August  2007


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Grass roots vs. cash in Texas GOP
Major donors, social conservatives back different hopefuls
By WAYNE SLATER, Dallas Morning News
When it comes to Republican presidential politics in Texas, the money is going one way and the grass roots another. Texas donors have contributed more than $7 million to the three front-running White House hopefuls – Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain – 10 times the state total raised by the rest of the GOP field combined. But the top tier has failed to catch fire among many social conservatives in the Republican base who say the second-tier candidates better reflect their values, especially vigorous opposition to abortion, gay marriage and illegal immigration.

Craig: "I am not gay”
Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) denied that he is gay at a Boise press conference this afternoon, and said he regretted that he pled guilty to “disorderly conduct” at a Minneapolis airport in June. “I am not gay. I never have been gay,” Craig said. “I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct. I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away,” Craig said. The Senate Republican leadership announced that it will be opening an Ethics Committee investigation into what it calls a “serious matter.” “Due to the reported and disputed circumstances, and the legal resolution of this serious case, we will recommend that Senator Craig’s incident be reported to the Senate Ethics Committee for its review," it said in a statement.

Men's room arrest reopens questions about Sen. Larry Craig
By Kerry Maloney, Idaho Statesman
Sen. Larry Craig, who in May told the Idaho Statesman he had never engaged in homosexual acts, was arrested less than a month later by an undercover police officer who said Craig made a sexual advance toward him in an airport men's room. The arrest at a Minnesota airport prompted Craig to plead guilty to disorderly conduct earlier this month. His June 11 encounter with the officer was similar to an incident in a men's room in a Washington, D.C., rail station described by a Washington-area man to the Idaho Statesman. In that case, the man said he and Craig had sexual contact.

Some wonder if PAC will target Craddick foes in his own party
The speaker's opponents may be wondering if the committee's resources will be directed against them
By Clay Robison, San Antonio Express-News
Gov. Rick Perry thinks Speaker Tom Craddick is a fine fellow and a great Texan. But he really doesn't care whether Craddick survives the current challenge to his leadership, provided the House majority stays within the Republican family. That's the official word from the governor's office, but there are doubters, and their doubts are being reinforced by the fact that Perry's chief political consultant is now advising Craddick's political action committee. Dave Carney, the New Hampshire-based political specialist who helped Perry get re-elected with 39 percent of the vote last year, has been enlisted by Stars Over Texas, a committee founded by Craddick and administered by his daughter to help Republicans win election to the Texas House. Historically, the PAC has raised funds for Republican incumbents and candidates in selected races against Democrats. But now that several Republican House members are challenging Craddick's leadership, some of the speaker's opponents may be wondering if the committee's resources will be directed against them in next year's GOP primaries.

No driver's license? No problem
A 24-year-old woman who led police on a chase through Southeast Portland this week with her 3-year-old in the back seat has been cited a whopping 43 times for driving without a license. Seventeen times, she failed to show up in court for traffic citations. In fact, Kendareen Hudson has never held a valid Oregon driver's license. But until her arrest Tuesday, it didn't stop her from getting behind the wheel. That's because police in Oregon are powerless to arrest people who repeatedly violate traffic laws or fail to show up for traffic court. "She gets pulled over, she gets a ticket and never shows up or doesn't pay the ticket," Shelley Snow, Oregon Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said of Hudson and drivers like her. "When she doesn't pay the fine, the court orders the DMV to suspend her license." In Hudson's case, the suspensions stacked up like frequent-flyer miles.

Ruiz complains of chest pains following arrest on corruption charges
By the Santa Fe New Mexican
Joe Ruiz, a former deputy state insurance superintendent, was charged Friday with 31 federal counts of fraud, extortion and corrupt solicitation related to allegations that he recommended reduced or waived fines against insurance companies in exchange for donations to two charities. The two charities identified in the federal grand jury indictment were the Con Alma Health Foundation and the Southwestern Arts Institute. FBI agents arrested Ruiz at his Santa Fe home Friday morning, said FBI spokesman Bill Elwell. However, Ruiz complained of chest pains, so the agents took him to a Santa Fe hospital, Elwell said. The FBI released Ruiz from its custody, and Ruiz is scheduled to be arraigned at 9:30 a.m. Monday in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, Elwell said.

