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  527's to Be LimitedMarch 31, 2006 20:26 The attack-dog political groups known as 527s that helped shape the last presidential election by pouring millions of dollars into bruising advertising campaigns may soon be leashed.

In a response to a lawsuit filed by Congressman Marty Meehan, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled Wednesday that the Federal Election Commission's oversight of 527s is a "total failure," demonstrated by the groups' unbridled infusion of $400 million into the 2004 elections.

The FEC decided before the election that 527s -- named after a section of tax code -- were not political committees, and thus were not required to abide by campaign laws limiting the amount of money they can collect from individuals.

As a result, the groups received mountains of unregulated soft money, which they used for television advertising campaigns that attacked, or backed, political candidates.

  Former Delay Aide Pleads GuiltyMarch 31, 2006 17:28 A former top aide to Rep. Tom DeLay pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and promised to cooperate with a federal investigation of bribery and lobbying fraud that has so far netted three convictions and prompted calls for ethics reform in Congress.

Tony Rudy, DeLay's former deputy chief of staff, admitted to conspiring with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff both while Rudy worked for DeLay and after he left the lawmaker's staff to become a lobbyist himself.

He faces up to five years in prison, but could receive much less based on the extent of his help with the investigation, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle told Rudy at a court hearing in Washington.

  Baucus blocks Bush pick for highway agencyMarch 30, 2006 16:25 Flexing political muscle, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., is blocking President Bush s pick to head the Federal Highway Administration in retaliation for the agency s handling of a $50 million appropriation for Glacier National Park s Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Federal Highway Administration officials have insisted that a long-term transportation bill approved by Congress last year authorized but failed to appropriate the $50 million.

But Baucus argues that the money has been lost to bureaucratic misinterpretation of language in the transportation bill, and he s following through on his pledge to lean on the agency to change its position by opposing the recent nomination of Richard Capka to lead the administration.

  Rep. Lane Evans (D-IL) to RetireMarch 29, 2006 19:26 U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, a former Marine who was elected to Congress 24 years ago as a long-shot candidate who promised to "send Reagan a message," announced Tuesday that he intended to retire from his western Illinois seat after battling Parkinson's disease for more than a decade.

The Rock Island Democrat, who was briefly hospitalized last month, had not cast a vote or been to his Capitol office since Feb. 14. He pledged to seek re-election to a 13th term, but over the weekend he concluded the "window of opportunity is now closing."

"I fully expected that I would continue my work for the foreseeable future," Evans said in a statement. "But I have come to recognize that the time needed to address my health makes it difficult to wage a campaign and carry out my work as a representative."

  Nelson Leads Over Harris in FL Senate Race PollsMarch 29, 2006 19:24 U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's re-election bid is maintaining a solid lead over the stumbling challenge of Rep. Katherine Harris, according to a statewide poll released on Tuesday.

Despite a couple weeks of internal turmoil - including a financial embarrassment, the departure of some campaign aides and the announcement that she will put $10 million of her own money into the race - Harris held her base of slightly more than one-third of the vote. But Nelson, who was targeted by the White House as one of five "red state" Democrats who might be toppled, remained above 50 percent in the Mason-Dixon Florida Poll.

Nelson's lead was bolstered by a crossover vote of 21 percent of Republicans in the survey. By contrast, only 7 percent of Democrats said they would support Harris.

"I'm just going to keep doing the job people elected me to do," Nelson said of the numbers.

  Abramoff Gets Nearly 6 Years In Fraud CaseMarch 29, 2006 19:18 Disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a former business partner were sentenced today to five years and 10 months in prison for fraud related to their 2000 purchase of the SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet.

The sentences were the minimum under their plea agreement in the case.

Abramoff and Adam Kidan, who both pleaded guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud, won't start their sentences immediately so they can continue cooperating in a Washington corruption investigation and a Florida probe into the murder of former SunCruz owner Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis.

In court, Abramoff said the case was "incredibly painful" for himself, his family and his friends.

  Bush finds a very different IndianaMarch 28, 2006 20:52 President Bush is finding that his 'base' support is eroding in the most unlikely places, such as the Indianapolis neighborhoods that helped give him a whopping victory in 2004.
  Nader: A Call To All Good AmericansMarch 28, 2006 16:50 Although I'm not a huge fan, Ralph Nader speaks for many progressives out there:

Attention please, good people! Adjust your routines and come to the aid of your country, and your children with your thoughtful patriotism. Don't just hope for impeachment, demand the resignation now of the mad hatters in the White House - George W. Bush and Richard Cheney.

Already, a large majority of you do not consider this shifty duo trustworthy. By more than two to one you disapprove of Bush's war in Iraq. Similar majorities believe this is also a President whose administrative incompetence - note the post-Katrina debacles compared to his promises last September in that devastated New Orleans - nearly matches his penchant for daily fabrications.

The precipitous drop in Bush's polls (Cheney's are even lower) is not coming from liberals who long ago registered negative in these national surveys. The drop is coming from millions of erstwhile Bush supporters, Bush voters, Bush-loving conservatives.

Why? Just look at or read the news every day. There goes Bush and Cheney insisting that conditions in Iraq are getting better and better, when they are getting worse and worse. And Americans also know this because hundreds of thousands of soldiers and other personnel are rotating from Iraq back into every state and community and telling millions of people the truth.

  Good vs. Evil Doesn't Work in the Real WorldMarch 28, 2006 16:48 This commentator discusses the results of the president's marginalizing framing of world conflicts into "good vs. evil" buckets. The result is that Iran is more dangerous than ever, but also virtually untouchable by the US in a post-preemptive-strike political world.
  Bush Names Bolten Chief Of Staff after Card ResignsMarch 28, 2006 16:35 President Bush named long-time aide Joshua Bolten as his new chief of staff on Tuesday in the first major White House shakeup since Bush was re-elected.
Some Republicans have urged the president to bring in fresh blood after a series of political missteps that have weakened the White House and sent Bush's poll numbers to new lows.
Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, has worked on Wall Street and in Congress and brings a broad array of experience in financial and political matters. Yet his ascension may not signal a marked departure in White House strategy since he's a long-time member of Bush's inner circle.
  Candidates Want Bush'S Cash, Sans BushMarch 27, 2006 23:39 As the 2006 congressional campaigns get into gear, there are two George W. Bushes traveling the country.
One, the fundraiser, is welcome anywhere, anytime. Since January 2005, the president has set a record pace in raising cash for Republican campaign committees and individual candidates - $88 million at 26 events.

The other, the campaigner, appears radioactive, at least to candidates in tough races. When President Bush delivered a speech on Iraq in Cleveland last week, Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine (R) was nowhere to be seen. Last Friday, Bush traveled to the Pittsburgh area to raise money for Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania - the No. 3 Republican in the Senate and another incumbent struggling to win reelection - but the two did not appear together in public.

Vice President Cheney, whose job approval ratings are even lower than Bush's, is in the same boat: He's a money magnet at Republican fundraisers, but if it's for a candidate in a tight race, forget about the photo op.

  Some Political Ads On Net To Be RegulatedMarch 27, 2006 23:07 The Federal Election Commission extended its rules about campaign ads to some Internet Web sites, it said, to ensure political committees properly finance and disclose their Internet communications.

The FEC approved the new standards at its meeting March 27.

The FEC now requires that candidates for federal office disclose their spending on advertising that appears on a Web site or accompanying an Internet search result.

A large swath of the Internet and Internet publishers appear to be untouched by the edict. According to a 96-page draft of the rules made public March 24, also excluded are bloggers who don't take paid political ads plus politically focused e-mails sent to less than 500 addresses at a time.

More than a year in the making, the FEC is now weighing in on this issue because more people get their news and information from the Internet and, simultaneously, more political campaigning is being done online.

In fact, the number of Americans using the Internet for political information doubled between 2000 and 2004 to 63 million, while 18 percent of Americans said they got a majority of their information about the 2004 presidential election from the Internet.

Yet at the same time, the FEC was under pressure to take a light-handed touch in order not to dampen the freewheeling spirit of the Internet. Of particular note are the growing number of bloggers and their growing political clout.

