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  What'S The Matter With Alaska?July 31, 2007 19:22 Remember Alaska?

The ruby red state President Bush carried by 25 points in 2004 and 31 points four years earlier? The state who last elected a Democrat to the Senate in 1974. And to the House in 1972? (For trivia's sake, Mike Gravel -- yes, that Mike Gravel, was the last Alaska Democrat in the Senate; the late Rep. Nick Begich was the last Democrat in the House.)

Well, the times are changing in the Last Frontier thanks to a public corruption scandal that has badly damaged the Republican brand and potentially implicated both Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska).

At the core of the scandal is Bill Allen, the former head of Veco Corp. Allen -- along with another Veco executive -- pleaded guilty in May to bribing state legislators and other elected officials in exchange for favorable legislation. In the plea agreement, the men acknowledged giving $243,500 to a state senator's consulting company in hopes of winning support for a piece of legislation. Although the state Senator is not named in the plea agreement, the amount of money is identical to that which Veco paid former state Sen. Ben Stevens' (R-Alaska) consulting company.

As first reported by washingtonpost.com's Paul Kane, Ted Stevens -- Ben's father -- had also been asked by the FBI to retain any records in connection with Veco. At issue for Ted Stevens is more than $100,000 of work done on his home, a project that was allegedly overseen by Allen and other Veco executives. The FBI's raid of Stevens' home yesterday seems to suggest the Justice Department continues to be very interested in the Senator's connections to Veco.
  House Approves Sweeping Ethics BillJuly 31, 2007 12:14 In what would be the most sweeping overhaul of ethics rules since the Watergate era, the House today gave final approval to a bill aimed at reining in the influence of lobbyists and repairing Congress' sullied image.

The Senate is expected to approve the bill this week.

Democrats promised to pass it after winning control of Congress following a campaign in which they denounced the Republicans' "culture of corruption" on Capitol Hill.

The measure passed the House, 411-8.

"If there is one message abundantly clear based on the results of last year's election results, it is that the American people want us to end the culture of corruption that has enveloped the legislative process," said Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) "We've heard that message loud and clear."

The measure's approval comes as two former Republican congressman, including California's Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff reside behind bars and about a dozen other lawmakers from both parties, including two other California Republicans, have come under scrutiny.

The bill require lobbyists to disclose more of their activities, including the campaign contributions they raise from clients, friends and relatives, a key source of their influence.

It would require lawmakers to disclose the special-interest items they slip into bills — a process, known as earmarking, that has figured prominently in congressional scandals. And it would deny congressional pensions in the future to lawmakers turned felons.

 
  Democratic Candidate Bill Richardson Won'T Cede Abortion To Hillary ClintonJuly 17, 2007 14:48 Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson says he won't cede abortion issues to rival hopeful Hillary Clinton just because she's a woman. He said he can represent the interests of abortion advocates as well as Clinton and pointed to how he will not appoint a Supreme Court justice who opposes Roe v. Wade.
"I believe my platform is the strongest pro-women's platform and it shouldn't be based just on the fact there's a woman in the race," Richardson said.

Campaigning in New Hampshire, the site of the second primary battle, Richardson said he would promote abortion if elected president.

A former Clinton administration official, Richardson announced the start of his Women for Richardson effort, which seeks to recruit pro-abortion activists to support his campaign.

"This is not a constituency issue. This is not an issue of women being a special interest. Women are the majority in this country," Richardson said, according to an AP report. "What I'm doing here is addressing the interests of the majority."

In the speech, the current New Mexico governor said he would only appoint judges for the top federal court who agree with its landmark 1973 ruling that abortion should be legal and available with virtually no limits.

"When you talk about Supreme Court justices, you look at the enormous damage the Supreme Court has done over the last two months. It has not been a good summer," AP reported him saying.

Had added: "I am going to ask my Supreme Court justices _ anybody who applies _ are you for settled law, like Roe versus Wade? If you are not, you are not going to be appointed. Some people are going to call this a litmus test. I call it respecting precedent. It's about putting women's lives above politics."
  Dems Outraising RepsJuly 16, 2007 10:54 The presidential campaign finance filings for the 2nd quarter are in, and one thing is abundantly clear: the Democrats are, as a whole, vastly outraising their GOP counterparts. Under the headline "Democrats Continue To Beat Republicans At The Donor Box," the New York Times reports the "eight Democrats running for president raised more than $80 million from April 1 to June 30, while the 10 Republicans raised less than $50 million."