Conservative lawmaker’s call for GOP resignations gets mixed response
By Stefan Milkowski, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Fairbanks Republican Rep. Mike Kelly made a public call this weekend for U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, U.S. Rep. Don Young, and two other prominent members of the GOP to step aside to help restore trust in government and keep the party strong. Kelly, a Republican, wrote in a letter to the editor published Sunday in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that the Alaska Republican Party needs new leadership and has only two options in the coming year — “further revolution” or reform.

Napolitano sets earlier February primary date
By Howard Fischer, Arizona Daily Star
Arizona Democrats and Republicans will make their presidential picks the first Tuesday in February — the same day as voters in about 20 other states. Gov. Janet Napolitano on Tuesday used the authority given to governors by the Legislature to move up the primary election date from the end of the month to the beginning.

Poll: Smith leads in Oregon; so do Clinton, Giuliani (barely)
By The Oregonian
Oregonians would re-elect Republican Gordon Smith to the U.S. Senate if the election were held today, although a substantial number remain undecided about the race, according to a new poll. The poll, by Mike Riley, of Portland, undoubtedly will anger get supporters of Democratic candidate Steve Novick, who wasn't included among the candidates surveyed. Instead, Riley chose to question voters on Smith, Democrat Jeff Merkley and independent John Frohnmayer. "I figured the most likely candidates were probably going to be Smith and Merkley," Riley said, with Frohnmayer a good bet to run as an independent. Smith leads with 38 percent, followed by Merkley with 19 percent and Frohnmayer at 7 percent -- 34 percent said they are undecided.

Arizona watching Nevada's request that Mexico pay for immigrants health care
By HEIDI ROWLEY, Tucson Citizen
Gov. Janet Napolitano is closely watching the results of Nevada's request that Mexico pay the health care costs of Mexicans living in the state. "She really wants to know the details of the discussion," said the governor's spokeswoman, Shilo Mitchell. "She would need to know more about the details before she could say if she would ask the same thing." Mexico's Health Department confirmed late Monday that it is analyzing the feasibility of covering health care costs for its citizens in Nevada. According to a University of Arizona study released in July, immigrants account for $4.9 million in uncompensated health care costs in Tucson and a total of $149.3 million in Arizona.

ID governor prepares for closed health summit
The list of those invited includes representatives from eight hospitals as well as the Idaho Hospital Association, along with the licensing boards of dentistry, nursing and medicine
By REBECCA BOONE, Idaho Statesman
Select health industry leaders from around Idaho are preparing for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's hush-hush health summit here next week. As of Thursday, Otter had yet to reveal details beyond a vague agenda for the Aug. 21-22 meeting, and some health leaders feel left out of the invitation-only event. The meeting is closed to the public, except for a short address by Otter. "What we're hoping to accomplish is identifying and setting priorities for making health care more affordable and accessible in Idaho," Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said. "They're coming up with recommendations that may or may not be adopted." The meeting is closed because Otter "wants to ensure that these issues aren't politicized," Hanian said. "He feels like we will be able to get more accomplished if we let folks get together and have a frank, free-flowing exchange of ideas that might be tempered if cameras were rolling on everything that is said."

Hutchison says new career in private sector a possibility
She's not ruling out a run for governor in 2010
By PEGGY FIKAC, Houston Chronicle
Vice president? Doesn't want it. A run for governor? Quite possibly. Leaving public service for a new career in the private sector? That's appealing, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said Thursday, in the midst of a three-day West Texas bus tour.