"Everyday activity, even when political in nature, will not be affected by the changes made in this rulemaking," the FEC wrote in the draft of the rules.

Several commentators digesting the rules cheered its light touch, especially on bloggers.

  NPR Tracks Burns And Abramoff Getting Cozy; Schweitzer Wants An Early PrimaryMarch 27, 2006 17:41 On National Public Radio this week, correspondent John Ydstie has closely retraced the events that brought indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Sen. Conrad Burns together, ending in a surprise earmark on an Interior appropriations bill that sent $3 million to a Michigan tribe.

As Ydstie writes, the earmark was legal but the events leading up to it raises questions whether Abramoff s influence was directly connected to Burns move to fund the tribe.

In other news, Gov. Brian Schweitzer voices his support for Montana joining other Western states in holding an early presidential primary, with the hope it will stir U.S. Presidential candidates to actually take a stand on issues that affect the West.

  Bush setting up for yet another controversial power grabMarch 27, 2006 13:34 On March 28, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the "military commissions" created by President George W. Bush in November 2001 to prosecute suspected al Qaeda terrorists are a time-honored presidential prerogative or (as I have reluctantly come to believe) another unwise, unconstitutional Bush power-grab.

The legal issues in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld are complex and difficult, and the outcome is hard to predict. What's already clear beyond dispute, however, is that the supposedly speedy, streamlined system of military commissions -- which took nearly three years to start its first trial -- has in practice been a fiasco and an international embarrassment.

  Katrina Donation From Bush Earmarked For Bush FirmMarch 27, 2006 13:30 In a poor attempt to avoid taxes and fund business, former first lady Barbara Bush gave relief money to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund on the condition that it be spent to buy educational software from her son Neil's company.

The chief of staff of former President George H.W. Bush would not disclose the amount earmarked for purchases from Ignite Learning.

To compund this, Neil's software company received angel funding from none other than the Dubai government.

  Thomas plays into W's hands; Bush uses hostile D.C. veteran correspondent to energize theMarch 23, 2006 14:39 James P. Pinkerton

Remember the golden apple of discord? That fateful fruit triggered the Trojan War. At his Tuesday press conference, President George W. Bush showed that he, too, can lob a mean apple at the Democrats.

In Greek mythology, the gods were feasting when Eris, the goddess of strife, threw a golden apple on the dinner table; inscribed on it were the words, "To the most beautiful." Naturally, all the goddesses thought that the apple was meant for them. To settle the controversy, Zeus sought out a mortal, from Troy. Next thing, the Greeks were involved, too - and the rest is history, of a kind.

OK, back to contemporary American politics. Bush has thrown the apple of discord onto the Democrats' table. Yes, he and his poll ratings are down, mired in Iraq, but he figures that if the Democrats are also at war - with each other - then the donkeys will be in no position to exploit the elephants' weakness.

Bush's discordant apple is the homefront wrangle over Iraq. Many Republicans and conservatives are disillusioned over the course of the war, but even so, they don't want to see their president and their party getting hammered by Democrats and liberals. So if Bush is attacked, they must defend.

  Where is the money tree? The House Oks $92B For Wars, HurricanesMarch 17, 2006 14:30 The Senate probably will give President Bush most of the money he wants for the Iraq war and Gulf Coast hurricane reconstruction while setting aside bipartisan worries about the enormous costs of both.

That's what the House did when it voted 348-71 Thursday to approve $92 billion in supplemental funds for Iraq and Afghanistan military operations and Hurricane Katrina cleanup, slightly less than what the president sought.

"Our troops need every resource available to stay safe on the ground and fight off insurgent attacks," Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert said. The bill, he added, "recognizes the needs on the front lines of the war and responds."

President Bush, in a statement, praised the House vote and urged the Senate to follow suit promptly. "This bill will give our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan tools they need to prevail in the war on terror," he said. "The legislation also provides for additional resources for the people of the Gulf Coast as they continue the work of rebuilding their lives and communities."

  Will Russ Feingold Stand Alone Again? - CBS NewsMarch 14, 2006 16:59 Russ Feingold is used to being alone. He is the one in the 99 to 1 vote in the Senate against the Patriot Act in 2001 and the lone Democrat to vote against dismissing impeachment charges against President Clinton in 1999.

