ethics committee sent to us, and we’ve not heard anything since then.”

Bill vs. Hillary

Bill Clinton has nothing but kind words for the United Arab Emirates, even as his wife leads the charge to keep a Dubai-owned company from operating terminals at ports in the United States.

“I have a very high opinion of UAE, and Dubai in particular. They’re trying to build a new Middle East. They really are,” Mr. Clinton said Tuesday after a speech to the National Governors Association in Washington, the New York Post reports.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, is a prominent foe of the ports deal.

Mr. Clinton called the UAE “a good ally to America,” while defending his wife and other critics of the deal.

“I like the UAE. But I do not buy this argument that all the people who are questioning this are xenophobic,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reported yesterday that Mr. Clinton is taking credit for getting the state-owned Arab company to agree to a 45-day delay to allow for an intensive investigation of the acquisition.

“About two weeks ago, the Dubai leaders called him, and he suggested that they submit to the full and regular scrutiny process and that they should put maximum safeguards and security into any port proposal,” an unnamed Clinton spokesman told the London newspaper.

The paper also noted that Mr. Clinton has ties to the Persian Gulf emirate, having been paid $300,000 to address a summit in Dubai in 2002.

Yale’s stance

Yale University enrolls the Taliban’s former spokesman as a student but continues to prohibit other students from organizing a Reserve Officer Training Corps chapter on campus and seeks to deny students the right to hear from military recruiters about employment opportunities, the Young America’s Foundation says.

The New York Times Magazine reported Sunday that Yale admitted Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, the deputy foreign secretary of the Taliban, into a nondegree program, with a chance to gain full degree status by 2006.

Yale alumnus and former Army Capt. Flagg Youngblood, Young America’s Foundation program officer, commented yesterday:

“That my alma mater would embrace an ambassador from one of America’s declared and defeated enemies and in the same breath keep ROTC and military recruiters off campus shows where Yale’s allegiance falls. Yale’s actions show that they consider the U.S. military more evil than the Taliban.”

Storm of candidates

Candidates started signing up yesterday to challenge New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin in an election likely to focus on the incumbent’s handling of city efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

About a dozen candidates have said they will run against Mr. Nagin, including two who filed papers within an hour of the opening of qualifying yesterday.

One was former minor league baseball team owner Rob Couhig, who filed one of three lawsuits earlier this year to keep the city from postponing the election because of the destruction from the hurricane. Originally scheduled for February, the election is now set for April 22.

“The most important thing is that we have a real intelligent discussion about the future,” Mr. Couhig said. “It’s frustrating to me that it’s six months after the storm, and we’re still waiting for leadership and to rebuild.”

Several of the mayor’s expected challengers, including Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, were one-time Nagin allies, the Associated Press reports.

To win, a candidate must get a majority of the votes. If that doesn’t happen, the top two finishers will face off on May 20. Candidates must file by the close of business tomorrow and pay a fee to be on the ballot.

Never too late

Given his age, Sid Smith’s campaign slogan seems obvious: “At 95, who needs term limits?”

The former newspaperman and real estate agent, who scoots around his hillside home in Texas with the help of a cane, is running for Congress in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, Associated Press reporter Jim Vertuno writes.

His main goal is to boot from office Republican freshman Michael McCaul, who won the 10th District seat two years ago after the redistricting effort led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who has since resigned his leadership post.

A Democrat whose platform is essentially to work to defeat all Republicans, Mr. Smith is adamant about protecting abortion rights. If elected, he would become the oldest member in either chamber of Congress.

San Francisco treat

San Francisco’s supervisors jumped into national politics Tuesday, passing a resolution asking the city’s Democratic congressional delegation to seek the impeachment of President Bush, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The supervisors, by a 7-3 vote, said Mr. Bush had failed to perform his duties by leading the country into war in Iraq, eroding civil liberties and engaging in other activities the board sees as transgressions.

Supervisor Chris Daly, one of the most left-wing members of the board, sponsored the resolution, which also calls for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said he hasn’t decided whether he will sign the legislation.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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