- - Sunday, March 13, 2011


Big donors taking time entering ‘12 race

The potential White House candidates need cash.

But donors aren’t eager to shell out until the hopefuls prove they’re credible.

Which they can’t - until they have the cash lined up to start their campaigns.

This explains, in part, why the 2012 Republican primary race has yet to begin in earnest.

“It’s a little sluggish. The major donor folks are sitting back a bit,” said Rob Bickhart, a former Republican National Committee finance chairman who is helping former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Less than a year before the lead-off primaries and caucuses, many of the Republican Party’s biggest fundraisers aren’t aligned with any one candidate, and many are holding back to see who emerges as a front-runner in a field that lacks one.

“I have spoken to just about everyone,” said Larry Bathgate, RNC finance chairman under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Mr. Bathgate isn’t sold on a 2012 candidate yet.

Four years ago at this point in the campaign, Republicans hoping to succeed President George W. Bush were on the road in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and their fundraisers were burning up phone lines to pay for the frequent trips.

Not this time.

All-but-certain candidates Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty have lined up pieces of their fundraising teams; others are moving more slowly. None is eager to start spending.

Even some of the donors who are already supporting candidates aren’t entirely convinced.

“It’s an open field,” said Mel Sembler, a real estate mogul and former RNC finance chairman.


Florida’s spurned $2.4B back up for grabs

The Obama administration says it’s taking back the $2.4 billion allocated to Florida for high-speed trains and is inviting other states to apply for the money.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement Friday that he will make the funds available through competitive bidding to states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors.

The Florida project would have connected Tampa and Orlando with high-speed trains. But Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, said he didn’t want to obligate the state to pay for what could be expensive operating costs for the line.

Mr. LaHood’s actions appeared to put an end to the on-again, off-again negotiations between Mr. Scott and supporters of the project trying to find a formula to keep it alive.


State lawmakers oppose airport pat-downs

JUNEAU | The Alaska House of Representatives has passed a resolution urging the Transportation Security Administration to reconsider its use of full-body pat-downs and calling on Congress to exercise greater oversight over the agency.

The resolution comes after state Rep. Sharon Cissna, Anchorage Democrat, was singled out for a pat-down in Seattle last month when a full-body scan showed scars from breast cancer surgery.

Mrs. Cissna said she had submitted to such a search before but considered it invasive and vowed not to endure it again.

To return to Juneau, she opted for a four-day journey by rental car, small plane, taxicab and ferry.

Mrs. Cissna is scheduled to testify before a congressional subcommittee in Washington next week.

The Alaska resolution passed 37-1. Republican Rep. Bob Lynn opposed it, saying we live in dangerous times.


Obama, journalists ham it up at dinner

President Obama spared few targets Saturday night, from Democratic allies to Republican antagonists to the journalists who cover him.

At his first presidential appearance before the Gridiron Club, Mr. Obama picked up on the spirit of the evening, leveling jokes in every direction, including his own.

He jabbed at potential Republican presidential rivals. He saluted Mississippi’s portly Gov. Haley Barbour, saying he appreciated his support of first lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign.

“Haley, when Michelle said you should run, she didn’t mean for president.”

He didn’t spare himself, either. He noted that last time he was at the Gridiron, in 2006, he was a first-term senator from Illinois.

“Back then, I was a newcomer who couldn’t get anything done in the Senate. Now I’m a president who can’t get anything done in the Senate.”


Court tosses Kohring conviction

JUNEAU | A federal appeals court on Friday tossed out former Alaska lawmaker Victor Kohring’s bribery conviction and ordered a new trial, finding that prosecutors had withheld information that could have been favorable to his defense.

One judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a partially dissenting opinion that went even further. Judge Betty Fletcher argued that an indictment against Mr. Kohring should have been dismissed and said the case exemplifies “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct.”

Mr. Kohring was accused of taking money from officials of an oil-field service company, then offering to do their bidding in the Legislature.

He was convicted in 2007 of conspiracy to commit extortion, attempted extortion and bribery, and was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison, but he was released in 2009 while his case underwent further review. He is currently free on bond, living in Alaska.

In an opinion written by Judge Sidney R. Thomas, a three-judge appeals court panel found the prosecution failed to disclose evidence that could have benefited Mr. Kohring.

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