- - Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Banks told to watch Egypt-related transactions

The Treasury Department Wednesday advised American financial institutions to closely monitor transactions related to Egypt for any possible signs that state assets were being misappropriated.

The advisory, issued by the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, said banks should apply enhanced scrutiny to private banking accounts involving “foreign political figures.”

It also advised institutions to “monitor transactions that could potentially represent misappropriated or diverted state assets, proceeds of bribery or other illegal payments, or other public corruption proceeds.”


Subpoena seeks records on ‘sweetheart’ loans

A House committee chairman renewed efforts Wednesday to obtain names of current and former federal, state and local policymakers including congressional colleagues who received “sweetheart” mortgage deals from the former Countrywide Financial Corp.

The subpoena by Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, makes it more likely that the records could be made public.

A subpoena in 2009, when Democrats controlled the committee, specified that information on discounted loans to members of Congress and their spouses go only to the House ethics committee with all names deleted. The ethics committee has never revealed the information it obtained.


Obama, Kaine discuss Senate seat in Va.

President Obama spoke by phone Wednesday with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine about the race to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Jim Webb in Virginia, officials said.

The conversation came as Democrats are urging the former Virginia governor to launch a campaign. It was confirmed by a White House official and a Democratic Party official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Separate from the call, several Democratic officials said Wednesday Mr. Kaine is reconsidering his initial reluctance to run and wants more time to think about it. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr. Kaine has not made a decision.

“I think his view is it’s on the table right now and that he owes it to himself and to Virginia and the party to give it some thought,” said one Democratic strategist familiar with Mr. Kaine’s thinking. “Clearly, he’s thinking about it, and he’s not a definitive ‘no,’ or this would have been done already.”

Democrats see Virginia as a pivotal state in the 2012 election. Mr. Obama won it in 2008, and having a solid Senate candidate on the ballot next year would boost his chances of repeating. The race also could help determine control of the Senate, where Democrats currently hold a 53-47 majority, but have to defend 23 seats in 2012, while Republicans have to defend only 10.


Lawmakers to consider patent reform after recess

The Senate aims to begin consideration next month of a bipartisan bill to revamp the U.S. patent system and reduce the likelihood of what critics see as excessive damage awards, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday.

The Nevada Democrat said he plans to bring the bill to the Senate floor after lawmakers return from a weeklong recess set to start Friday.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, voiced confidence that the measure would win approval, which would send it to the Republican-led House of Representatives for concurrence.

“I feel good about it,” said Mr. Durbin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which reported out the measure on a 15-0 vote this month.

The bill would give judges a major role in determining how important a particular patent is to a product, so that infringing minor patents would not lead to huge damages.

The bill also would give a patent to the first inventor to file, rather than the first to invent, making the patent-application process easier for companies that apply for patents in multiple countries.

“We will take that up the week we get back,” Mr. Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill.


Giffords’ friends schedule campaign fundraiser

Congressional friends of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who was shot in Tucson in January, are planning a fundraiser for her 2012 re-election campaign.

Democrats Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida are organizing the March 15 reception in Washington.

“We are so proud of her as she continues to make incredible strides in her recovery,” the three lawmakers wrote in a letter included with the invitation. “We look forward to seeing her again soon and to the day that she will rejoin us in the halls of Congress.”

The lawmakers wrote that they were seeking support for the fundraising event so Ms. Giffords could focus on the “important work of her recovery.”


GOP plan leaves out $150 million for Metro

Congress is working on a spending plan to fund the federal government through September that does not include $150 million that the Washington-area’s Metro system had been promised to improve safety.

In 2008, Congress enacted the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, promising $1.5 billion over 10 years for upgrades. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Virginia Democrat, introduced an amendment to restore the funding in fiscal year 2011, but it was killed by Republicans.

The budget President Obama unveiled this week for fiscal year 2012 does include the $150 million payment.


Rep. Rangel files papers for re-election campaign

NEW YORK | Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, plans to run for re-election in 2012 despite his convictions on several House ethics charges.

The dean of the state’s congressional delegation filed a statement of candidacy this week with the Federal Election Commission.

Spokesman Bob Liff said Mr. Rangel did so to begin fundraising.

Mr. Rangel was convicted of 11 ethics violations. They include failure to pay some taxes and using congressional resources to raise money for an academic center bearing his name. The House voted last year for censure, the most serious congressional penalty short of expulsion.

Mr. Rangel cruised to re-election last year after winning a crowded Democratic primary in September.

The 80-year-old Mr. Rangel has spoken of his age, leading some to speculate that he would not run again.

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