Thursday, October 15, 2009


Wexler to quit House in January

BOCA RATON, Fla. | U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler will resign in January to become president of the Center for Middle East Peace.

Mr. Wexler, a Florida Democrat who was first elected to his congressional seat in 1996, announced his plans at a press conference at his Boca Raton office Wednesday. The 48-year-old congressman called the move a “bittersweet” moment, but said it was the “best plan for me at this time.”

Mr. Wexler is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He represents Florida’s 19th District, which covers parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties. Because he will leave before the end of his term, Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, will call a special election to fill the seat.


Corzine aides told to ‘stretch’ truth

TRENTON, N.J. | New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine’s Cabinet has been told to orchestrate events to showcase job creation, even if it’s “a stretch.”

Mr. Corzine, a Democrat, is locked in a tight race for re-election with Republican Chris Christie and polls show the economy is a major issue.

The Star-Ledger of Newark obtained an Oct. 5 e-mail from Mr. Corzine’s deputy chief of staff, Mark Matzen. He asked the heads of several departments to come up with events that “get our message out” that Mr. Corzine’s economic policies are working.

Mr. Matzen went on to say that while many programs might not create jobs directly, they do have some connection through “training, giving money to sustain employment or create demand for workers.”

Corzine spokesman Steve Sigmund says the effort doesn’t have anything to do with the campaign.


Obama seeks $250 for seniors

President Obama called on Congress on Wednesday to approve $250 payments to more than 50 million seniors to make up for no increase in Social Security next year.

The White House put the cost at $13 billion. The Social Security Administration is scheduled to announce Thursday that there will be no cost of living increase next year. By law, increases are pegged to inflation, which has been negative this year.

It would mark the first year without an increase in Social Security payments since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975.

“Even as we seek to bring about recovery, we must act on behalf of those hardest-hit by this recession,” Mr. Obama said. “This additional assistance will be especially important in the coming months, as countless seniors and others have seen their retirement accounts and home values decline as a result of this economic crisis.”


Sen. Reid raises millions in quarter

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is nearly half way to reaching his goal of raising $25 million as he seeks to win a fifth term.

The Nevada Democrat raised about $2 million during the latest quarter, ending Sept. 30. After accounting for expenses, Mr. Reid has about $8.7 million in the bank, with about a year to go before the November 2010 election.

Several Republicans have announced their intentions to challenge Mr. Reid, but have not yet had to submit fundraising reports to the Federal Election Commission. Mr. Reid figures to have a significant financial advantage going into the general election, although he trails in recent polls.


Judge tells jury to keep trying

A judge directed a jury Wednesday to keep deliberating, despite its inability to reach a verdict on seven of eight charges in the criminal trial of an ex-lobbyist caught up in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal.

The panel reached a verdict on one count Tuesday, but has not disclosed what it decided. Wednesday’s note from the jury was the second time in two days that jurors in the case of Kevin Ring told the judge they are divided on the other seven counts, and see little likelihood of reaching unanimity.

Mr. Ring is charged with providing thousands of dollars worth of tickets and meals to the congressional offices of former Republican Reps. John Doolittle of California and Ernest Istook of Oklahoma and to Justice Department officials in return for congressional appropriations and other assistance for Abramoff’s clients.

The jurors began deliberating Oct. 5, but that amount of time is not that long on a complicated case, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle told the panel of seven women and five men.


Civil rights chief to spotlight gays

The Obama administration’s point man on civil rights says he will fight discrimination against gays, an area in which the Justice Department has historically had only a small role.

Tom Perez, who is the assistant attorney general in charge of the department’s Civil Rights Division, says pending legislation in Congress will allow the department to attack discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.

That would be new ground for the division, which has historically pursued cases alleging discrimination based on race, gender or religion. And it would be a major departure from the George W. Bush administration, which opposed expansion of the federal hate-crimes law to allow federal prosecutions of those who attack gays.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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