Napolitano 'not inclined' to move up primary date
By the Associated Press, Tucson Citizen
Gov. Janet Napolitano on Wednesday narrowed her options on when Arizona will hold its 2008 presidential primary, saying she is "not inclined" to set a date earlier than allowed by party rules.
State law sets the primary date for the fourth Tuesday in February - Feb. 26 in 2008 - but gives the governor the power to unilaterally select a different date. States have been moving their primary dates forward to acquire higher profiles in the nominating process, and Napolitano has said she wants to boost Arizona's standing and has been weighing her options for months. Napolitano could set Arizona's primary as early as Feb. 5 and still be in compliance with party rules, but numerous other states, including such big ones as California and New York, have already created a logjam of primaries on that date. She indicated Wednesday she likely won't follow the lead of Florida and South Carolina to hold primaries for at least one party on dates earlier than permitted by party rules.

Anti-tobacco groups muster campaign funds
$700,000 will back Measure 50 to raise cigarette tax
By STEVE LAW, Statesman Journal
Get ready for a multimillion-dollar rumble between health care advocates and big tobacco. Backers of a proposed 84-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase to expand health care coverage have launched their campaign with $700,000 in cash and pledges, mostly from hospitals, health insurers and the lung, heart and cancer associations. The proposal, known as Measure 50, is on the Nov. 6 ballot. Support from the health care industry could enable backers to stay reasonably competitive with tobacco companies, which spent an eye-popping $70 million to defeat a 2006 cigarette tax increase in California. Cigarette companies and their allies are doing polling on Measure 50 and are expected to decide soon whether to enter the fight.

Democrats tell Jindal: Debate or face tough ads
By MICHELLE MILLHOLLON, Baton Rouge Advocate
The Louisiana Democratic Party gave U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal an ultimatum Tuesday. The party plans to dissect Jindal in a series of TV commercials across the state unless he starts participating in governor’s forums. “Who is Bobby Jindal? The Democratic Party is going to let you know and that starts today,” said Chris Whittington, the party’s chairman. Through his campaign staff, Jindal, R-Kenner, declined four requests Tuesday for comment. His campaign press secretary, Melissa Sellers, said Jindal was at a private event. She refused to say what the event was.

Kulongoski backs Merkley over Novick for U.S. Senate
By Harry Esteve, The Oregonian
Gov. Ted Kulongoski has chosen sides in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate -- he's hitched his name to House Speaker Jeff Merkley's campaign. Kulongoski and former Gov. Barbara Roberts will serve as co-chairs of Merkley's campaign, largely ceremonial positions but a clear boost to Merkley's chances. "Jeff's leadership is just what we need in the U.S. Senate," Kulongoski said in a news release sent by the Merkley campaign. "He's tenacious, he's principled." The announcement will help cement Merkley's claim as the choice of Oregon's Democratic establishment to take on Republican incumbent Sen. Gordon Smith.

Houston man sues florist for exposing affair to wife
By the Associated Press, Dallas Morning News
A Texas man didn't mean for his estranged wife to get a copy of the love note he sent his girlfriend, along with flowers. A florist's employee faxed the receipt with a copy of the note to the wife, prompting Leroy Greer to file a lawsuit claiming mental anguish and asking for damages to cover extra costs of the divorce. The lawsuit, field this week in Houston, asks for $1 million, saying the once-amicable divorce could cost as much as an additional $300,000. In April, Mr. Greer sent his girlfriend flowers, a stuffed animal and a card that read: "Just wanted to say that I love you and you mean the world to me! Leroy." The company promised Mr. Greer that it would send nothing to his home, according to the lawsuit. But the Internet florist sent a coupon and a thank-you card to Mr. Greer's home. His wife saw the card, called the company and asked for a receipt, according to the lawsuit. The florist faxed it, and it showed Greer spent $100 and detailed the message on the card.

