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Sunday, January 31, 2010

MAUREEN DOWD: Camus Fired Up.

Camus Fired Up

It began as a bit of partisan gamesmanship and ended, surprisingly, as illuminating political theater.

White House advisers thought that if they asked that cameras and reporters be allowed in for the usually closed Q. and A. with the president at the annual retreat of House Republicans, the Republicans might say no and look obstructionist.

But the Republicans realized what the White House was up to, got irritated and opened up the exchange in Baltimore to show they weren’t scared of the smart, facile and newly warmblooded Barack Obama.

And during the next hour and a half, our government did not look quite so lame.

Obama is always at his best when his back is against the wall, and he is perversely content when he has the challenge of the lion’s den.

He may lapse back into his Camus coma at any moment. But on Friday he dropped the diffident debutante act and offered, as he did at the State of the Union, some welcome gumption.

“You know,” he said, halfway through his sparring session with Republicans, “I’m having fun.”

When he was running for president, John McCain said that if he won, he would regularly take questions in the peppering style of the British prime minister in the House of Commons.

But it was Obama who ended up doing just such a Ping-Pong session, standing in a hotel ballroom and giving as good he got, to-ing and fro-ing in a far more vivid way than in the presidential debates.

The president chided his audience for casting his health care plan as a “Bolshevik plot” and for telling folks back home that he’s “doing all kinds of crazy stuff that’s going to destroy America.” But Obama also acknowledged that the Republicans have some good ideas, and that, as it turned out, was what they yearned to hear.

In the end, the Republicans may well go back to being inflexibly inflexible with this president, but for a moment in time, each side realized that the other side had something to say. It was, as The Times’s reporters Peter Baker and Carl Hulse called it, a televised marriage-therapy session “as each side vented grievances pent up after a year of partisan gridlock.”

The Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz picked up on the president’s line in the State of the Union about “a deficit of trust.”

“We didn’t create this mess, but we are here to help clean it up,” the freshman member said, before ticking off a litany of things that have soured many Americans on the president who came in trailing fairy dust.

“When you stood up before the American people multiple times and said you would broadcast the health care debates on C-Span, you didn’t,” he said.

And another good one: “You said you weren’t going to allow lobbyists in the senior-most positions within your administration, and yet you did.”

And another: “You said you’d go line by line through the health care bill. And there were six of us, including Dr. Phil Roe, who sent you a letter and said we would like to take you up on that offer. ... We never got a call.”

And this rousing finale: “And when you said in the House of Representatives that you were going to tackle earmarks and in fact you didn’t want to have any earmarks in any of your bills, I jumped out of my seat and applauded you.”

But that was another disappointment.

Obama hedged on a technicality on the health care question, noting that “overwhelmingly the majority of it actually was on C-Span because it was taking place in Congressional hearings in which you guys were participating.”

When Peter Roskam of Illinois complained that they’d been “stiff-armed” by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the president promised to bring the Republican and Democratic House leadership together for more play dates.

In a way, it was the sort of civic affairs master class that this college-bowl president had wanted from the beginning, before it began to look like W., Cheney and Rove had truly smashed bipartisanship.

But he didn’t hesitate to give Jeb Hensarling a smack-down when the rabid ideologue from Texas asked if the president’s new budget, “like your old budget,” would “triple the national debt.”

Obama crisply told “Jim,” inadvertently (perhaps) mixing up Jeb’s name, “It’s very hard to have the kind of bipartisan work that we’re going to do, because the whole question was structured as a talking point for running a campaign.” Then the president offered a quick math lesson on what Republicans never admit: that it was W. and the Republican Congress who ran up much of our $12 trillion debt and left us pawning our family jewels to the Chinese.

Obama’s advisers must wish they could do this every week for the cameras. It was a lot more elucidating than Joe Wilson shouting, “You lie!”


Lexington Herald Leader Editorial: On Prison Riot, State Delays And Dismisses. And I *SIGH*.

On prison riot, state delays and dismisses

A state audit of Aramark Correctional Services, the private firm contracted to serve food in Kentucky's 13 prisons, certainly seems warranted following the release of a more detailed report on the riot at Northpoint Training Center last August.

Unlike the previously released summary of a review team's findings from an investigation of the incident, the report lawmakers and the public got to see Wednesday clearly identified food service as a contributing factor to the riot.

It was not the tipping point. And it perhaps was not as big a factor as state Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greeneville, has argued repeatedly. But it was a factor significant enough to deserve a more serious administration response than Gov. Steve Beshear's dismissive remark about "criminals who wish they could go to Wendy's."

No one who has expressed concern over the quality of food being served to the state's prisoners has suggested they should be coddled. Nor are we suggesting that.

But wanting a meal free of bugs and feces does not equate to a craving for a Baconator. And it was corrections officers, not prisoners, who testified about the bugs and feces.

Combine their testimony with the findings of the report released last week and the fact that a 2007 audit of Aramark's performance in Florida's prisons recommended the state should rebid the contract or take over the food service itself.

You come up with ample justification for Auditor Crit Luallen to send her staff to see if Kentucky is getting its money's worth out of the $2.63 per day per prisoner allotted for food under the contract with Aramark.

But just as food was not the crucial factor in sparking the riot (the hasty implementation of a "controlled movement" policy was), neither is it the most crucial issue raised by the new, more detailed report on the riot.

That honor belongs to what can only be described as the Beshear administration's attempt to gloss over, if not cover up, several key facts about the Northpoint riot by distilling the full report down into the previously released summary.

If not for the threat of a legislative subpoena, that sanitized version of events might have been the only one the public ever saw.

In addition to downplaying the food issue, the summary neglected to mention that the Northpoint warden, who was in the best position to know his facility and its inmates, was overruled by his superiors in the Department of Corrections on the key decisions of when to end the lockdown — put in effect after a fight among inmates — and how to implement the controlled movement policy.

The summary also neglected to mention such important details as the failure to follow the manual regarding critical incidents, the failure to properly document the incident and a corrections official's role in delaying a state police investigation of the riot.

Since most if not all of the details omitted by the summary reflected mistakes in judgment or mistakes in responding to the riot, the subsequent release of the more detailed report makes the summary look like an attempt to cover up those mistakes.

Whether or not it was actually a coverup, the perception alone has to be damaging to the Beshear administration's credibility.

If the first report to lawmakers and the public had contained all the embarrassing details, the public reaction might have been: "They screwed up. Oh, well."

By keeping those details under wraps until House leaders started talking subpoenas, the administration left itself open to a different public reaction: "They screwed up. Then, they tried to hide it from us."


POTUS Barack Obama's Guatanamo Bay. LOL, With Nick Anderson.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Justice Alito’s Reaction.

Justice Alito’s Reaction

There was the president, and there were six members of the Supreme Court. The few words from the one to the others went by quickly. The president’s tone was mild compared to the animation in some other parts of the speech, and I thought he looked momentarily awkward. But maybe I was just projecting.

Mr. Obama’s words were sharp, echoing his earlier criticism of the court’s decision last week in the Citizens United case to strike down the limits that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law placed on independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. The decision would “open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign companies — to spend without limit in our elections,” Mr. Obama said, adding that “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests.” He urged Congress to “pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.”

Nearly every president finds something to criticize about the Supreme Court, but not every one gets to do it to the justices’ faces, on national television, in the State of the Union speech. Of the six justices in the audience, three were in the majority in the 5-4 decision: Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who wrote the opinion; Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.; and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. Three were among the four dissenters: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

Supreme Court justices usually make for an awkward sight at the State of the Union speech, because they sit stony-faced and never clap or cheer.

Some members of the court dislike the exercise so much that they never attend. Justice Sotomayor’s predecessor, David H. Souter, never did. For several years, Justice Breyer attended alone.

This time, Justice Alito shook his head as if to rebut the president’s characterization of the Citizens United decision, and seemed to mouth the words “not true.” Indeed, Mr. Obama’s description of the holding of the case was imprecise. He said the court had “reversed a century of law.”

The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books. Rather, the court struck down a more complicated statute that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries — as opposed to their political action committees — on television advertising to urge a vote for or against a federal candidate in the period immediately before the election. It is true, though, that the majority wrote so broadly about corporate free speech rights as to call into question other limitations as well — although not necessarily the existing ban on direct contributions.

But this was a populist night and the target was irresistible. There are a variety of specific proposals floating around to address the Citizens United decision. The president offered no specifics and did not endorse any of them. Just as the decision doesn’t lend itself to a sound bite, neither do the fixes.


Distraction, Not Cell Phones, Cause Accidents. So When Do We BAN Women From Putting On Makeup While Driving Or Men Drinking Coffee While Driving?