On Monday Feingold introduced a resolution to censure President Bush for his actions in authorizing the illegal wiretapping program and then misleading the country about the existence and legality of the program. He says the resolution is an appropriate and responsible step for Congress to take in response to the president s undermining of the separation of powers and ignoring the rule of law.

There was an immediate outcry from Republicans. The Republican National Committee called it Feingold s Folly and accused the Democrats of playing politics with the most important issue facing the American people and sending the wrong message to our enemies ....

On Monday Vice President Cheney encouraged boos for Feingold at a fundraiser in Feingold s home state of Wisconsin and dared other Democrats to support the resolution.

Seems like somethiing worth debating but the reaction by all in congress is more like what one would expect of high schoolers. Why cant our politicians defend their views on such matters with intelliectual debate.

  Feingold Draws Little Support For CensureMarch 14, 2006 06:07 Democrats distanced themselves Monday from Wisconsin Sen. Russell Feingold's effort to censure President Bush over domestic spying, preventing a floor vote that could alienate swing voters.

A day of tough, election-year talk between Feingold and Vice President Dick Cheney ended with Senate leaders sending the matter to the Judiciary Committee.

It would be good to see a debate on this topic.

  Country on "Wrong Track"March 10, 2006 16:37 U.S. President George W. Bush's approval rating dropped back to its lowest level, and two-thirds of Americans think the country is on the ``wrong track,'' an Associated Press/Ipsos poll showed.

Bush in the past month has battled with Republican lawmakers over his approval of a deal that would have allowed Dubai's state-owned DP World to take over terminal operations at six U.S. ports. His administration has also been beset by an upsurge of sectarian violence in Iraq since the Feb. 22 bombing of a mosque.

Only 37 percent of Americans surveyed in the March 6-8 poll said they approved of the way Bush is handling his job, according to results on the Ipsos Web site. That's down from 40 percent last month, and matches the results for November and October, the lowest in the Ipsos data series that goes back to July 2003.

  Professor Calls Bush War On Terror "Mostly Rhetoric"March 08, 2006 19:51 Writing in the Danville, KY Advocate-Messenger, Brian Cooney, a Professor at Centre College, today called President Bush's war on terror "mostly rhetoric - an excuse for invading Iraq and an election slogan to distract us from the damage he is causing at home and abroad."

I suspect that many Americans would consider that harsh. I don't. I think that's an assessment that's fully supported by the evidence of how our President and his crew have handled their announced war on terror.

First, you really have a dichotomy between what they do overseas (war, torture of detainees, dire warnings to countries who are not "with us" in our war), and what they do here in our own country (port security remains almost nonexistent, border security seems to be slipping below what it was on 9/11, and no one on the administration, at least officially, sees any problem with a state-run company from Dubai taking over major port operations.

  Texas Republican Voters Still Stupid... Vote for DeLayMarch 08, 2006 15:52 Proving that Texas Republicans are either stupid, clueless, or completely in corrupt politician's pockets, embattled Texas Congressman Tom DeLay has won the Republican primary.

The lawmaker from Sugar Land will face Democratic ex-congressman Nick Lampson, who had no primary opponent.

DeLay won the G-O-P race in his first election since losing his U-S House majority leader post last year.

  Presidential Impeachment on the Move?March 08, 2006 15:45 Today ImpeachPAC endorsed its third pro-impeachment candidate for Congress, Jeeni Criscenzo, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary to challenge Republican incumbent and former car thief Darrell Issa to represent California's 49th District.

Criscenzo has already been endorsed by the San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council, Progressive Democrats of San Diego, Democracy for America Meetup #23 (San Diego), and Progressive Democrats of America (national).

Criscenzo has been a leading opponent of the Iraq War since before the invasion. She organized the Bring Their Buddies Home vigils as a non-confrontational way of showing people the human cost of war.

Her campaign website makes clear her opposition to criminal policies of the Bush regime.

  Prepared Text Of Gov. Jeb Bush's Final State Of The State SpeechMarch 07, 2006 18:26 Jeb is headed out due to term limitations in Florida... and I thought at one point that those were a bad thing...