Dozens of lawmakers failing to meet ethics rules
Analysis shows lawmakers rarely report details of campaign credit card spending
By R.G. RATCLIFFE and LISE OLSEN, Houston Chronicle
The Texas Ethics Commission has fined three legislators in the last year for failing to properly disclose credit card expenses charged to their campaigns, but a Houston Chronicle review has found that dozens of other lawmakers have done the same without being sanctioned. Texas legislators slapped down the plastic to charge more than $1 million in political expenses since January 2005, but failed to disclose who actually received the bulk of the money, nearly $900,000, the analysis shows. The Chronicle's review of ethics commission records between Jan. 1, 2005, and June 30 found few complying with a 1981 law that requires disclosure of the person or company that receives a credit card payment and the purpose of the expense. But because the ethics commission only audits candidates when it receives a sworn complaint, most lawmakers have gotten a pass on how they report their credit card spending, the Chronicle found.

Perry's border camera project stalls over lack of funds
The virtual patrol, meant to combat illegal crossings, isn't backed by the state
By SUSAN CARROLL, Houston Chronicle
More than a year after Gov. Rick Perry announced ambitious plans for a "virtual border watch" in Texas, the project has stalled because of a lack of funding. Perry announced plans for the camera project, the first of its kind sponsored by a state government, in the summer of 2006 during his re-election campaign, making it a centerpiece of his plan to combat illegal immigration. "Enforcing the border is the federal government's responsibility, but Texas will not wait for them to act," Perry, a Republican, said in June 2006. "A stronger border is what the American people want. And it's what our security demands. And that is what Texas is going to deliver." But the state didn't deliver exactly as promised.

Kinky says he might have another go at governor
Friedman won't run as an independent next time, he says
By W. Gardner Selby, Austin American-Statesman
Kinky Friedman might run again for governor in 2010, conceivably as a Democrat. "I'm open to running," Friedman said Wednesday before cautioning that he won't settle plans until after the 2008 elections. "Had I run as a Democrat last time, I think (Gov.) Rick Perry would already be (out of office as) a lobbyist for a cigar company," he said. The black-hatted humorist, who has a book coming out on his flashy 2006 campaign, said he realized after finishing with 12.4 percent of the vote that Texans wouldn't embrace an independent. Perry, a Republican, won re-election with 39 percent. Democrat Chris Bell drew 30 percent, and independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn pulled 18 percent. Friedman has focused lately on promoting his line of Honduran-made cigars, which he'll be touting in Austin next week at cigar and speciality shop Heroes & Legacies.

On governor's trips, taxpayers footed security bills
More than $200,000 spent on international travel for Perry, wife
By CHRISTY HOPPE, Dallas Morning News
Gov. Rick Perry is happy to say that taxpayers haven't footed the bill for his international trips, but state records show that the public has spent more than $200,000 to provide him security for his far-flung travels. Mr. Perry has been to about a dozen countries in the past three years, breaking all records for foreign travel by Texas governors, The Dallas Morning News reported last month. Corporate sponsors and campaign contributors have paid for Mr. Perry's first-class accommodations – including a $40,400 tab for a 2004 Bahamas trip during which he held a retreat with supporters and the heads of conservative think tanks. But figures recently released by the Department of Public Safety show that taxpayers have paid to keep the governor's ever-present security detail nearby in such places as Tel Aviv, Rome and Dubai. The state has paid about $238,500, including about $10,000 for the Bahamas trip.

Suit challenges smoking ban at most Houston bars
By the Houston Chronicle
A coalition of bar, nightclub and cabaret owners has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a city ban on smoking in most bars that is scheduled to take effect next month. Members of the Houston Association of Alcoholic Beverage Permit Holders say the ordinance will create an unfair competitive environment for them. The law extends the city's smoking ban to most public places but continues to allow smoking in outdoor patios and in bars that promote cigar smoking and derive significant revenue from tobacco sales. The lawsuit contends the city does not have the authority under state law to create different regulations among businesses licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption.

New law gives gay couples right to adopt
By April M. Washington, Rocky Mountain News
Colorado becomes the 10th state to allow gay couples to adopt and the 20th to extend civil rights protections to gays and lesbians. "We've been involved in pushing equal rights legislation for 11 years in row. Today is a new day as we take two great strides toward equality," said Mindy Barton of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Colorado. Colorado's new adoption law is gaining widespread attention.