"Campaign Finance Ruling's Likely Impact Overblown".

Campaign finance ruling's likely impact overblown
The Supreme Court's decision striking down limits on corporate spending in election campaigns is unlikely to change the political situation on the ground.
By Stephen R. Weissman

Media coverage and commentary have vastly overstated the likely impact on federal election campaigns of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which ruled that corporations have the same right to free speech as individuals. It has also obscured the extent to which members of Congress from both parties had previously opened the door for corporate and union financing in federal campaigns.

As associate director for policy of the Campaign Finance Institute from 2002-09, I wrote a number of studies showing the rise of corporate and union spending, via tax-exempt organizations, in federal elections. My research found that this spending supported media ads and grass-roots mail, phone and other communications that tore down or boosted candidates without using explicit phrases such as "vote for" or "vote against."

Full disclosure of the sources of financing was legally required only for "527" political organizations, which were mostly pro-Democratic and frequently union-backed. In contrast, no one knew for sure who was providing how much to largely pro-Republican "501(c)" trade associations and advocacy groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Freedom's Watch.

A provision in the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law did prohibit the use of corporate and union funds in one important area: TV and radio ads mentioning candidates 60 days before an election and 30 days before a primary. But this section of the law was basically gutted by the high court's 2007 decision in the Wisconsin Right to Life case, and especially by the subsequent implementing regulations adopted by the Senate-appointed Federal Election Commission.

Thus, during the 2008 Minnesota Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was legally able to run an ad showing Democratic candidate Franken with duct tape over his mouth and this narration: "High taxes hurt. But it seems like every time Al Franken opens his mouth, he talks about raising taxes. This from a guy who was caught not paying his own taxes in 17 states. . . . Maybe he shouldn't open his mouth. . . . Tell Al Franken that high taxes aren't very funny [Franken's phone number flashes by]."

With last week's ruling, the justices granted corporations (and implicitly unions) a constitutional license to explicitly urge voters to support or oppose candidates in all communications, while interring the remains of the McCain-Feingold restrictions on ads.

Yet this decision is unlikely to change the political situation on the ground very much. Even before the Citizens United decision, business, labor and wealthy individuals (frequently major owners of corporations, such as Sheldon Adelson of the Las Vegas Sands or George Soros of Soros Fund Management) were already able to spend more than $400 million in the 2008 federal elections on communications with content similar to the Franken ad.

Studies by New York University's Brennan Center for Justice have shown that the candidates themselves do not bother much with media ads that actually say "vote for me" or "vote against her," even though they are legally able to use those terms. In the modern campaign era, such blatant appeals are largely, if not entirely, anachronistic. Perhaps corporate and union-financed "express advocacy" will increase somewhat, particularly in grass-roots communications aimed at already committed followers. But the overall size, nature and thrust of corporate and union communications in federal elections is unlikely to be affected by Citizens United.

Some election lawyers who work for candidates and parties have expressed fear that candidates will now "lose control" of their campaign messages to well-financed outside groups. But while there have been a few such cases, they are relatively rare. Candidates and groups draw from the same well of polling and the same web of political consultants. They all have an interest in opportunistically emphasizing whatever it takes to win.

Finally, it is curious to see some of the same Democratic members of Congress who fought -- on behalf of labor union allies -- legislative proposals to rein in corporate and union-financed 527 political organizations now denouncing the Citizens United decision, which essentially ratifies a status quo they worked to protect.

It is also revealing that we heard little from members of either party when the Federal Election Commission emasculatedthe McCain-Feingold 60/30-day ad restrictions. Nor was there congressional resistance when the bipartisan FEC adopted a weak public disclosure regulation for such ads, one that does not require their 501(c) nonprofit corporate sponsors, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or Health Care for America Now, to reveal their ultimate for-profit corporate, union and individual donors. Although the court last week upheld disclosure, this regulation still enables Citizens United to hide its donors.

If members of Congress are now serious about searching for new ways to limit the impact of corporate and union spending in elections and improving its disclosure, they should start by reexamining their own behavior.

Stephen R. Weissman, associate director for policy from 2002-09 at the Campaign Finance Institute, a research organization affiliated with George Washington University, writes about Congress and foreign policy.


George F. Will: A Supreme Decision. I AGREE.

A supreme decision
By George F. Will

WASHINGTON — Last week's Supreme Court decision that substantially deregulates political speech has provoked an edifying torrent of hyperbole. Critics' dismay reveals their conviction: Speech about the elections that determine the government's composition is not a constitutional right but a mere privilege that exists at the sufferance of government.

How regulated did political speech become during the decades when the court was derelict in its duty to actively defend the Constitution? The Federal Election Commission, which administers the law that rations the quantity and regulates the content and timing of political speech, identifies 33 types of political speech and 71 kinds of “speakers.” The underlying statute and FEC regulations cover more than 800 pages, and FEC explanations of its decisions have filled more than 1,200 pages. The First Amendment requires 10 words for a sufficient stipulation: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”

Extending the logic of a 1976 decision, the court has now held that the dissemination of political speech requires money, so restricting money restricts speech. Bringing law into conformity with this 1976 precedent, the court has struck down only federal and state laws that forbid independent expenditures (those not made directly to, or coordinated with, candidates' campaigns) by corporations and labor unions . Under the censorship regime the court has overturned, corporations were even forbidden to send political communications to all of their employees.

The New York Times calls the Court's decision, which enables political advocacy by (other) corporations, a “blow to democracy.” The Times , a corporate entity, can engage in political advocacy because Congress has granted “media corporations” an exemption from limits.

The Washington Post , also exempt, says the Court's decision, which overturned a previous ruling upholding restrictions on spending for political speech, shows insufficient “respect for precedent.” Does the Post think the court incorrectly overturned precedents that upheld racial segregation and warrantless wiretaps? Are the only sacrosanct precedents those that abridge (others') right to speak?

Alarmists say the court's ruling will mean torrential spending by large for-profit corporations. Anna Burger, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union — it has spent $20 million on politics in the last five election cycles — says a corporation will “funnel its shareholders' money straight to a campaign's coffers.” Wrong. Corporate contributions to candidates' campaigns remain proscribed.

Cleta Mitchell, Washington's pre-eminent campaign finance attorney, rightly says that few for-profit corporations will jeopardize their commercial interests by engaging in partisan politics: Republicans, Democrats and independents buy Microsoft's and Pepsi's products. If for-profit corporations do plunge into politics, disclosure of their spending will enable voters to draw appropriate conclusions. Of course, political speech regulations radiate distrust of voters' abilities to assess unfettered political advocacy.

Mitchell says the court's decision primarily liberates nonprofit advocacy groups, such as the Sierra Club, which the FEC fined $28,000 in 2006. The club's sin was to distribute pamphlets in Florida contrasting the environmental views of the presidential and senatorial candidates, to the intended advantage of Democrats. FEC censors deemed this an illegal corporate contribution.

Barack “Pitchfork” Obama, in his post-Massachusetts populist mode, called the Court's ruling a victory for, among others, “big oil” and “Wall Street banks.” But reports that in 2008 lawyers gave more money than either of those, and gave 78 percent of it to Democrats, who also received 64 percent of contributions from the financial sector.

Even if it were Congress' business to decide that there is “too much” money in politics, that decision would be odd: In the 2007-08 election cycle, spending in all campaigns, for city council members up to the presidency, was $8.6 billion, about what Americans spend annually on potato chips.

Critics say raising such sums requires too much of candidates' time. Well, then, let candidates receive unlimited — but fully disclosed — contributions, and trust voters to make appropriate inferences about the candidates.

Undaunted, advocates of government control of political speech want Congress to enact public financing of congressional campaigns, and to ban individuals from participating in politics through contributions. Fortunately, this idea — “food stamps for politicians” — is wildly unpopular. Public financing of presidential campaigns has collapsed. Obama disdained it in 2008; the public always has. Voluntary, cost-free participation, using the checkoff on the income tax form, peaked at a paltry 28.7 percent in 1980 and by 2008 had sagged to 8.3 percent.

This is redundant proof that the premise of campaign finance “reform” is false. The premise is that easily befuddled Americans need to be swaddled in regulations of political speech.

George F. Will is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post. His e-mail address is


In Kentucky, U. S. Attorney's Office "Blows" What Looked Like A "Slam Dunk" Bid Rigging Case Against Leonard Lawson And Bill Nighbert. Read More Below

Lawson, Nighbert not guilty on bid-rigging charges
By John Cheves

A jury on Friday found road contractor Leonard Lawson and former state Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert not guilty of any crime following a three-week trial on bid-rigging allegations.

