- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Palin wardrobe complaint dismissed

The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint over the $150,000-plus designer wardrobe the Republican Party bought to outfit vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the good-government advocacy group that filed the complaint, argued that candidates are not supposed to use donor money for personal expenses such as clothes. The FEC ruled Tuesday that the ban does not apply to party money, however.

The Alaska governor was Sen. John McCain’s pick for vice president. The purchases from such high-end stores as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus drew criticism for Mrs. Palin, the self-described “hockey mom” who proved enormously popular with core Republican voters.

The Republican National Committee told the commission that party money rather than candidate campaign money was used for the purchases.

“We have no information to the contrary,” the FEC wrote in its decision.


Archives loses Clinton hard drive

The National Archives lost a computer hard drive containing massive amounts of sensitive data from the Clinton administration, including Social Security numbers, addresses, and Secret Service and White House operating procedures, congressional officials said Tuesday.

One of former Vice President Al Gore’s three daughters is among those whose Social Security numbers were on the drive. Other information includes logs of events, social gatherings and political records.

The FBI is conducting a criminal investigation of the matter, said Rep. Edolphus Towns, New York Democrat and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and ranking Republican Darrell Issa of California.

The lawmakers said they learned of the loss from the inspector general of the National Archives and Records Administration. The drive is missing from the Archives facility in College Park. The drive was lost between October 2008 and March 2009 and contained 1 terabyte of data - enough material to fill millions of books.


Lawmakers to go hungry for Darfur

Inspired by actress Mia Farrow, some members of Congress announced Tuesday that they were beginning a limited hunger strike to show solidarity with the people in Sudan’s Darfur region and demand President Obama’s help in ending the suffering there.

“Among President Obama’s priorities, Darfur has to take its place,” Miss Farrow, 64, told reporters on the Capitol campus, just after following her doctor’s orders and ending her own 12-day hunger strike.

More than a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus appeared alongside her to announce that they, too, were taking up the “Fast for Life” campaign - going a few days at a time consuming only water - through Congress’ adjournment in August.

Rep. Donald M. Payne, New Jersey Democrat, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, said he fasted last week for three days and said the group has requested a meeting with Mr. Obama.

Miss Farrow’s hunger strike, which inspired a similar protest by Virgin Group Founder and Chairman Richard Branson, began after the Sudanese government expelled international aid agencies from the country earlier this year.


Gensler to keep eye on derivatives

The Senate voted Tuesday to put Gary Gensler in charge of helping the Obama administration crack down on financial firms that make risky bets in the derivatives market, less than a decade after he opposed doing so.

Mr. Gensler, a Treasury Department official during the Clinton administration, won Senate confirmation, 88-6, to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The CFTC regulates futures and options trading in commodities like oil, natural gas and agricultural products.

Under a new plan announced by the Treasury Department this week, the CFTC is expected to take a lead role in enforcing new rules for the buying and selling of credit-default swaps and financial derivatives.

Credit-default swaps, a form of insurance against loan defaults, are largely exempt from government oversight and figured prominently in the credit crisis.


Senators caution Obama on Israel

A vast majority of U.S. senators Tuesday urged President Obama to mind the “risks” to Israel in any Middle East peace accord as he presses for a two-state solution to the six-decade conflict.

“As we work closely with our democratic ally, Israel, we must take into account the risks it will face in any peace agreement,” 76 of the 100 senators wrote Mr. Obama in a letter released to reporters.

“Without a doubt, our two governments will agree on some issues and disagree on others, but the United States’ friendship with Israel requires that we work closely together as we recommit ourselves to our historic role of a trusted friend and active mediator,” they wrote.

Democratic Sens. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania as well as Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson of Georgia and John Thune of South Dakota were the lead authors of the letter, which came one day after Mr. Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Labor loses Wal-Mart case

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. | The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint by labor groups accusing Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of unlawfully pressuring employees to vote against Democrats in the November election.

In a ruling issued Tuesday, FEC commissioners say they found no evidence to support claims that Wal-Mart broke election law by telling employees that Democrats such as Barack Obama would support a bill to make it easier for workers to unionize.

The labor groups, which included the AFL-CIO, American Rights at Work and WakeUpWalMart.com, based their complaint on a story in the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper’s story said Wal-Mart held mandatory meetings with store managers and department supervisors to warn that if Democrats prevailed, they likely would push through a bill making it easier for workers to unionize.


AIG investors win $843 million

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday that a federal court has approved distributing $843 million to investors in American International Group Inc.

The distribution was ordered after the SEC alleged accounting fraud at AIG, saying the insuring giant falsified finance statements from at least 2000 until 2005. A federal judge authorized a fund to help compensate investors in June of 2007. The money includes $700 million in AIG profits from the period and another $100 million in penalties.

AIG consented to a 2006 judgment in the case without admitting or denying the charges.

The SEC said it will mail checks to more than 257,000 AIG investors within the next few months.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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