- The Washington Times - Friday, November 20, 2009


Senate confirms judge, 59-39

The Senate on Thursday confirmed U.S. District Judge David Hamilton for the Chicago-based federal appeals court, approving a nominee targeted by conservatives as a liberal activist.

Judge Hamilton was approved on a 59-39 vote and became the eighth of President Obama’s judicial nominees to win confirmation. He is the third confirmed for a U.S. appeals court, which is usually the last stop for federal court cases.

Republican senators had blocked a vote for five months until Democrats overcame a filibuster Tuesday with a 70-29 vote.

Republicans attacked Judge Hamilton’s rulings and his work in the distant past for two liberal organizations: the American Civil Liberties Union in Indiana; and as a fundraiser over two months for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, the troubled group that is under fire from Republicans on Capitol Hill.


White House mum about state dinner

It’s the hottest ticket in town. Just don’t ask the White House who got them.

The White House is saying very little about next week’s state dinner with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the first for President Obama. Folks aren’t talking about the menu, the guest list or even where it’s being held. (Hint: That tent going up on the White House South Lawn is a clue.)

But the silence from the White House is only fueling the speculation about who’s in - and who’s out.

Will talk show maven Oprah Winfrey mingle with as many as 400 guests who huddle under the big top? What members of Congress got the tickets - and which did not? Will the dinner be filled with guests from Hollywood and Bollywood? And how much spice will be added to the curry?

For sure, the dinner is shaping up to be Washington’s equivalent of the Oscars. Lobbyists, celebrities and movers-and-shakers all have been calling the East Wing to make sure their high-style invitations weren’t lost. A polite reply lets them know the postal service didn’t err.

Mr. Obama’s big event has been scripted for weeks but first lady Michelle Obama’s office isn’t dishing details yet.


Army to allow some Palin coverage

RALEIGH, N.C. | The U.S. Army now says it will allow media limited access to Sarah Palin’s appearance at Fort Bragg.

Army officials had said they would prohibit coverage of Mrs. Palin’s on-post event, saying it would turn into political grandstanding against President Obama.

The Associated Press and the Fayetteville Observer objected and the military changed its position slightly Thursday night. It will grant a pool of reporters restricted access to Monday’s appearance.

Col. Billy Buckner, Fort Bragg spokesman, said journalists will not be allowed to interview the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee and will be barred from talking to her supporters on post.

Col. Buckner said the setup will allow reporters their right to access while preventing the event from turning political.


Feinstein seeks TV energy limits

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is encouraging the Obama administration to adopt new energy-efficiency standards for televisions, similar to those just approved in her home state of California.

California’s regulations, approved Wednesday, will require all new televisions up to 58 inches to be more efficient, beginning in 2011.

Mrs. Feinstein told Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a letter that Congress authorized his department to set energy standards for household appliances, but that the department has not done so for televisions. Energy consumption for appliances with energy standards has steadily declined over the past few decades, while the energy consumed by televisions has risen, especially in recent years.

The Democratic senator said increasing the efficiency of televisions would be one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce energy consumption.


Report: College tax credit misused

More than 314,000 taxpayers made inaccurate claims for a popular tax credit that helps pay college expenses, getting $532 million they weren’t entitled to receive, a government report said Thursday.

The Hope Credit provides up to $1,650 a year to help pay expenses for the first two years of college. The taxpayers claimed the credit for same student for three consecutive years - instead of the two years available - from 2004 to 2006, said a report by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. About 58,000 claimed the credit for a fourth consecutive year in 2007.

The report said the Internal Revenue Service needs better tools to detect and fix inaccurate claims, and the IRS agreed. The problem should ease since Congress has expanded the credit to four years of college, for those claiming the credit in 2009 and 2010.


Campaign funds pay lawyers’ fees

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. | Campaign contributions to retired U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, New Mexico Republican, paid for more than $700,000 in lawyers’ bills arising from an ethics investigation into his role in the 2007 firing of former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias.

Mr. Domenici’s People for Pete committee listed $705,043 in legal fees, with $602,054 going to the Washington, firm of O’Melveny & Myers.

The spending was disclosed in an October 2008 report to the Federal Election Commission.

Mr. Domenici’s committee did not get an FEC ruling in advance about the expenditures.

FEC press officer Judith Ingram said the committee requested an advisory opinion about spending campaign funds for legal fees but withdrew its request because the FEC lacked a quorum to rule.

In other cases from Congress, the FEC has issued opinions saying such spending conformed to the law.

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