The jury acquitted the men on charges related to bribery, theft, conspiracy and obstruction of justice following a day of deliberating and reviewing several pieces of evidence, including audio tapes of four of Lawson's secretly recorded phone calls.

Federal prosecutors presented two weeks of evidence in the case to support their allegations that Nighbert ordered confidential bid estimates leaked to Lawson in 2006 and 2007 for road projects worth $130 million. Bid estimates tell what the cabinet is willing to pay for a project.

But other than one witness whose credibility was strongly questioned by the defense, they had nothing to directly link Nighbert or Lawson to the bid estimates or alleged bribes. They also failed to provide evidence that Lawson's bids on the projects in question were appreciably different from his bids on other projects at the time.

Lawson, 70, sagged in his chair and was embraced by his defense lawyers as the verdict was read. Moments later, he stood to whisper "Thank you" to each of the jurors — nine women and three men — as they passed him to exit the courtroom.

"I'd like to thank God," Steve Lawson, the contractor's son, told reporters outside U.S. District Court in Lexington, standing with his parents. "I'd like to thank this jury for having the courage to find the truth. My father is a good and decent man."

Nighbert, 58, who served as Gov. Ernie Fletcher's transportation secretary from 2005 to 2007, declined to comment.

But Nighbert's lawyer, Howard Mann, said the prosecution's case had too many holes, starting with the testimony of key witness Jim Rummage, a former Transportation Cabinet engineer.

Rummage testified that Nighbert told him to take bid estimates to Lawson, and that Lawson paid him $20,000 in bribes. In early 2008, Rummage said, Nighbert and Lawson pressured him not to cooperate when the cabinet's Office of the Inspector General and the FBI began to investigate the bid estimates.

Rummage's testimony was the only evidence presented to show that Nighbert ordered leaks, that Lawson got bid estimates or that Rummage got $20,000, Mann said. But defense lawyers were able to show inconsistencies in the dates Rummage offered and other details, he said.

Rummage secretly recorded Lawson, Nighbert and others on many occasions, but he never captured them breaking the law or directly discussing the alleged crimes on tape, Mann said.

"His tale was simply too fantastic and unbelievable," Mann said. "We felt that way all along."

Neither Lawson nor Nighbert testified during the trial.

Governor testified

Among those who did testify was Gov. Steve Beshear, who called Lawson in 2008 to assure the contractor that the new Beshear administration would be fair to his companies. During that conversation, Lawson brought up Rummage and asked the governor to look after him.

State Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, also testified. He is a friend of Nighbert's and created for him a $70,000-a-year job in the Senate when he left the Transportation Cabinet. Nighbert held that job for seven months in 2008.

In September 2008, when a grand jury indicted Lawson and Nighbert, Beshear issued a public statement calling it "a day of hope" and decrying the "culture of cronyism and corruption" that had infected the Transportation Cabinet.

After Friday's verdict, Beshear issued another statement.

"As you know, this case involves activities that occurred before I became governor," Beshear said. "Our cabinet and employees have fully cooperated with the investigation, and the criminal judicial system has now addressed it. We will continue our efforts to maintain an ethical and transparent government."

While under indictment, Lawson was barred by the U.S. Department of Transportation from participating in road projects involving federal funds, which includes most major projects.

However, state officials said, Lawson legally removed himself from his companies, including L-M Asphalt, Bizzack, Gaddie Shamrock and The Allen Co., several of which were involved in the bid-rigging case. Steve Lawson, the contractor's son and a longtime executive in his father's companies, remains affiliated with the firms.

The Transportation Cabinet continues to award contracts to the Lawson family's companies because Leonard Lawson no longer is connected to them, cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe said last week.

Politically influential

Lawson long has been one of Kentucky's top road contractors, as well as one of its wealthiest and most politically influential citizens.

His companies dominated road building in Lexington and across much of the eastern half of Kentucky, often through single-bid contracts. His large campaign donations, friendships and private business deals with elected officials allowed him political clout.

For example, Lawson gave or raised nearly $50,000 for the 1995 election of Gov. Paul Patton. Afterward, he won hundreds of millions of dollars in road contracts from the Patton administration.

In 1983, one of Lawson's companies pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to felony bid-rigging for privately agreeing with other companies to allocate state highway projects among themselves rather than competitively bid for them. Lawson's company paid a $150,000 fine.

The judge did not allow the jury in the bid-rigging trial to be told about the 1983 guilty plea.

The U.S. Justice Department's Antitrust Division investigated Lawson and other Kentucky road contractors from 1997 to 2001 for possible violations of competitive bidding laws. But it closed that case without charging anyone.

Larry Forgy, the Republican candidate for governor in 1995, attended much of the trial. Forgy said Lawson's money helped sway the gubernatorial election against him, and he believes the millionaire road contractor holds too much power in Kentucky.

"I am grateful to the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI for what they tried to do for the taxpayers of Kentucky in this case," Forgy said. "I can only hope the federal government continues to keep an eye on the bidding at the state highways department."

Case on hold

Nighbert still faces a possible civil penalty before the Executive Branch Ethics Commission in Frankfort for failing to disclose his co-ownership of a company, Double Buck LLC, on his personal finance report while he was transportation secretary in 2007.

The company became an issue in the bid-rigging trial because Nighbert used a variation of its name — "Two Bucks LLC" — to collect payments from Utility Management Group, or UMG, a company that Lawson co-owns.

Prosecutors said the payments were bribes that Lawson used to reward Nighbert. UMG chief executive Archie Marr, who is Lawson's longtime accountant, testified that the company gave Nighbert a $125,000-a-year consulting job and a $34,000 car because his political connections made him an ideal salesman to pitch UMG's services to city and county leaders.

Judge Karl Forester dismissed the UMG part of the case during the trial, ruling that prosecutors failed to show evidence that Lawson was behind UMG's job offer to Nighbert.

If the ethics commission finds Nighbert guilty of failing to disclose his co-ownership of Double Buck, he could face a penalty ranging from a public reprimand to a fine of $5,000, although a smaller fine is more likely, said Dana Nickles, the panel's general counsel.

The ethics case was on hold while the criminal case proceeded, Nickles said. The ethics commission next meets March 19, she said.

Nighbert, a former Williamsburg mayor, was indicted twice as transportation secretary during an investigation of the Fletcher administration's hiring practices. State prosecutors said Nighbert's cabinet promised merit jobs to Republicans and illegally punished Democrats. Fletcher issued a mass pardon for his administration in 2005 that covered Nighbert and other indicted aides.


Florida's Charlie Crist Meets Massachusetts Martha Coakley. LOL.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Read About How PHONEY John Edwards Used Wealthy Heiress To Fund Love-Child Coverup.

How Edwards used wealthy heiress to fund love-child coverup
Jim Morrill and Mark Johnson

RALEIGH, N.C. — Payments from a wealthy heiress to the Mellon fortune through a Monroe, N.C., interior decorator helped subsidize the cover-up of John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter.

The decorator, Bryan Huffman, eventually became the conduit for as much as $700,000 from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon – what the Edwards camp called "Bunny money" – to help cover the expenses of Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young, the aide who claimed to be the father of her baby.

Mellon's money was part of more than $1.5 million that Young told ABC News was used for the cover-up. He said the money paid for a coast-to-coast odyssey that included trips on private jets, expensive lodging and even a BMW for Hunter. Some of the money, he said, also came in cash from the late Fred Baron, a Texas lawyer and Edwards' friend.

The arrangement was necessary because John Edwards, a multi-millionaire, couldn't access his own bank accounts without alerting his wife, Elizabeth.

Federal prosecutors in Raleigh are looking into whether Edwards misused campaign money to pay for the cover-up of his affair and the child he finally acknowledged is his.

Details of the affair, and costly efforts to conceal it, cover it up, were described this week in Young’s book “The Politician.” Young publicly described those efforts for the first time Friday night on ABC’s “20/20.”

In a statement earlier in the day, Edwards’ attorneys, Wade Smith of Raleigh and Jim Cooney of Charlotte, urged “extreme caution” with the claims.

“It is obvious that there are many allegations which are simply false,” they said in an e-mail. “It appears that Andrew Young is primarily motivated by financial gain and media attention.”

What Huffman calls his and Mellon's innocent role in the scandal first came to light in Young’s book.

“I knew nothing about what that money was used for, nothing about Rielle Hunter, nothing about the senator’s personal life or the child, (and) Bunny knew nothing about it,” Huffman said. “To have her get tainted … by her connection to Sen. Edwards is very upsetting to me, because . Because I introduced them.”

Young writes that when Hunter found out she was pregnant in 2007, Edwards, a multi-millionaire, couldn’t access his own money “without his wife finding out.” So, Young’s book says, they scrambled for help.

Young approached Edwards’ former law partner David Kirby.

“I told him no,” Kirby said Friday.

So they turned to Mellon.

Now 99, she was the widow of billionaire philanthropist Paul Mellon and herself heir to the Listerine fortune. She’d been a close friend of Jackie Kennedy and helped design the White House Rose Garden.

Young writes that Mellon’s checks “were made as payment to … Huffman so that she wouldn’t have to offer an explanation to the professionals who handled her accounts.

“These funds … were gifts, entirely proper, and not subject to campaign finance laws. She did not know that the money was being used in part for Rielle.”

Young writes that Huffman sent him the checks, which he deposited into his account “to be used to keep Rielle happy and hidden from the media.” He told ABC News that Mellon’s checks amounted to $700,000.

While Young describes the money transfers as “entirely proper,” others aren’t so sure.

“Whenever people try to circumvent campaign finance laws, they often try to argue that it was a gift instead of a political contribution,” said Jack Knight, a former assistant U.S. attorney from Charlotte. “That’s the kind of thing that will certainly pique the interest of federal prosecutors in Raleigh.”

Huffman and Young have testified before the grand jury.

The Mellon connection might never have happened had Huffman not visited a church a few years ago that Mellon designed in Upperville, Va., in the shadow of the Blue Ridge mountains. Impressed, he wrote her a note. She replied with an invitation to lunch on her 4,000-acre estate.

Huffman learned she was interested in Edwards’ candidacy. Because Huffman’s sister was a law school classmate of Young’s, he called him.

As a result Mellon invited Edwards for tea at her farm. She went on to give the Edwards-related Alliance for a New America $3.48 million in 2008 and more to other groups tied to the then-Democratic presidential candidate.

Her attorney told the New York Times last year that when Young later told her Edwards needed money for personal use, she agreed.

Huffman said he agreed to forward the money to Young. Because he had to FedEx the money, Huffman said he actually lost money on the exchange. He said both he and Mellon are disappointed to be dragged into the scandal.

“She’s a fascinating person,” Huffman said. “And I just hate that she’s getting all this tawdry association at this point in her life. She’s been drawn into something that neither of us knew. … She just thought he was going to be great for the country.”

Raleigh News & Observer staff writers Michael Biesecker and Eric Ferreri contributed to this report.


POTUS Barack Obama Visits A "Lion's Den", Meets In Q And A Session With House Republicans. Watch Video.

PEGGY NOONAN: The Obama Contradiction.

The Obama Contradiction
Washington is sick and broken—and it can solve all our problems.

When you watch a president give a State of the Union Address on television, you're always watching three people: the president at the podium, and the vice president and House speaker on the rise behind him. As a TV shot it's awkward. The vice president and the speaker have been instructed by media professionals not to let their eyes do what they want to do, which is survey the doings in the chamber. Instead they must stare unwaveringly at the back of the president's head. This is so that they appear to be fascinated by what he's saying, as if he's so interesting that they can't take their eyes off him. It's also so that you, the viewer, don't become distracted by wondering whom they're looking at in the audience.

It's uncomfortable for them, and boring. You, as a member of the TV audience, get to watch the president. The speaker and the vice president get to think, "Huh, he's getting a little gray in the back." The reason Nancy Pelosi often seems a little dart-eyed in these circumstances is that she's always trying to get a look at the chamber when she thinks the camera isn't on her. Joe Biden seems happy to be the fascinated person with crinkly eyes and shining teeth. But for Mrs. Pelosi it's a challenge. This is her chamber, all her people are here, and she wants to be looking at John Boehner's face and Harry Reid's and see who's cheering and who's wearing what.

But the three-shot the other night was also the president's problem. It underscored that he gave the first year of his presidency to the Democrats of Congress, that they wrote the costly and unpopular health-care and spending bills.

James Baker, that shrewd and knowing man, never, as Ronald Reagan's chief of staff, allowed his president to muck about with congressmen, including those of his own party. A president has stature and must be held apart from Congress critters. He can meet with them privately, in the Oval Office. There, once, a Republican senator who'd announced opposition to a bill important to the president tried to claim his overall loyalty: "Mr. President, you know I'd jump out of a plane for you if you asked, but—"

"Jump," said Reagan. The senator, caught, gave in.

That's how you treat them. You don't let them blur your picture and make you more common. You don't let them call the big shots.

President Obama's speech was not a pivot, a lunge or a plunge. It was a little of this and a little of that, a groping toward a place where the president might successfully stand. It was well written and performed with élan. The president will get some bounce from it, and the bounce will go away. Speeches are not magic, and this one did not rescue him from his political predicament, but it did allow him to live to fight another day. In that narrow way it was a success. But divisions may already have hardened. In our current media and political environment, it is a terrible thing to make a bad impression in your first year.

There were strong moments. Of what he frankly called the "bank bailout," he observed: "I hated it. You hated it." His unfancy language was always the most interesting: "We don't quit. I don't quit." The president conceded, with striking brevity, having made mistakes, but defensively misstated the criticism that had been leveled his way. He said he was accused of being "too ambitious." In fact he'd been accused of being off point, unresponsive and ideological.

They've chosen a phrase for the president's program. They call it the "New Foundation." They sneaked it in rather tentatively, probably not sure it would take off. It won't. Such labels work when they clearly capture something that is already clear. "The New Deal" captured FDR's historic shift to an increased governmental presence in individual American lives. It was a new deal. "The New Frontier"—we are a young and vibrant nation still, and adventures await us in space and elsewhere. It was a mood, not a program, but a mood well captured.

"The New Foundation" is solid and workmanlike, but it attempts to put form and order to a governing philosophy that is still too herky-jerky to be summed up.

The central fact of the speech was the contradiction at its heart. It repeatedly asserted that Washington is the answer to everything. At the same time it painted a picture of Washington as a sick and broken place. It was a speech that argued against itself: You need us to heal you. Don't trust us, we think of no one but ourselves.

The people are good but need guidance—from Washington. The middle class is anxious, and its fears can be soothed—by Washington. Washington can "make sure consumers . . . have the information they need to make financial decisions." Washington must "make investments," "create" jobs, increase "production" and "efficiency."

At the same time Washington is a place "where every day is Election Day," where all is a "perpetual campaign" and the great sport is to "embarrass your opponents" and lob "schoolyard taunts."

Why would anyone have faith in that thing to help anyone do anything?

The president did not speak of health care until a half hour in. "As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed." Then, "If anyone has a better idea, let me know." Those bland little sentences hidden in plain sight heralded an epic fact: The battle over the president's health-care plan is over, and the plan will not be imposed on the country. Waxing boring on the virtues of the bill was a rhetorical way to obscure the fact that it is dead. To say, "I'm licked and it's done" would have been damagingly memorable. Instead he blithely vowed to move forward, and moved on. The bill will now get lost in the mists and disappear. It is a collapsed soufflé in an unused kitchen in the back of an empty house. Now and then the president will speak of it to rouse his base and remind them of his efforts.

All this got hidden in the speech. In unconscious emulation it even got hidden in this column.

As the TV cameras panned the chamber, I saw a friendly acquaintance of the president, a Republican who bears him no animus. Why, I asked him later, did the president not move decisively to the political center?

Because he is more "intellectually honest" than that, he said. "I don't think he can do a Bill Clinton pivot, because he's not a pragmatist, he's an ideologue. He's a community organizer. He mixes the discrimination he felt as a young man with the hardship so many feel in this country, and he wants to change it and the way to change that is government programs and not opportunity."

The great issue, this friendly critic added, is debt. The public knows this; Congress and the White House do not. "To me the Republicans are as rotten as the Democrats" in terms of spending. "Almost."

"I hope we have big changes in 2010," the friend said. Only significant loss will force the president to focus on spending. "To heal our country we need to get the arrogance out of the White House and the elitists out of the Congress. We need tough love. We need a real adult in the White House because we don't have adults in the Congress."


Obama Owes The High Court An Apology.

Obama Owes the High Court an Apology
The justices were there as a courtesy to him.

In his State of the Union address, the president of the United States called out the Supreme Court by name for sharp condemnation and egged on his congressional supporters to jeer its recent decision:

"Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps ...


Obama v. the Supremes: Alito Wins The Oral, And Factual, Argument.

Obama v. the Supremes
Alito wins the oral, and factual, argument.

In the case of Barack Obama v. Supreme Court of the United States, that was some oral argument on Wednesday night. With the Justices arrayed a few feet in front of him in the House chamber, President Obama blistered their recent decision defending free political speech for corporations and unions. As Democrats in Congress and Cabinet members rose and applauded around them, the Justices sat stern-faced, save for Samuel Alito, who was seen shaking his head and mouthing the words "Not true."