Regent defends vote against Churchill firing
By the Rocky Mountain News
The sole University of Colorado Board of Regents member to vote against firing a professor who compared some Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi said she followed the recommendation of a faculty committee, which suggested suspension. Regent Cindy Carlisle told the Summit Daily News that the Privilege and Tenure Committee had voted 3-2 to suspend former ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill for one year and demote him. CU President Hank Brown recommended Churchill be fired. "I thought that they were the reviewing body who had the most at stake in terms of reviewing this," Carlisle said when contacted while on vacation in Hawaii. "They're active faculty. They're upholding the reputation of everything. They do the research, the teaching, the everything. I thought they would be in the best position to judge what the outcome should be." Churchill, formerly a tenured professor of ethnic studies, had triggered a national outcry with an essay comparing some World Trade Center victims to Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann.

Men in courthouse scandal rode free on state aircraft
By the Associated Press, Santa Fe New Mexican
Two men who weren’t involved with a redevelopment project at state Department of Transportation headquarters in Santa Fe flew with DOT officials on state aircraft to project meetings in Texas. Engineer Raul Parra and architect Roger Basarich flew with Toby Martinez, the project manager, and Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught to Dallas on Jan. 20, 2005, according to aircraft-use records. Basarich and Faught shared another state plane to Dallas on Feb. 1, 2005, while Parra flew that day with Martinez and Transportation Commissioners Johnny Cope and Jim Franken. The cost was more than $11,000, with no reimbursement by Basarich or Parra. Parra and Martinez were later indicted in a scandal surrounding construction of the Metropolitan Courthouse in Albuquerque. Indictments allege both were key players in a scheme that looted about $4.2 million.

Medicaid changes alarm rural drugstores
By ROB HOTAKAINEN, Wichita Eagle
For Mark Williams, it's a simple business proposition: He can't afford to sell medicine for less than what he paid for it. But he says that's what Washington expects him to do, come January. "When I talk to other businesspeople and say that, they look at you cross-eyed, like 'No way,"' said Williams, pharmacist and owner of the Medicine Shoppe in Kansas City, Kan., for the past 18 years. "But it's going to happen." It's a common warning from the nation's community pharmacists, who have been watching their ranks dwindle in recent years. Now they're looking for help from Congress, fearful that coming changes in how the federal government reimburses them for drugs for Medicaid patients will drive more of them out of business. Yet much more than the livelihood of pharmacists is at stake. If the changes proceed, critics warn, tens of thousands of the 53 million Americans who depend on Medicaid could be denied life-saving drugs or forced to drive long distances to get them. Medicaid is the federal-state program that subsidizes health costs for 53 million low-income people and those with disabilities.

Tax bills leave some with sticker shock
"Some areas have not been appraised for a long time, we brought them up to market value, and it's a shock to the people"
By Cathy McKitrick, Salt Lake Tribune
Pumped-up property valuations, mailed to landowners late last month, follow on the heels of Davis County's hefty tax hike last December. Both provide plenty of fodder for Davis folks to grouse over. "The big problem is, they're assessing the homes at the time that real estate is probably highest," said Bountiful resident Ronald Mortensen, leader of grass-roots group "This locks it in for a number of years unless people request individually that it be reduced." Mortensen has seen beefy bumps in his own tax bill two years in a row - the first due to renovation, the second because of the county's reassessment of homes in the Bountiful and east Kaysville areas, part of a cycle to update valuations countywide every five years. "It's supply and demand," said County Assessor Jim Ivie of the vaulting valuations. "People have just found out that Davis County exists, and that it's a pleasant place to live." Ivie said he heard from several homeowners after they tore open their recent tax notices. "Some areas have not been appraised for a long time, and their values have been low for a while," he said. "We brought them up to market value, and it's a shock to the people."



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