Poke a little fun at his speech if you like.

  U.S. Rep. Thomas Announces Retirement From CongressMarch 06, 2006 20:10 U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas said on Monday he would retire from the House of Representatives at the end of his current term, leaving open to speculation the future for the veteran lawmaker.

The California Republican, who was instrumental in helping President George W. Bush win passage of his tax cut proposals, would have stepped down as chairman of the powerful tax writing committee after this year anyway because of term limits set by House Republicans.

  America For Sale: New Report Documents Cost Of Republican Corruption For American PeopleMarch 05, 2006 00:00 Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, today released a report documenting the unprecedented level of corruption which has come to define Congress and the federal government under Republican leadership.

"America for Sale: The Cost of Republican Corruption," presents for the first time a comprehensive review and analysis of the major ethics scandals which have shaken Washington during the last five years of Republican rule, and reveals how deep the culture of corruption nurtured by the Republican Party's leadership goes.

"This report explains why all Americans should be upset about the culture of corruption that has developed under the Republican Congress and the Bush White House," Rep. Slaughter said. "It shows how the unprecedented levels of corruption in our legislative process and in our federal government are not just an "Inside the Beltway" problem."

  The Failed Bush PresidencyMarch 05, 2006 00:00 For a hundred fifty years we have known that President James Polk, who bumbled through the war with Mexico during the mid 1840s, was arguably the most inept chief executive ever to hold the highest national office in Washington. Polk was a worse president than Ulysses Grant who tried to deal with the Congress as he had dominated his Civil War subordinates. Polk may even have made as many mistakes as Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon combined, when they were destroying a generation s faith in American institutions with their blatant dishonesty during the Vietnam War. President Polk even out-fumbled Jimmy Carter who ran an inept administration that accepted the self-serving recommendations of whom ever last advised him. But, after all of that is said and done, I believe that James Polk was a bush league bumbler when compared to the rigid ideological true believer now occupying the White House.

I see George Bush as a dangerous proto-fascist who endorses every scam his handlers concoct to profit the elite members of his wealthy class who are making the selfish decisions that are swiftly turning the American democracy into a virtual dictatorship.

  Another Indictment Expected In Phone-JammingMarch 02, 2006 17:27 Federal prosecutors reportedly intend to indict a fourth person in the jamming of Democratic get-out-the-vote telephone lines in 2002.

WMUR-TV reported Wednesday that an indictment is expected at the end of the month.

Former state Republican Executive Director Chuck McGee pleaded guilty to devising the idea of jamming the lines and served seven months in prison. Telemarketer Allen Raymond pleaded guilty to executing the plan and is to serve a three-month sentence.

  Patricia Madrid Takes Aim At NM Congressional RaceMarch 01, 2006 17:21 Ready or not, New Mexico's 1st Congressional District contest is under way.

Barely two months into 2006, Republican Rep. Heather Wilson and her Democratic challenger, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, are ratcheting up the rhetoric and raising lots of money for what could be the most expensive congressional campaign in New Mexico history.

Democrats, buoyed by President Bush's sinking poll numbers and Madrid's high profile and well-known tenacity, are convinced they can finally unseat Wilson, who is seeking a fifth term.

  Polls Show Support for Iraq War at New LowMarch 01, 2006 00:00 America's backing for President George W. Bush's handling of the war in Iraq has tumbled to an all-time low, and the vast majority of troops fighting there want out within the next year, new polls showed on Tuesday.

The latest surveys painted a grim picture for the U.S. president as he decried a surge of sectarian violence that has pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war and dented U.S. hopes for stability needed to pave the way for a U.S. withdrawal.

"The choice is chaos or unity," Bush said as bombs killed more than 50 people in Baghdad on Tuesday.

Growing pessimism over Iraq, along with Bush's support despite bipartisan objections for letting a state-owned Arab company take over key operations at six U.S. ports, appeared key factors driving his approval rating down to 34 percent in a CBS News poll, the lowest recorded by CBS.

  Bush: Job RatingsMarch 01, 2006 00:00 Poll results for Bush's overall job rating... interesting.