Bravo, Justice Alito.

We're not among those who think ...


Two Felons In Running For Knott County Kentucky Judge Executive. ONLY In Kentucky, Folks.

2 felons in running for Knott judge-executive
By Dori Hjalmarson

A man who resigned the Knott County judge-executive's office after being convicted in a vote-buying scheme has filed to run for the office again. Depending on what happens in the primaries, he could face the current judge-executive, who is awaiting results of an appeal in his own vote-buying case.

Each is from a different party, setting up the possibility that two felons will run against each other in the November election.

Donnie Newsome, a Democrat who resigned in 2005 after he lost an appeal in his vote-fraud case, filed to run for office in the past few weeks, said Knott County Clerk Kennith Gayheart. His civil rights were restored Aug. 27, 2008, by Gov. Steve Beshear, said Les Fugate, a spokesman for the Kentucky secretary of state's office. Newsome has voted since then and is an eligible candidate, Gayheart said.

Randy Thompson, who was appointed by then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher to fill Newsome's seat, was sentenced last year to 40 months in prison for a scheme to use county and state money for paving roads and private drives to influence the 2006 election. Thompson, who is free while his court case proceeds, became the first Republican ever to be elected to the Knott County office in 2006.

Newsome is running against two other Democrats in the May primary: Herbert Dean Hall of Kite and Ronnie Watts of Garner. Thompson, of Hindman, is running unopposed in the primary, according to the latest filings with the state elections board.


Joel Pett Takes On Mitch McConnell, While Nick Anderson Takes On Republicans. LOL.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Betty Winston Bayé: If [POTUS Barack] Obama Fails, Who Wins?

If Obama fails, who wins?
Betty Winston Bayé

Rush Limbaugh was explicit about not buying the hype or the hope that many Americans say is why they hitched their wagons to then-candidate Barack Obama's rising star.

“I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don't want them to succeed,” Limbaugh said. The loquacious radiohead was equally explicit about desiring an eye-for-an-eye. “I disagree fervently with the people on our side of the aisle who have caved and who say, ‘Well, I hope he succeeds. We've got to give him a chance.' Why? They didn't give Bush a chance in 2000.” He did so get a chance: The Supreme Court saw to it by crowning him.

Limbaugh's comment about the aisle suggests that he either is, or has deluded himself into thinking that he's a leader of Republicans. Maybe that's why big-name, elected Republicans almost never challenge the hurtful, sexist, racist, spiteful and ignorant things that Limbaugh speaks on any given day. Of course, with moderate Republicans nearly extinct, the inmates have taken over the asylum such that Limbaugh speaks for and to a segment of the GOP base that in years past would have dismissed as kooks.

But not all who want Obama to fail as president are on the right. Some on the left want him to fail, too. Some of them are people who have no use for either of the major political parties. They believe that both are so corrupted by big money and special interests that any candidate, black, female, gay or straight, who pushes through the two-party nominating processes is necessarily incapable of serving the best interests of we the people. They, also equate voters with lemmings, who troop to the polls year after year, foolishly expecting something different than they've always gotten.

Others on the left want Obama to fail because they are jealous that they're not the president. Or because somehow Obama's failure will verify their contentions that he's just fluff, not black enough or big or bad enough for the job to which he was elected.

I write this on the eve of President Obama's first State of the Union address, not knowing what he's going to say. But polls say that many Americans are upset because in only a year, he has failed to undo the miasma of the eight years that preceded him. Candidate Obama did set a high bar for what he expected to be able to achieve with a Democratic majority in both houses and bipartisan cooperation. But then, he was elected and confronted, not just with the true nature of the mess(es) that he'd inherited, but also with the single-minded determination of the Republicans, led by Louisville's own Mitch McConnell, to destroy his presidency.

And so, a year after the inauguration, Republicans are giddy. Barack Obama does not walk on water. Some have already declared that he is a lame duck. Even a few of his fair-weather friends are wobbling.

Even so, little notice has been given to the topic of a recent Courier-Journal editorial noting that a new study by the independent Congressional Quarterly concluded that “of all the presidents since Harry Truman, Barack Obama has achieved the most success of all in getting the measures he endorsed passed and signed into law.”

There are tough things yet to be done and big problems to be solved. There always are.

But voters must decide whether restoring Republican majorities in Congress will bring them the economic relief and the personal security they desperately crave after George Bush squandered the prosperity of the Clinton years. It occurs to me that if the Republicans had practiced the fiscal responsibility they're now screaming for, Barack Obama likely never would have been elected. My old J-school classmate and friend, Wayne Dawkins, currently a professor at Hampton University, is right: “A lot of people still don't appreciate how jacked up we were last year at this time.” Those who want Obama to fail are relying on an electorate suffering from memory lapse, short attention spans and even shorter patience. Ultimately, however, it all boils down to this: If President Obama fails, who wins? If you think that you do, and you vote, by all means throw out the bum.

Betty Winston Bayé is a Courier-Journal editorial writer and columnist. Her column appears Thursdays in the Community Forum. Read her online at


Message From POTUS Barack Obama Re: State Of The Union Address. Read More Below.

Osi --

I just finished delivering my first State of the Union address.

I set out an urgent plan for restoring economic security for struggling middle class families. This is my top priority, but I cannot do it alone -- and that's why I'm writing to you now.

Tonight, I called on Congress to enact reforms and new initiatives to defend the middle class -- to create millions of new jobs, support small businesses, and drive up wages; to invest in the education of our children and the clean energy technology that must power our future; and to protect the economy from reckless Wall Street abuses.

And I made my position on health reform clear: We must not walk away. We are too close, and the stakes are too high for too many. I called on legislators of both parties to find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people.

I have no illusions -- there have been setbacks, and there will be more to come. The special interests who have shaped the status quo will keep fighting tooth and nail to preserve it.

So tonight, I'm asking you to join me in the work ahead. I need your voice. I need your passion. And I need your support.

Can you help fuel our fight for the middle class with a monthly donation of $15 or more?

We have just finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment -- to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.

Thank you for making it possible,

President Barack Obama


GOP's Bob McDonald Responds About "Proper Limited Role Of Government". Watch Video.

POTUS Barack Obama Wants To "Hit The Reset Button". Watch Video Of His State Of The Union Address.

After POTUS Barack Obama's "State Of The Union". Laugh With Joel Pett.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

MAUREEN DOWD: Bringing Sexy Back.

Bringing Sexy Back

He’s The One, all right.

The handsome, athletic pol with the comely wife and two lovely daughters who precipitously rose from the State Legislature to pull us all together.

The fresh face and disarming underdog America’s been waiting for, someone who suffered through his parents’ divorce, watched his mom go on welfare and survived some wayward youthful behavior to become disciplined and successful — a lawyer, a lawmaker and a devoted family guy who does dog duty.

Someone who’s always game for a game of pickup basketball, loves talking sports and even boasts beefcake photos. A pro-choice phenom propelled into higher office by conservatives, independents and Democrats, a surprise winner with a magical aura.

The New One is the shimmering vessel that we are pouring all our hopes and dreams into after the grave disappointment of the Last One, Barack Obama.

The only question left is: Why isn’t Scott Brown delivering the State of the Union? He’s the Epic One we want to hear from. All that inexperience can really be put to good use here.

Obama’s Oneness has been one-upped. Why settle for a faux populist when we can have a real one? Why settle for gloomy populism when we can have sunny populism? Why settle for Ivy League cool when we can have Cosmo hot? Why settle for a professor who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Democrats when we can have an Everyman who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Republicans? Why settle for a 48-year-old, 6-foot-1, organic arugula when we can have a 50-year-old, 6-foot-2, double waffle with bacon?

Everyone in Washington now wants to touch the hem of President-elect Brown — known in the British press as “the former nude centrefold” — who has single-handedly revived the moribund Republican Party. It uncannily recalls the way they once jostled to piggyback on the powerful allure of One-Term Obama.

The capital is abuzz. What did Scott say about that? Has anybody checked with Scott? Let’s not make a move without consulting Scott!

One of the most famous political figures of the age, John McCain, was thrilled (and no doubt envious) that a newbie unknown a week ago made robo-calls for him in his tightening Arizona re-election race.

Before the Senate rejected a debt-reduction commission on Tuesday, reporters pressed for Brown’s hypothetical intentions: Would he have voted yes if he had been seated? (Yes, his spokesman told The Politico’s David Rogers.)

The Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, has even christened Brown “41,” usurping Poppy Bush’s nickname. That’s because Brown, the only Republican in the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, gives his party the needed 41st vote to filibuster unmolested. Even some in the Obama White House secretly wonder if the wonder from Wrentham, Mass., is The One. Could he be a more authentic version of their guy, who also swept in as a long-shot outsider only 14 months ago?

Obama is coming across as plastic and hidden, rather than warm and accessibly all-American. (Brown has even been known to do his daughter’s laundry when she gets too busy.)

Whereas Obama had to force himself to nibble French fries and drink beer (instead of his organic Black Forest Berry Honest Tea) during the Pennsylvania primary, Brown truly loves diners, Pepsi, Waffle Houses and the unwashed masses.

David Axelrod, Obama’s senior strategist, praised Brown for his “spectacular” campaign. And Obama aligned himself with the new symbolic force, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry and they’re frustrated.”

Even though Brown opposes Obama’s plan to tax big banks, the president tried to wrap himself in Brown populism: “And here in Washington — from their perspective — the only thing that happens is that we bail out the banks.”

Stephanopoulos pointed out the obvious difference between Barry and Scotty, telling the president with the populist mask: “But you’re in charge now.”

At the moment, President-elect Brown is a new blank slate in an old pickup truck. As the president scrambles to freeze some spending and unfreeze his persona, Obama strategists hope that, in some weird way, Brown will help revive the president’s fortunes.

They say that if Brown turns out to be as independent as Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, he can help the president bypass the conservative troglodytes on the Hill and pull Obama out of his slump.

It won’t be long before we see the New One and the Old One playing two-on-two — Brown with his basketball- and “American Idol”-star daughter, Ayla, and Obama, perhaps, with his 6-foot-5 body man Reggie Love — on the White House court.

Just a couple of messiahs shooting some hoops and swapping man-of-the-people stories.


Ruth Marcus: In Defense Of The Filibuster.

In defense of the filibuster
By Ruth Marcus

WASHINGTON — This won't comfort Democrats mourning the loss of their filibuster-proof majority, but the existence of the filibuster is, on balance, a good thing.

The filibuster is frustrating, literally and intentionally: It frustrates the will of a simple Senate majority. From a purely situational view, this is infuriating if you are trying to pass crucial legislation or confirm a worthy nominee. It is wonderful if you are trying to block something bad from happening — especially if you don't have the comfortable backstop of a presidential veto.

The current Democratic impatience with the filibuster and demands to adjust or abolish it are as situational as Republican praise for the device. The capital is a place where memories tend to be conveniently short.

Five years ago, Republicans were thundering against the outrageous assault on democracy and majority rule embodied in Democrats' use of the filibuster against George W. Bush's judicial nominees. Democrats were writing sonnets to the practice as a necessary bulwark against Republican overreaching.

That the roles are now reversed does not answer the question of which claim is correct. The filibuster makes the process — take a deep breath, Democrats — fairer. It enhances the opportunity for real debate. On the major legislation for which its use was meant, the filibuster tends, overall, to create a better end product, one more likely to gain wide acceptance among voters.

No doubt, the filibuster has been overused in recent years, snarling Senate action on even the most routine matters. But such abuse is evidence of a deeper problem — the increasing polarization of politics — and not its cause.

In terms of fairness, the filibuster demarcates the difference between the Senate and the House. In the House, a dictatorial majority can prevent the opposition from playing any meaningful role — even from offering amendments. The existence of the filibuster in the Senate ensures that, at least in one chamber, the minority gets its chance to try to change the end product.

As political scientist Gregory Koger, an expert on the filibuster, writes, the Senate minority's ability to gum up the works requires that “the majority and minority party haggle over the process for debating major legislation to ensure that members of both parties are able to deliberate fully. Without the minority party's power to filibuster, it is likely that the majority party in the Senate would be no more generous than its counterpart in the House.”

A fair process is an end in itself; it also contributes, as a general matter, to an improved result. Not always, of course. Filibusters can be used for odious purposes — most notoriously, to block anti-lynching and civil rights legislation. Overall, however, a product that can secure the votes of 60 senators is more likely to be one that can achieve a national consensus as well. It is no accident that the Senate health care bill is better than its House counterpart.

If you tend toward political extremes you are not likely to agree with this assessment, but you can take comfort in the assurance that the filibuster still protects your side against the wildest excesses of a temporary majority. Just imagine, Democrats, what congressional Republicans and President Bush could have done — absent the right to filibuster — during the four-plus years of complete majority rule.

The most trenchant criticism of the filibuster is its overuse. The Senate has become a body that requires 60 votes to get out of bed in the morning. This degree of gridlock was not intended. “From its earliest incarnation,” congressional scholar Norman Ornstein notes, “the filibuster was generally reserved for issues of great national importance, employed by one or more senators who were passionate enough about something that they would bring the entire body to a halt.” No more. Cloture motions — the device used to end a filibuster — were once a rarity. Now they are routine. The biggest spike has come since Republicans became the minority party in 2007, with a record 139 cloture motions in the last Congress. The current Congress is on a course to match that.

A more polarized Senate, with almost no ideological overlap between the parties, has accompanied, and most likely produced, a more fractious process. Changing the rules would treat one symptom — delay and gridlock — at the cost of exacerbating the underlying disease: excessive partisanship and ideological extremism.

Myself, I'd rather live with the filibuster.

Ruth Marcus is a columnist for The Washington Post. Her e-mail address is


Toyota Pokes Itself In The Eye, Takes Appropriate Action; GM, Ford, Chrysler Would Have Pretended Nothing Is Amiss. Watch News Video.

Kentucky Republicans, Buoyed By Scott Brown's "Massachusetts Massacre", Become Candidates On Last Filing Day.

No last-minute surprises as flood of candidates files for elected offices
Republicans buoyed by Massachusetts victory

By Joseph Gerth

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Tuesday's filing deadline for this year's primaries passed without any last-minute drama — but with plenty of candidates seeking office in what appears to be the most active election cycle in recent memory.

“I think the story today is just the quantity of filings,” said Secretary of State Trey Grayson. “It's hard to say whether we have an all-time record of filings but certainly, in recent memory, we have never had this many filings for state office and I think that's good for the voters.

By the time the door to the secretary of state's office slammed shut, there were 11 candidates for the U.S. Senate, 23 candidates for U.S. House seats, 49 for the state Senate and 183 for the state House.

Brooks Wicker, one of five Republicans who filed to run for U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth's 3rd District congressional seat, said Republicans see a chance after the election of Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts last week.

“I think all the Republicans want to run against anybody this time around,” he said.

Unlike some past years, there were no last-minute theatrics to add spice to the deadline.

Two years ago, then-U.S. Rep. Ron Lewis, a Republican, withdrew at the last minute in hopes of handing the seat to his chief of staff. It didn't work, as other Republicans were watching and had then-state Sen. Brett Guthrie waiting in the wings. Guthrie ultimately was elected.

In 2004 former Senate President Larry Saunders didn't file, in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt to hand the seat to his longtime ally, Virginia Woodward.

In the state House, 60 of the 100 districts will have elections in the primaries, the general election or both. Thirty-nine incumbent Democrats have GOP challengers, while only 9 Republicans have Democratic opposition.

In the state Senate, there will be contested elections in 17 of the 19 districts on the ballot this year.

According to Les Fugate, deputy secretary of state, 143 Republicans and 128 Democrats filed in state and federal legislative elections.

Federal races

In the U.S. Senate race, five Democrats and six Republicans filed for the seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Bunning, a Republican who is retiring after two terms.

The Democratic field includes Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo. Also running are Henderson doctor James Buckmaster, retired customs agent Darlene Fitzgerald Price of Whitley City and Eastwood businessman Maurice Sweeney.

The Republican field is led by Grayson and Bowling Green ophthalmologist Rand Paul. Also in the race are Navy veteran Bill Johnson of Elkton; Owensboro retiree Gurley Martin; Jon J. Scribner of Gray; and former Superintendent of Public Instruction John Stephenson.

In the U.S. House, it was the Democrats who drew the most attention.

In addition to the five Republicans seeking Yarmuth's seat, six in the GOP have filed to run against U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, in the 6th District.

In the 5th District, U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers is unopposed in the Republican primary, while three Democrats are seeking to oppose him in November. U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield, Brett Guthrie and Geoff Davis all are unopposed in the Republican primary, with one Democrat filing in each district.
State Senate

In the Kentucky Senate, the issue of gambling is looking like it could play an important role in the 2010 elections.

Two Republican incumbents from areas with numerous horse farms, who voted against allowing slot machines at tracks in a special session last summer, have drawn primary opponents.

