Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mollohan’s recusal

Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, under Justice Department investigation about whether he has benefited from directing federal funds to nonprofit groups he helped start, recused himself yesterday from working on the department’s budget.

The move came on the day that Mr. Mollohan, West Virginia Democrat, was named chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the department’s budget, the Associated Press reports.

At issue is at least $202 million of federal funding that Mr. Mollohan has steered to five nonprofit groups in his district — with much of the money going to organizations run by people who contribute to the lawmaker’s campaigns.

Last year, Mr. Mollohan stepped down from the House ethics committee after press reports about his activities, and the FBI soon began an investigation. A conservative group, the National Legal and Policy Center, has charged that the 13-term congressman undervalued his assets in annual financial-disclosure reports.

Mr. Mollohan has denied any wrongdoing and made the decision to step aside from the Justice Department budget on his own, said his spokesman, Gerry Griffith.

‘Wrong answer’

The Web-based liberal group is inviting its supporters to attend “Emergency Rallies to Stop Escalation in Iraq,” across the country today, including a 6 p.m. event at Lafayette Square across from the White House.

“Congress and the press need to know that there’s widespread opposition to this reckless plan. … We really need to have a strong turnout at these rallies so the message is heard loud and clear: Escalation is the wrong answer,” Tom Matzzie of the Political Action Committee wrote in an e-mail yesterday to the group’s members.

“Momentum is on our side — 263,200 of us have signed the [ anti-war] petition, and we’ve made 8,100 calls to Congress opposing escalation and this is just the beginning. The next step is to take our message to the public square with these rallies. …

” ‘Stay the Course’ was rejected by the voters. If escalation is repudiated that leaves only one option: a responsible exit.”

Open forum

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer yesterday promised swift hearings on global warming and pollution.

The California Democrat said her first hearing will be an open forum Jan. 30.

The idea is to “take the pulse of my colleagues” in a “fairly unprecedented” format, she said.

During the global-warming forum, any lawmaker may speak for 10 minutes to share thoughts and ideas on climate change.

Mrs. Boxer said the panel members — including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York — will be allowed to pontificate after the forum.

Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the committee and its former chairman, has called global warming a “hoax.”

At later hearings, Mrs. Boxer will call public- and private-sector officials to testify about climate change and will also speak to state politicians with innovative ideas, she said.

Burns’ new job

Former Sen. Conrad Burns, whose ties to lobbyists helped sink his re-election bid, has landed at a new workplace: a D.C. lobbying firm.

Mr. Burns will work for his former chief of staff, Leo Giacometto, at Gage, a business consulting and governmental-affairs firm, which has lobbied for Montana interests and several national technology companies, often making headlines for its connections to Mr. Burns and his staff, the Associated Press reports.

In the Montana Senate race, Democratic challenger Jon Tester pounded Mr. Burns on his ties to Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist at the heart of an influence-peddling scandal. Mr. Burns had accepted about $150,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff, his clients and associates. He later gave that money away and denied any wrongdoing.

Mr. Burns won’t be able to become a lobbyist just yet. Senate rules prevent former members from lobbying their ex-colleagues for one year, and the chamber is considering ethics legislation — partly prompted by the Abramoff scandal — that would bump that period to two years.

Successful chase

An Iraq war veteran who drew national attention when he ran for Congress criticizing the president chased three men who had crashed into a fence outside his home, then guarded them with an assault rifle until police arrived, according to police reports.

The reports involving lawyer Paul Hackett came to light during a grand jury investigation. His attorney, Greg Moore, issued a statement Tuesday in which he acknowledged what happened and said Mr. Hackett was distressed “that the secrecy of the grand jury has been violated.”

Police in the Cincinnati suburb of Indian Hill investigated the matter and consider it closed, Chief Chuck Schlie said.

Mr. Hackett, a Marine reservist who served seven months in Iraq, attracted a wide following in 2005 when he ran as a Democrat in a special election for a U.S. House seat in southwestern Ohio, criticizing President Bush and the Iraq war.

He narrowly lost to Republican Jean Schmidt.

According to a police report, officers were called to Mr. Hackett’s home on Nov. 19 after a car crashed into a fence and sped away. The officers arrived to find three men lying face-down near their car and Mr. Hackett with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder.

“He said he had done this about 200 times in Iraq, but this time there was not a translation problem,” the police report said.

Mr. Hackett told police later that he was carrying a civilian model of an AR-15 and that one round was in the chamber but the safety was on. He said he never aimed the weapon at the men or put his finger on the trigger.

The driver of the car was charged with failure to maintain reasonable control, driving under suspension and carrying a concealed weapon, a pair of brass knuckles, the Associated Press reports.

Money left over

Mark Foley, who resigned his seat in Congress after a scandal involving inappropriate e-mails to interns, had almost $1.75 million left in his campaign coffers, according to his latest disclosure report made public yesterday.

The Florida Republican, who was in his sixth term, stepped down Sept. 29 after ABC News reported that he had sent some sexually explicit messages to former teenage male interns, known as congressional pages.

Mr. Foley could use the money to set up a legal defense fund, give it to other political campaigns, donate it to charity or return the contributions, Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a campaign-watchdog group, told Reuters news agency.

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

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