- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 21, 2009


Ex-Senate aide charged in scandal

A longtime former aide to Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran has been charged in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal, accused of accepting gifts and granting favors for the imprisoned former lobbyist.

Court documents filed Thursday say Ann Copland took thousands of dollars worth of event tickets and meals in Washington from Abramoff and associates at his firm. Prosecutors say the gifts were in exchange for her favors benefiting one of their top clients, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Charges against Ms. Copland were outlined in a legal document called a criminal information, which only can be filed with the defendant’s consent and typically signals a plea deal. The document says Ms. Copland understood that Senate rules prohibit staffers from soliciting gifts from lobbyists, but still secretly did so.

“It was a purpose of the conspiracy for defendant Copland to be unjustly enriched by her receipt of things of value, and to conceal these gifts from the U.S. Senate and the people of the United States,” the document said.

Ms. Copland worked for Mr. Cochran for 29 years, then abruptly left his office last spring after Abramoff prosecutors had netted a dozen convictions in the scandal.

Mr. Cochran’s office refused to comment on the case Friday.

Campaign finance records show that Abramoff, his associates and his clients gave Cochran at least $82,500 in campaign donations during the years in question, from 2001 to 2004. But there is no indication from the documents that Mr. Cochran, a Republican, knew of Ms. Copland’s behavior or is being investigated.


Reid pushing for climate legislation

Saying it’s time to “take a whack” at climate change, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he plans to push for Senate action on global warming by the end of summer.

The Nevada Democrat in an interview with the Associated Press said the Senate will take up energy legislation in a couple of weeks “and then later this year, hopefully late this summer, do the global warming part of it.”

Climate legislation will be among the most complex and contentious issues facing Congress.

While there is widespread agreement among both Democrats and Republicans - as well as across the business community - that global warming must be addressed, there remains a sharp divide over the details of a climate package and how best to limit the cost.

Along with climate, Mr. Reid, who is up for re-election next year, has assumed a high profile on the need to promote “clean energy” such as wind, solar and biomass that do not produce carbon dioxide, the predominant greenhouse gas. These are also energy projects popular in Mr. Reid’s home state, where several major solar projects are under way or planned.


Obama promises Gulf Coast help

President Obama vowed on Friday to prevent a repeat of the “failures” of the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and promised a stepped-up commitment to Gulf Coast rebuilding efforts.

Mr. Obama took an indirect swipe at his predecessor’s record as he extended the life of a federal office coordinating Gulf Coast reconstruction and ordered key aides to tour New Orleans and other areas devastated by Katrina more than three years ago.

Former President George W. Bush was widely criticized for his administration’s slow response to Katrina, which hastened a slide in his popularity and left a lasting stain on his legacy.

Mr. Obama extended the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding, which was created by Mr. Bush and was due to expire on Feb. 28, for the rest of the current fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30.

Mr. Obama also said he would dispatch Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to the Gulf Coast on March 5-6 to assess rebuilding efforts and report back to him.


Gay comments cost lawmaker

SALT LAKE CITY | A Utah state senator on Friday was kicked off a judicial committee he chaired after he drew criticism for comparing gay activists to radical Muslims in an interview aired this week.

Sen. Chris Buttars, Republican of West Jordan, also told former local television reporter Reed Cowan, an openly gay documentary producer who now works at a Miami station, that gay activists are “probably the greatest threat to America going down.”

The comments drew calls in Utah and elsewhere for Mr. Buttars’ resignation. The Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, said that by Friday more than 15,000 e-mails had been sent to Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups demanding that he condemn Mr. Buttars’ remarks.

Mr. Waddoups did not condemn Mr. Buttars’ statements, and said he removed Mr. Buttars from the committee primarily as a way to draw attention away from him.

Last year, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People demanded that Mr. Buttars resign after he disparaged a bill by saying, “This baby is black, I’ll tell you. It’s a dark, ugly thing.”

Mr. Buttars won re-election in November.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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