Don Godfrey of Goshen filed to run in the 26th District in large part because Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Crestwood, voted against gambling.

Godfrey, 42, said he has no ties to the horse racing or gambling industries but that he believes the state needs to approve a bill allowing slots at race tracks.

John Black, a former Oldham County judge-executive, was the only Democrat to file for the seat.

And in Lexington's 12th Senate District, Republican incumbent Alice Forgy Kerr will have primary opposition from horse veterinarian Andrew M. Roberts. He said that he's “not against expanded gambling” and but he believes the state's economy is in such bad shape that “nothing should be off the table.”

Roberts said he hopes the legislature will deal with the issue of expanded gambling now. “But if they put it off 'til next year, I'll stand up and be counted,” he said.

Democrat Don Blevins, the former Fayette County clerk, also filed to run for that seat also.

In the state's 22nd District, Republican Chad Crouch, a gambling opponent, will take on Sen. Tom Buford of Nicholasville, the only Senate Republican to vote for the gambling bill in last summer's special session.

Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, could have opposition from the horse industry as well. Rick Hiles, the president of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protection Association, has filed as a Democrat.

First, though, she'll have to get by a primary opponent, Shawn Slone, who said decided to run because he didn't want Denton to go without opposition. He said he isn't opposed to gambling and is tired of the partisan battles over that and other issues.

Only Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, and Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, didn't draw opposition.

State House

In the House, 91 Democrats and 92 Republicans filed to run. Only a handful of incumbents are not seeking another term.

There will be primary and general election races in most of Jefferson County.

In the 46th District, held by House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, a Democrat, two Republicans filed to run. There also are two Republican candidates in the 28th District, held by Democratic Rep. Charlie Miller.

Rep. Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, will face Democrat Dustin Wilcher in the 29th District, and Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, is being challenged by Republican Aaron L. Wilson.

A battle for the seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Scott Brinkman of Louisville will see former Louisville Metro Council member Julie Raque Adams facing off against Jimmy B. Yancy in the Republican primary.

The winner will take on Nellie Draus Stallings, the only Democrat to file.

Republican Rep. Ron Crimm will get a challenge from former television advertising saleswoman Kimberly Greenwell, a Louisville Democrat.

And in the southern Jefferson County seat being vacated by Rep. Ron Weston of Louisville, Democrat Jeffery Donohue will face Republican Wade Hurt.

Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, has a primary challenge from Democrat Mike Slaton. The winner will take on Republican Nathan Haney.

Democratic Rep. Reginald Meeks is being challenged by fellow Democrat Donnie Adkins in western Louisville.

Steve Robertson, chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky, noted that fewer than one out of three Republican House candidates statewide will face challenges, while more than two out of three Democrats have general election opponents.

Reporter Joseph Gerth can be reached at (502) 582-4702 or at

Editor's note: To see the entire list of the candidates, go to

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HEAVY Lifting By The Jackass/Donkey. Notice The Backbone Hanging On The Wall! LOL With Nick Anderson.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Conservatives' "Watergate" At Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu's Office Or ACORN Induced Invisibility? Watch Video.

I Welcome The News That The Government Has Banned Texting While Driving For Truckers And Bus Drivers. Watch News Video.


Did Brett Favre's Antigone Like Hamartia Destroy Minnesota Viking's Super Bowl Bid? It Appears So. Read More Below.

Brett Favre's Hamartia.

Hamartia. The "tragic flaw" described by Aristotle: A leader cannot control his own inner shortcoming, which causes him to achieve the reverse of what he desired. In "Antigone," the king, Creon, tells himself he is acting in the interest of the city, when actually he is acting to glorify his own ego -- this hamartia destroys him. Brett Favre comes up a bit short of a character in ancient Thebes, but on Sunday he was brought low by hamartia all the same. It was not enough for Favre's team to reach the Super Bowl -- he had to get the credit. Game tied with 19 seconds remaining, Favre scrambled at about the New Orleans 40-yard line, with open field ahead of him. All he needed to do was run a few yards, hook-slide, call timeout, and the Vikings' strong-legged kicker, Ryan Longwell, had a solid chance to win the NFC championship. But the credit had to go to Favre; he had to throw a spectacular pass at the end, so television announcers would swoon. So he heave-hoed a dramatic across-the-field pass. It was intercepted, and the Saints won in overtime.

Perhaps you are thinking, "It was just a dumb mistake, and the whole thing happened in a couple of seconds." No. Two years of Favre's life built up to that moment. For two years, Favre has insisted that entire NFL franchises, the Jets and the Vikings, become thralls to his celebrity. He has used his stature to demand, demand, demand -- the crux of the demands are always attention and publicity for himself. Now he is brought low. In two of the past three seasons, Favre has lost in the NFC Championship Game. Each time, his team seemed poised to win at the end; each time, Favre's final play of the game was a disastrous interception. And each of those title losses was in overtime -- to punish Favre for his hamartia, twice the football gods allowed him to come so close, so close, then denied him. Favre has been brought so low, he is now being laughed at in Wisconsin, and he has only himself to blame. Aristotle would not be surprised by the ending of the Favre saga. If, of course, it was the ending.


Feel Free To Read E.J. Dionne Jr.'s "The Raw Deal".

The raw deal
By E.J. Dionne Jr.

WASHINGTON — “Populism” is the most overused and misused word in the lexicon of commentary. But thanks to a reckless decision by Chief Justice John Roberts' Supreme Court and also the greed of the nation's financial barons, we have reached a true populist moment in American politics.

The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision last week giving American corporations the right to unlimited political spending was an astonishing display of judicial arrogance, overreach and unjustified activism.

Turning its back on a century of practice and decades of precedent, a narrow right-wing majority on the court decided to change the American political system by tilting it decisively in favor of corporate interests.

An unusually blunt headline in Friday's print edition of The New York Times told the story succinctly: “Lobbies' New Power: Cross Us, and Our Cash Will Bury You.”

Think of this rather persuasive moment in a chat between a corporate lobbyist and a senator: “Are you going to block that taxpayer bailout we want? Well, I'm really sorry, but we're going to have to run $2 million worth of really vicious ads against you.” The same exchange might take place on tax breaks, consumer protections, environmental rules and worker safeguards.

Defenders of this vast expansion of corporate influence piously claim it's about “free speech.” But since when is a corporation, a creation of laws passed by governments, entitled to the same rights as an individual citizen? This ruling will give large business entities far more power than any individual, unless you happen to be Michael Bloomberg or Bill Gates.

The only proper response to this distortion of our political system by ideologically driven justices is a popular revolt. It would be a revolt of a sort deeply rooted in the American political tradition. The most vibrant reform alliances in our history have involved coalitions between populists (who stand up for the interests and values of average citizens) and progressives (who fight against corruption in government and for institutional changes to improve the workings of our democracy). It's time for a new populist-progressive alliance.

This court ruling should also challenge the fake populism we have seen on display of late. It disguises a defense of the interests of the powerful behind crowd-pleasing rhetoric against “Washington,” “taxes” and, yes, “Obama.”

President Obama has helped feed this faux populist revolt by failing to understand until recently how deeply frustrated politically moderate, middle-class Americans are over policies that bailed out the banks while leaving behind millions of unemployed and millions more alarmed about their economic futures.

If average voters came to see government primarily as an instrument of the banks, why should they believe that the same government could help them on matters of health care and employment? This problem was aggravated by puffed-up, self-involved U.S. senators who conspired to make the legislative process look as ugly and chaotic as possible.

Obama began taking a turn toward populism before the results of the Massachusetts Senate race rolled in. Republican Scott Brown's victory made the new turn imperative.

The president has now offered a modest tax on the big financial institutions to cover the costs of bailouts, and a tougher approach to banks that will limit their size and their capacity to make economy-wrecking financial bets. It's a decent start, and it's about time.

Next will come legislation to turn back the Supreme Court's effort to undermine American democracy. Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen are working with the White House on a measure to rein in the reach of the Supreme Court ruling.

Their bill is still being written, but the ideas they're considering include prohibiting political spending by corporations that receive government money, hire lobbyists, or make most of their income abroad.

And shouldn't shareholders have the right to vote before a corporation spends money on politics? Do we want foreign-owned corporations, especially those owned by foreign governments, to exercise an undue influence in our politics? Imagine what an enterprise owned or influenced by the Chinese or Russian governments might try to do to a politician who campaigns too ardently for human rights?

My favorite idea: Requiring CEOs to appear in ads their corporations sponsor, exactly as politicians have to do. (“I'm Joe Smith, the CEO of Acme Consolidated Megacorporation, and I approve this message.”)

President Obama was right to invoke Teddy Roosevelt in his radio address on Saturday. American democracy and the square deal in government for which TR battled are in jeopardy.