Among Democrats, Sen. Barack Obama raised $32.8 million, Sen. Hillary Clinton $27 million, John Edwards $8.9 million, Gov. Bill Richardson $7 million, Sen. Christopher Dodd $3.25 million, Sen. Joseph Biden $2.3 million, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich $757,000. On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani raised $17.3 million, Mitt Romney $13.7 million, Sen. John McCain $11.2 million, Rep. Ron Paul $2.4 million, Sen. Sam Brownback $1.4 million, Mike Huckabee $763,000, Tommy Thompson $445,000, and Jim Gilmore (who quit the race Saturday) $182,000.

In terms of cash on hand that can be used for the primaries, Obama leads the Democrats with $34.5 million, followed by Clinton $32.7 million, Edwards $12.1 million, Richardson $7 million, Dodd $5 million, and Biden $1.8 million. On the GOP side, Giuliani has $14.6 million, Romney $12.1 million, McCain $3.2 million, Paul $2.3 million, Brownback $460,000, Huckabee $437,000, and Tommy Thompson $122,000.

Still, despite all the attention being paid to the cash primary, the Wall Street Journal cautions, "While money is a measure of organization and early appeal, it is hardly predictive of how nomination contests will turn out."
  Mccain Tries To Hold Strong On His Faltering CampaignJuly 11, 2007 07:40 Capping weeks of bad news and sagging support for a one-time Republican frontrunner, the abrupt resignation of Senator McCain's two top advisers is heightening the perception that his second White House bid is in an inescapable downward spiral.

Mr. McCain's campaign manager, Terry Nelson, and his senior strategist, John Weaver, announced their departures yesterday morning through a joint statement. The move shocked many in the political establishment but apparently came as little surprise to officials working closely with the campaign, who had anticipated a leadership change when it became clear that the Arizona senator had fallen far short of its fund-raising goals for the second consecutive quarter. The campaign said its chief executive officer, Rick Davis, who ran Mr. McCain's presidential bid in 2000, would step in as campaign manager.

Other staffers also quit yesterday, including a deputy campaign manager, Reed Galen, and the political director, Robert Jesmer. Another top adviser, Mark Salter, is staying on as an adviser but will not take a salary.

But even as pundits viewed the shake-up as another nail in Mr. McCain's campaign coffin, the Arizona senator, in an e-mail to supporters, vowed to keep fighting. "I'm determined to continue to face our challenges head-on and win," he wrote. "The stakes are simply too high to sit on the sidelines during this important crossroad in our nation's history."

 
  2008 Presidential Candidate Mccain In Fundraising SlumpJuly 02, 2007 21:26 2008 presidential candidate John McCain raised only $US11.2 million ($13 million) in campaign funds for his White House bid in the last three months, forcing top staff to take pay cuts and shake up his campaign.
The Arizona Republican senator's take for the latest accounting period in the cash-soaked 2008 campaign, was well short of the staggering $US32.5 million ($38 million) raked up by Democrat senator Barack Obama in the same period.

Aides to senator McCain, once the establishment Republican front-runner, admitted that earlier assumptions that he would raise at least $US100 million ($116 million) over the election season were now wrong.

They blamed a malaise afflicting Republicans partly for his failure to raise more money, and also senator McCain's stands on Iraq and immigration reform which conflict with public opinion, for his failure to raise more money.

"We raised 11.2 million dollars for this quarter," senator McCain's campaign manager Terry Nelson said.

Worryingly for senator McCain, he only has $US2 million ($2.32 million) of cash on hand, a factor which forced the campaign on Monday to restructure its operations.

 
  Bush Commutes 'Scooter' Libby SentenceJuly 02, 2007 21:14 President Bush commuted the prison sentence of former White House aide I. Lewis ''Scooter'' Libby on Monday, according to news reports.

Bush's move came after a federal appeals panel in Washington, D.C., earlier Monday ruled that Libby had to begin serving a 2 1/2-year prison term. Libby was convicted in March for lying and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative, The New York Times reported on its Web site.

Although Libby, 56, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, was spared a federal prison sentence, his conviction still stands.

"My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby,'' Bush said in a statement. "The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting.''

Libby still must pay a $250,000 fine and serve two years' probation, according to The Associated Press, but can continue to appeal his conviction and the fine.

The issue of whether to pardon Libby has been an issue in candidates' debates for the 2008 presidential election.