- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Lawmakers cite possible probe

AUSTIN | Texas House officials criticized one of their own members Tuesday for billing both his campaign and taxpayers for the same travel expenses, saying the reimbursements might prompt an internal investigation, criminal probe or both.

State Rep. Joe Driver acknowledged to the Associated Press on Monday that for years he has been pocketing thousands of dollars in taxpayer money for expenses that his campaign already had funded. The Republican is vowing to rectify any “inadvertent” billing mistakes he has made.

Mr. Driver, presented with findings from the AP, said that for years he has been submitting the same receipts - for luxury hotels, airline tickets, meals and fees - to both his campaign and to the Texas House of Representatives. He also has been collecting thousands of dollars in state mileage reimbursements for travel in vehicles for which his campaign has shelled out more than $100,000 since 2000.

GOP Rep. Chuck Hopson, chairman of the House General Investigating & Ethics Committee, said he has called the Travis County district attorney to determine whether a criminal investigation is under way while he contemplates his own internal probe of conduct “that doesn’t make the rest of legislators look good.”


Mourners honor Rostenkowski

CHICAGO | Inside the Chicago church where he was baptized and confirmed, former U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski was remembered Tuesday as a guy from the neighborhood who just happened to be one of the most powerful men in the nation.

An 18-term congressman whose illustrious political career ended with an ignominious corruption conviction and prison stint, Mr. Rostenkowski grew to be one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress. He was credited with pushing through a 1986 overhaul of the nation’s tax system and leading the 1983 effort to rescue Social Security from insolvency.

His funeral Mass - which was attended by hundreds of people including Mayor Richard Daley and New York Congressman Charles B. Rangel - was a formal send-off for a one-time pillar of American power. But it felt like a gathering of old friends, who told stories about a man known as “Poppi” to his only grandson and as “Danny,” “Rosty” and “Boss,” to his former colleagues and friends.


Bell cuts taxes amid scrutiny

BELL | The City Council, embroiled in a pay and pension scandal, unanimously voted Tuesday to lower property taxes after a state audit showed it overcharged residents to cover pension costs for exorbitantly paid staffers.

In a meeting that lasted nearly nine hours, the council also gave control over the next municipal election to Los Angeles County and cut copying fees for public records.

A state audit last week found Bell had overcharged residents more than $3 million during the past three years to pay for pension obligations.

The finding came after prosecutors launched investigations into high salaries paid to the city’s leaders, including nearly $800,000 to the former city manager.

Bell is a community of about 37,000 people located about 10 miles south of Los Angeles.

Hundreds of residents showed up at the meeting, demanding four of the five council members resign and reprimanding the panel for turning Bell into what was called an epicenter of corruption.

“If you have any dignity, you need to resign,” resident Violeta Alvarez said during the public comment period.

A man dressed as a clown referred to the lawmakers as the “City Clowncil.”

Council member Lorenzo Velez has avoided the anger directed at his colleagues because he was never drawing the high salary of nearly $100,000 a year they were, and he was one of the early supporters of reform in the city.


Allen to discuss Jewish lineage

RICHMOND | Former Sen. George Allen will publicly discuss his mother’s Jewish heritage before a Jewish group this week for the first time.

Readying for an expected rematch against Democratic Sen. Jim Webb, Mr. Allen is scheduled to discuss his mother’s and grandfather’s lineage Thursday at the National Jewish Retreat in Reston.

In his failed 2006 re-election bid, Mr. Allen bristled during a debate with Mr. Webb when asked about reports that his mother, Etty, is Jewish.

It was among several blunders leading to Mr. Allen’s upset. He called a Webb aide of Indian descent “Macaca,” a slur in some cultures.

Mr. Allen’s Jewish grandfather was a resistance fighter in French Tunisia whom the Nazis imprisoned during World War II.


Former Hill staffer takes on budget

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has put a former Capitol Hill staffer and fellow Republican in charge of his ambitious effort to find billions of dollars in budget waste.

In a memo obtained Tuesday by the Associated Press, Mr. Gates says Robert Rangel will lead a new task force focused on how to spend less on contractors, close the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., and pare back the number of senior civilian employees and general officers at the Pentagon.

Mr. Gates has said these initiatives will help him achieve his goal of finding $100 billion in cost savings in the next five years.

Mr. Rangel is a former Republican staff director on the House Armed Services Committee. He has been serving as a special assistant to Mr. Gates.


FBI, ATF must work together

The Justice Department is settling a turf war between two federal law enforcement agencies.

A department audit found nationwide conflicts between the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives over which agency is in charge of federal explosives investigations.

Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary G. Grindler sent a memo to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and Ken Melson, the top-ranking official at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

That memo says the FBI will be the lead agency for domestic terrorism explosives investigations, as well as explosives probes with links to international terrorism or weapons of mass destruction. ATF will be the lead agency for everything else in the explosives realm.


Judge blasts leak in Obama aunt case

BOSTON | A judge in Boston who granted asylum to President Obama’s African aunt ruled she deserved to stay in the United States because a federal government official leaked her status to a news organization.

U.S. Immigration Judge Leonard Shapiro granted asylum to Zeituni Onyango in May. His written decision was released this week through the Freedom of Information Act and first was reported by the Boston Globe.

The judge found a federal government official disclosed Miss Onyango’s immigration status and her relationship to Mr. Obama to the Associated Press three days before the 2008 presidential election. He said the disclosure could make her a target if she were sent back to her native Kenya.

The 58-year-old Miss Onyango lives in public housing in Boston. She’s the half sister of Obama’s late father.

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