E.J. Dionne is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. His e-mail address is


Charles Krauthammer: The Democrats Sleep As The People's Anger Rises.

The Democrats sleep as the people's anger rises
By Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON — On Jan. 14, five days before the Massachusetts special election, President Obama was in full bring-it-on mode as he rallied House Democrats behind his health care reform. “If Republicans want to campaign against what we've done by standing up for the status quo and for insurance companies over American families and businesses, that is a fight I want to have.”

The bravado lasted three days. When Obama campaigned in Boston on Jan. 17 for Obamacare supporter Martha Coakley, not once did he mention the health care bill. When your candidate is sinking, you don't throw her a millstone.

After Coakley's defeat, Obama pretended that the real cause was a generalized anger and frustration “not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years, but what's happened over the last eight years.”

Let's get this straight: The antipathy to George W. Bush is so enduring and powerful that … it just elected a Republican senator in Massachusetts? Why, the man is omnipotent.

And the Democrats are delusional: Scott Brown won by running against Obama not Bush. He won by brilliantly nationalizing the race, running hard against the Obama agenda, most notably Obamacare. Killing it was his No. 1 campaign promise.

Bull's-eye. An astonishing 56 percent of Massachusetts voters, according to Rasmussen, called health care their top issue. In a Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates poll, 78 percent of Brown voters said their vote was intended to stop Obamacare. Only a quarter of all voters in the Rasmussen poll cited the economy as their top issue, nicely refuting the Democratic view that Massachusetts was just the usual anti-incumbent resentment you expect in bad economic times.

Brown ran on a very specific, very clear agenda. Stop health care. Don't Mirandize terrorists. Don't raise taxes; cut them. And no more secret backroom deals with special interests.

These deals — the Louisiana purchase, the Cornhusker kickback — had engendered a national disgust with the corruption and arrogance of one-party rule. The final straw was the union payoff — in which labor bosses smugly walked out of the White House with a five-year exemption from a (“Cadillac”) health insurance tax Democrats were imposing on the 92 percent of private-sector workers who are not unionized.

The reason both wings of American liberalism — congressional and mainstream media — were so surprised at the force of anti-Democratic sentiment is that they'd spent Obama's first year either ignoring or disdaining the clear early signs of resistance: the tea-party movement of the spring and the town-hall meetings of the summer. With characteristic condescension, they contemptuously dismissed the protests as the mere excrescences of a redneck, retrograde, probably racist rabble.

You would think lefties could discern a proletarian vanguard when they see one. Yet they kept denying the reality of the rising opposition to Obama's social democratic agenda when summer turned to fall and Virginia and New Jersey turned Republican in the year's two gubernatorial elections.

The evidence was unmistakable: Independents, who in 2008 had elected Obama, swung massively against the Democrats: dropping 16 points in Virginia, 21 in New Jersey. On Tuesday, it was even worse: Independents, who had gone 2-to-1 Republican in Virginia and New Jersey, now went 3-to-1 Republican in hyper-blue Massachusetts. Nor was this an expression of the more agitated elements who vote in obscure low-turnout elections. The turnout on Tuesday was the highest for any non-presidential Massachusetts election in 20 years.

Democratic cocooners will tell themselves that Coakley was a terrible candidate who even managed to diss Curt Schilling. True, Brown had Schilling. But Coakley had Obama. When the bloody sock beats the presidential seal — of a man who had them swooning only a year ago — something is going on beyond personality.

That something is substance — political ideas and legislative agendas. Democrats, if they wish, can write off their Massachusetts humiliation to high unemployment, to Coakley or, the current favorite among sophisticates, to generalized anger. That implies an inchoate, unthinking lashing-out at whoever happens to be in power — even at your liberal betters who are forcing on you an agenda that you can't even see is in your own interest.

Democrats must so rationalize, otherwise they must take democracy seriously, and ask themselves: If the people really don't want it, could they possibly have a point?

“If you lose Massachusetts and that's not a wake-up call,” said moderate — and sentient — Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, “there's no hope of waking up.”

I say: Let them sleep.

Charles Krauthammer is a Washington Post columnist. His e-mail address is


Louisville Courier Journal Editorial: "Quick Reform" Needed At Kentucky League Of Cities (KLC) And Kentucky Association Of Counties (KACO). I AGREE.

Quick reform

The closest thing to a slam-dunk for quick and certain approval in the General Assembly should be legislation to provide more oversight and more openness in the business and the meetings of the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties.

The Lexington Herald-Leader's reporting last year on both groups revealed profligate spending by the groups' staffs. It also revealed that the boards that were supposed to oversee and put the brakes on such extravagance were asleep at the wheel while the spending sprees were going on.

Let's recap the excesses uncovered by the newspaper's stories and also by state Auditor Crit Luallen's reviews of the groups' business dealings and practices:

KLC's top staff members spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on excessive or questionable expenses in recent years. Its former executive director was paid $331,000-plus in salary last year, and the group paid more than $1 million in legal services to a law firm in which her husband was a partner, and spent almost $30,000 at a restaurant in which he was part-owner.

KACo was no slouch in the excessive-expenses department, either, with $1.4 million of the almost $2 million charged to KACo credit cards in a three-year period found to be excessive, without adequate documentation or without an established business purpose.

All this, for two organizations that get most of their funding from tax dollars and should be accountable to the taxpayers.

Since those devastating reports, it is true that the boards have snapped to it a little more and have worked up some measures to clean up their agencies' acts. But legislators should resist any pleas to go easy on the legislation in favor of what the boards have done only since the scandal made headlines.

Too little, too late.

Forced and enforced culture change is needed — as is renewed public trust in the groups, for they do important work in providing insurance and services to local Kentucky governments — and that is what legislation will begin to provide.

Proposed legislation in the House would strengthen oversight, toughen standards and practices on procurement and bidding, and make the groups subject to the state's open records and meetings laws while allowing some protection of proprietary information.

Incredibly, after the reports and fallout of last year (the executive directors of both groups resigned), theHerald-Leader reported that the KLC's executive board recently voted to continue to close its meetings to the public.

Incredible. And enough.

As Ms. Luallen told the newspaper, “The key here is to remember that these are organizations that are funded with public dollars and are led by officials who are elected leaders. The majority of their boards are elected leaders representing the public. As such, they are subject to public scrutiny.”

Amen to that.


Lexington Herald Leader Editorial Sees "Kentucky Association Of Counties [Voting To Continue] Orgy Of Excess", And I *SIGH*.

KACo still does not get it

When a state audit finds $3 million in questionable spending by a "self-serving culture" of "board members, management and staff" at an organization funded largely with public money, taxpayers might soon expect to hear of a thorough housecleaning.

But not at KACo, which once stood for the Kentucky Association of Counties but now is becoming better known as the "Kentucky Association of Constant Outrages."

At KACo, where a Herald-Leader investigation found that five top executives racked up nearly $600,000 in travel and entertainment expenses during a two-year period, the housecleaning began and ended with former executive director Bob Arnold. He was forced out in September but continues to draw his $178,000 annual salary.

Arnold's departure opened the way for KACo to find a replacement who could bring some instant credibility to an agency desperately needing an extreme makeover of its image as the home of free-spending, wild and crazy party animals who blow $31,000 (including $10,000 in hotel cancellation fees) sending six people on a trip to Washington, spend more than $7,000 on a single dinner and put visits to strip clubs and the escort services of Campus Cuties on a KACo credit card.

A committee tasked with conducting the search for Arnold's replacement found such a candidate when it recommended that the KACo board hire Ed Hatchett, a former state auditor with an impeccable record.

But KACo board members showed no interest in cleaning up the organization's image Friday when they rejected the search committee's recommendation and chose instead to promote Denny Nunnelley, the longtime deputy director who was one of the five executives responsible for all the lavish spending on travel and entertainment in recent years.

A state audit of KACo, prompted by the Herald-Leader's investigation into the agency's spending, found some $3 million in undocumented, excessive or improper spending. The audit report said Nunnelley signed off on $70,486 of that amount.

A similar Herald-Leader investigation and subsequent state audit of the Kentucky League of Cities produced considerable hue and cry from various city officials threatening to withdraw from the league or at least withhold dues because of KLC's profligate spending habits.

But there has been precious little similar outcry from county officials upset over KACo's spending.

Friday's decision by the KACo board helps explain that.

Promoting one of the offenders in KACo's orgy of excess makes a fairly clear statement that the good old boys in county courthouses across Kentucky couldn't care less about the integrity and credibility of the agency that represents them.

They just don't want the party to end.


Democrats And Scott Brown. LOL.