- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2008

WHITE HOUSE

Records on missing e-mails sought

A federal appeals court gave a chilly reception Friday to a private group trying to force the Bush administration to surrender records detailing problems with the White House’s e-mail system.

The problems may have resulted in the loss of millions of electronic messages.

During a half-hour-long argument, three federal appeals court judges suggested that the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the records, a signal that the court might allow the documents to remain confidential.

The judges seemed dismissive of the argument that the White House office containing the records responded to other FOIA requests for many years, until it was sued in the e-mail controversy.

Judge Thomas Griffith suggested the White House’s previous position is not legally significant.

SENATE

Alaska voting trend may hurt Stevens

ANCHORAGE, Alaska | Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, a stalwart of Alaska politics who was convicted of felony charges last month, trails his Democratic rival by more than 800 votes, and many of the outstanding ballots come from parts of the state that have favored the challenger.

Even a Republican pollster and Mr. Stevens’ friend said his chances for re-election to a seventh term were slim.

“When he came back from the trial and began to campaign personally, it really made a difference,” said David Dittman. “That doesn’t change anything for all those votes that were cast earlier.”

Mark Begich, the two-term mayor of Anchorage, holds an 814-vote lead, with ballot counting resuming on Friday. State election officials said they planned to count 10,000 votes, and the bulk of the rest - about 25,000 - on Tuesday.

Neither candidate was claiming victory nor conceding defeat.

REGULATIONS

Congress can hasten repeal of Bush rules

President-elect Barack Obama will have limited authority to overturn federal regulations approved in the waning months of the Bush administration. But a little-used power offers the new Democratic Congress an early test of how aggressively lawmakers might unravel such rules pushed through by Republicans.

Under a special fast-track authority, Congress could repeal current rules from as far back as May. Many are related to the environment and health. Aside from congressional action, such changes involve a laborious rule-making process that can take years.

The Congressional Review Act of 1996, used just once in the past 12 years, could become a sweeping tool for Democrats against late regulations from the Bush presidency. Environmental activists are compiling lists of regulations they think Congress should target, including ones covering water pollution at huge farms, pollution control equipment at older power plants and hazardous-waste restrictions.

“One of the things to watch is whether there are actions in Congress that reflect a new philosophy that is a different direction than the Bush administration, which has been a pro-industry approach to governing,” said Rick Melberth, an expert at the Washington-based OMB Watch, a nonprofit watchdog organization.

WHISTLEBLOWER

Recused U.S. attorney discussed case

A U.S. attorney who recused herself from the corruption case against former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman because of potential political conflicts still closely monitored the case and communicated with prosecutors about it, according to information from a whistleblower.

The allegations that U.S. Attorney Leura Canary didn’t completely stay out of the politically charged prosecution were detailed in a letter from House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey last week.

Siegelman - a Democrat - has alleged his prosecution was pushed by Republicans, including former White House adviser Karl Rove, a Texas strategist who was once heavily involved in Alabama politics.

Mrs. Canary recused herself from the case because her husband is a longtime Republican strategist with strong ties to Mr. Siegelman’s political foes, including Mr. Rove and Republican Gov. Bob Riley. She has consistently maintained that career lawyers handled the prosecution and that she obeyed a strict “firewall.”

Siegelman, who served one term as governor before losing to Mr. Riley in 2002 amid allegations of corruption, was convicted in 2006 on bribery and other charges.

The whistleblower, a legal aide in Mrs. Canary’s office named Tamarah Grimes, also is quoted as saying Mrs. Canary “kept up with every detail of the case.”

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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