Candidates court support of county sheriff
PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio makes inmates wear pink underwear, live in tents during Arizona’s sweltering summers and eat green bologna. The Justice Department is investigating him for potential civil rights violations in his sweeping immigration patrols and his office has been accused of trumping up charges against political rivals.
While any sheriff with such a resume might seem like one politicians would avoid, some Republican presidential candidates are courting the man who describes himself as America’s toughest sheriff.
Sheriff Arpaio met recently with Republican presidential candidates Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann. And he says he has recently had conversations with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. During the last election Sheriff Arpaio endorsed Mr. Romney, but he says he hasn’t decided whom to back this time around.
Romney is on cruise control amid rivals’ woes
EXETER — Mitt Romney is on cruise control as his Republican presidential rivals struggle to overcome personal and campaign woes.
Mr. Romney hasn’t taken questions from voters in 10 days. Instead, the former Massachusetts governor has been raising money and positioning his campaign for a general election clash against President Obama. He has yet to run his first television ad.
The low-profile strategy is possible largely because of his opponents’ problems.
Herman Cain is facing another charge of an unwanted sexual advance. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is explaining quirky campaign trail behavior. Other candidates are struggling to keep staff and raise money.
Ex-lawmaker, aide convicted in state corruption scandal
HARRISBURG — A once-powerful former state Republican lawmaker was convicted Tuesday in a corruption case focusing on the illegal use of millions of taxpayer dollars and state employees for political campaign work.
Former Rep. Brett Feese, a one-time House Republican Campaign Committee chairman, was found guilty of all 40 charges against him. Prosecutors said Feese was involved in hiring out-of-state consultants with public money and diverting legislative employees to work on voter-information databases and other high-tech tools to help elect more Republicans to the General Assembly.
Jill Seaman, Feese’s former legislative aide and co-defendant, was convicted on identical charges in the scandal, which also ensnared a former House speaker.
Feese’s attorney said an appeal is inevitable, while Seaman’s attorney did not rule out that possibility.
The jury of six men and six women reached their verdicts after deliberating for a week following five weeks of testimony.
Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis tentatively set sentencing for Jan. 9.
Wife of jailed agent asked to pay fine
After successfully winning a two-year prison sentence against U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jesus E. Diaz Jr., the Justice Department is now trying to collect a $6,870 fine from his wife, saying it should be paid “immediately” - even though the judge signaled she would have a grace period.
In a notice sent last week the Justice Department said the fines were imposed by the court that found Diaz guilty and sentenced him to prison for improperly restraining a 15-year-old suspected of drug smuggling.
“We strongly urge you to pay this debt immediately,” said the notice, which was received by Diana Diaz, who is also a Border Patrol agent.
But Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Tuesday asking that the fine be canceled or at the least be delayed until after his appeal. Mr. Hunter said the judge in the case told Mrs. Diaz that the process for fines wouldn’t begin until a month after he was released from federal prison.
“The case involving Agent Diaz deserves special consideration under the circumstances,” Mr. Hunter said.
The Justice Department didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Hunter had earlier written a letter asking Mr. Holder why the Justice Department pursued the case against Diaz even after two internal reviews cleared him of wrongdoing. A third review did say Diaz violated rules when he twisted the suspected smuggler’s arms and used his knee to apply pressure to the man’s body. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas brought charges.
Members of Congress have challenged the Justice Department’s prosecution, saying it could make agents less effective. Mr. Hunter said it “sets a dangerous precedent and creates unnecessary confusion among law enforcement on the border.”
WorldNetDaily reported the fine notice Monday night, saying a charitable organization, the Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council, has begun trying to raise money for Diaz’s family.
Democrat Heitkamp plans bid for U.S. Senate
MANDAN — Former North Dakota Democratic attorney general and tax commissioner Heidi Heitkamp says she will make a run for the U.S. Senate.
The 56-year-old Ms. Heitkamp made it official Tuesday, saying in a statement that Washington is “badly broken.” She will seek the party’s endorsement for the seat held by longtime Democratic incumbent Kent Conrad, who is retiring next year.
Former University of North Dakota teacher and current Presbyterian lay pastor Thomas Potter of Grand Forks also is seeking the Democratic endorsement. Freshman U.S. Rep. Rick Berg and Bismarck businessman Duane Sand are competing for the Republican endorsement to run for Mr. Conrad’s seat.
Ms. Heitkamp ran for governor in 2000 but lost to Republican John Hoeven, who is now a colleague of Mr. Conrad’s in the Senate.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports