Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

March 2006 Archives

And blogger Sweet is part of the panel...

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak launches the Chicago Sun-Times/University of Illinois at Chicago Lecture Forum at an April 19 panel analyzing Washington policies and politics.

"We are pleased to embark on our inaugural panel series with UIC. Our long-term commitment will be to address topics that reflect the diverse communities and cultures that both the university and the Sun-Times serve," said John Cruickshank, Chicago Sun-Times Publisher.

"We welcome the opportunity to join with one of the nation's major newspapers in hosting a forum that will give the public the opportunity to hear from, and question, leading experts from academia and journalism on vital issues of the day," said UIC Chancellor Sylvia Manning.

The former president on immigration....his international work...but NOT on the future of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)


PRESS AVAILABILITY WITH PRESIDENT BUSH, PRESIDENT FOX OF MEXICO, AND PRIME MINISTER HARPER OF CANADA
The three leaders talk about border issues and immigration as the U.S. is wrestling with what could be historic legislation.

The Senate this week declined to pass a tough package of ethics and lobbying reform, favoring a watered-down package instead. The House is working on its version of the same legislation.....with that in mind, read on....
This just in from the Justice Department..

WASHINGTON - Former lobbyist Tony C. Rudy pleaded guilty to conspiring with Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon and others to commit honest services fraud, mail and wire fraud, and a violation of conflict of interest post-employment restrictions, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division announced today.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) skips a funder for Senate Dems tonight in Chicago to head to Florida to whip up advance sales for his second book, ``The Audacity of Hope'' at a sales meeting staged by his publisher.
And, as he does when he travels, he'll raise money for his HOPEFUND.
Sharon Stone lands in Chicago next month for Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
Sweet column below

But first, these BLOG SPECIAL items:
*Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in Chicago area tonight to keynote a funder for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) warchest.
* Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) coming out with a book co-written with Bruce Reed who served as a domestic policy advisor in the Clinton White House, where Emanuel also worked.

Tax time coming...this just in from the Obama press office...

Obama Introduces Bill to Stop Tax Preparers from Selling Confidential Tax Information


``I view the relationship with Canada as a vital relationship for the United States,'' Bush said in meeting with his Canadian counterpart.

After next week, Congress goes on break for two weeks for the Easter recess.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at her briefing today called on Congress to log more hours in Washington.

Said Pelosi, `` The American people have uncertainty about their economic situation. There's a middle-class squeeze on. There's uncertainty about access to health care and whether they can afford it. The cost of higher education for their children, the flat purchasing power of the minimum wage -- they expect Congress to do something that is relevant to their lives. They have to work five days a week. I don't know why we shouldn't.''

The Illinois senators split on Wednesday's vote on lobbying and ethics reform.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) who in January was named the Democratic lead on ethics reform, in the wake of GOP lobbying scandals, voted no because the bill was not tough enough.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the number two Democrat in the Senate, voted for the measure, which does include a variety of improvements on the current situation, such as forcing more lobbyist disclosure.
The full Obama statement and rollcall vote follows.

The Senate on Wednesday passed an ethics and lobbying bill that fell short of the loophole closing measure reform advocates wanted. Senators kept a perk which allows them to take cut-rate flights on corporate aircraft paying only a fraction of the price, equal to a first class fare.

From the Department of Justice...the prison time for convicted former lobbist Jack Abramoff...

MIAMI-Jack A. Abramoff and Adam R. Kidan were sentenced to 70 months in prison followed by three years supervised release by U.S. District Court Judge Paul C. Huck, R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Jonathan I. Solomon, Special Agent in Charge of for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced today. In addition, the defendants were ordered to pay restitution to Foothill Capital in the amount of $21,701,015.45. The defendants were also ordered to complete 750 hours of community service during their supervised release period.

The White House did not want Democrats to dominate the news cycle talking about national security.
Vice President Cheney gave a telephone interview to Fox's Tony Snow where they talked about, among other items, the censure call made by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.)
Feingold did not find many Democrats joining him in his censure bid.
Cheney suggested the Republicans may want to call Feingold's bluff.
Said Cheney: `` I, for one, am inclined to think that the best way to treat it is with a certain amount of contempt. My guess is that if it were to come to a vote, and that were the issue, then, in fact, a vast majority of Democrats would vote against it. I think they'd be embarrassed to have to even consider it.''

Republicans did not wait much to reply to the Democratic roll out of their national security iniatives today.
Below, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) talks about the Democratic approach, with counters from House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and others.

President Bush overnights in Cancun

He will meet with the Mexican president and Canadian prime minister.

In an interview with CNN ESPAÑOL, Bush said, `` Well, I think it's very important for the three of us to continue to commit ourselves to a relationship that -- a commercial relationship based upon trade, free and fair trade, a security relationship based upon kind of mutual understanding of how we can cooperate.''

I'll be at a breakfast briefing Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi were I figure they will want to talk about their rollout today of their national security proposals.

This from the Dems:
Washington, D.C.-House and Senate Democrats will hold a major event today at 1 p.m. to unveil the comprehensive Democratic plan to protect America: Real Security. Despite their tough talk, Republican's incompetence has made America less safe. Democrats will offer tough and smart policies to provide the real security that Americans expect and demand.

From today's column...


The volume in the heated House duel between Democrat Tammy Duckworth and Republican Peter Roskam was cranked up Tuesday as Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) became a factor in the race.

This react on the White House shake up just in, from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
Durbin is skeptical whether the departure of Chief of Staff Andy Card will put the Bush White House on the right course.
``They picked the wrong person to toss overboard,'' Durbin said.
UPDATE: House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) praises Card in his statement.
UPDATE 2: Durbin on Card resignation and more in interview on CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.

Joshua Brewster Bolten

This is Bolten's White House Biography

Now they can be just friends.
President Bush just announced the resignation ofl Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who has been with him since he moved into the White House in 2001.

Card will be replaced by Joshua Bolten, the White House Office of Management and Budget Chief who had been a deputy chief of staff.
(And quite affable, when I've spoken to him)
Bush just made the announcement flanked by the two men. It was quite emotional as these things go.
Card, in the transcript below, makes a reference to a famous bible passage. It is from Ecclesiastes 3.
I think you may have heard the song.

To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew;

All the best to Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) who has been battling Parkinson's disease for years.
On Tuesday, a week after he won renomination for another term, Evans announced he will step down at the end of this term.
The Democratic committeemen
in his congressional district will name a replacement to be on the November ballot
.

AFTERNOON UPDATE: Just in case the Republicans argue the seat is now in play, no matter who the local Dem powerbrokers pick to replace Evans, the House Democratic Campaign Committee issued a memo arguing Evans' district is Democratic leaning. (memo below)


You're going to be hearing a lot about immigration in the next two weeks. That's because the full Senate today starts days of debate on how to handle illegal immigrants in the United States -- some living here for decades -- in this post-9/11 era.

From the White House, President Bush's immigration policy proposals.


White House Spokesman Scott McCLELLAN Monday briefing, on immigration, Iraq and other topics...

``Well, it's not just -- I mean, there are issues on both sides of the political spectrum, and there are issues relating to amnesty, there are issues -- some that favor amnesty, some that don't.''

President Bush, today, told new citizens at their naturalization ceremony:
``Our nation is now in the midst of the debate on immigration policy, and it's good. Immigration is an important topic. Immigration is also an emotional topic. And we need to maintain our perspective as we conduct this debate.''

The Senate is focused on immigration this week.
The Senate Judiciary Commitee is ``marking up'' an immigration bill this morning. Senate floor debate is expected to begin tomorrow.
President Bush is attending a naturalization ceremony.
(To mark up means the committee is deciding on contents of a bill to be sent to the Senate floor)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) this morning is trying to get in the measure an amendment to prevent criminal penalties filed against people who provide humanitarian assistance to illegal immigrants.
UPDATE: Near 10 a.m. Chicago time, Durbin passes amendment.
UPDATE 2: NEAR 6 P.M. Chicago time. Durbin passes 3 amendments.
1. takes away criminal penalties to humanitarian workers helping illegal immigrants.
2. strips away other criminal penalties in House version of bill.
3. to include provisions in the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, a narrowly-tailored, bipartisan bill that would provide immigration relief to a select group of students who grew up in the United States, have good moral character, and are pursuing a college education or have enlisted in the military.

Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee is the counterpart to the DCCC's Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the chief of the House Democratic political operation. (see item below)

In a fundraising letter, Reynolds said President Bush `` faces unprecedented personal attacks by the Democrats and the left-leaning media.''

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is starting the week in New Jersey and New York, campaigning for a Democratic hopeful, huddling with fundraisers and Tuesday meeting with the New York Times editorial board.
Emanuel is in Newark this morning touting a Democratic House candidate, hitting the GOP opponent as being a foe of stem cell reserach. In Illinois, Emanuel's DCCC is using the same issue in the 6th CD race.
The DCCC, again on stem cell research, just released a broadside against state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), running against wounded Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth.

UPDATE: Yo pressers Bill Burton and Sarah Feinberg over at the DCCC: The release sent out with the hit on Roskam...puts him in Ohio, not Illinois.

President Bush makes a quick visit to Cancun this week. His schedule below.


I've been doing a lot of coverage in the paper and on this blog of the election in the 6th congressional district in Illinois.

The open seat is being created with the retirement of conservative icon House International Affairs Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.).

His committee has a full schedule for next week. Hyde's special interest has been changing the United Nations. Ambassador John Bolton testifies on UN Reform Wednesday in a hearing Hyde will chair.

I caught up with the Rev. Jesse Jackson at a press conference in Washington where he and other civil rights leaders talked about a drive to postpone the April 22 city elections in New Orleans.

I wanted to know Jackson's views on the primary win of the ailing Cook County Board President John H. Stroger and some other matters..

Wounded Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic nominee for the 6th congressional district in Illinois, was just interviewed on CNN.

The setup: All but one of the Iraq war vets running for Congress are Democrats.

Duckworth was first asked, however, to explain if her win--44 percent against two rivals, Christine Cegelis and Lindy Scott--showed anything about the strategy of running Iraq vets.

The CNN interviewer was trying to tie Duckworth to a national theme about Iraq vets running....but Duckworth's showing in the three-way contest was also a manifestation of how she got in the race late with the help of national sponsors--running against home-grown challengers. All politics are local.

Cheney's travel checklist: Fox, Diet Sprite


When an uproar developed after Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a friend hunting, he gave Fox News the exclusive interview to explain what happened.

Now it turns out that Cheney really likes the news at Fox -- so much so that when he travels, the television at his hotel room needs to be turned on to Fox when he arrives.

This and more comes from a typed memo obtained by The Smoking Gun Web site, which specializes in digging up original documents.

Here's the list.

President Bush on the road today.

President Bush will welcome President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the White House on March 29, 2006.

On Thursday, Democratic 6th district congressional nominee Tammy Duckworth issued a plea for support from backers of defeated rivals Christine Cegelis and Lindy Scott.

Duckworth has some work to do to rally the Cegelis and Scott troops behind her bid to defeat state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton).

UPDATE ON RNC CHAIRMAN KEN MEHLMAN FRIDAY CHICAGO AREA SKED.........
Mehlman hosts a ``media roundtable'' with Roskam in suburban Addison.

Democratic House nominee Tammy Duckworth, facing a big contest with state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) has to deal with uniting Dems as well as seeking cross-over voters in the suburban district.

From the Gov. Blagojevich campaign....


Governor Blagojevich issues debate challenge

Governor urges Judy Baar Topinka to agree to series of ten public debates beginning next month

Chicago -- Governor Rod Blagojevich challenged opponent Judy Baar Topinka today to a series of ten public debates to compare their records and discuss the important issues facing the people of Illinois. Governor Blagojevich wrote to Topinka today to extend the invitation.

“The voters of Illinois would benefit from a series of debates where they can hear our positions on important issues. The people of Illinois should see for themselves where we stand, what we’ve done and where we want to lead our state,��? Blagojevich wrote.

Governor Blagojevich emphasized that he wants to begin the exchange of views early in the general election campaign.

“Today I propose to you that we have 10 public debates, beginning in April, with approximately one per month to start and with greater frequency as the election draws near. I see no reason to crowd these important debates into September or October. The voters will benefit from an exchange of views and the sooner the better,��? Blagojevich wrote.

Governor Blagojevich’s campaign will contact Topinka’s campaign to discuss the details of the series of debates. The Governor hopes that Topinka will agree to the ambitious debate schedule and that they begin in April.

“From providing access to preschool for every child in Illinois to raising the minimum wage, Judy Baar Topinka and I disagree on issues that matter to working families. I believe people in every part of Illinois should hear us debate the key issues and the conversation should begin soon,��? Governor Blagojevich said.

-- end --


On Friday, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman is in Chicago to rally support for the Illinois ticket. He will huddle with GOP governor nominee Judy Baar Topinka and travel to north suburban Kildeer to appear at a press conference with 8th District nominee David McSweeney who is running against Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.).

Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y), who heads the GOP House political arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee will attend. Reynolds is the GOP counterpart to Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) the chief of the House Democratic political arm.

Happy Birthday, Ben.

Lots of cross pollination going on.

War in Iraq.
The third anniversary.
President Bush continues touring the country to defend the war in Iraq. Today, he spoke in West Virginia.


Bush: ``Now the fundamental question is: Can we win in Iraq? ''

Dem 6th cd nominee Tammy Duckworth called Christine Cegelis
this morning.
`` I spoke with Tammy this morning and wished her luck. She’s going to need it. Because she’s going to be running against the full force and weight of the Republican Party – not just Peter Roskam, but Dick Cheney, George Bush, Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman and every other Republican leader and every Republican dollar they can get their hands on.''


(corrected from earlier version)

UPDATE 2 AFTERNOON
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wakes up late today, just sending out a missive against investment banker David McSweeney who is taking on Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) in the 8th congressional district. This will be one of the biggest races in the nation this November.

UPDATE 1 NOONISH

A memo from the National Republican Congressional Committee highlights the potential impact of an independent on the ballot in the 8th congressional district where Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) will face a challenge from investment banker David McSweeney.

It's a storyline the NRCC has been pushing for several months--but got little traction--because of the bigger story of the GOP primary between McSweeney and Kathy Salvi. The NRCC wants to build up Independent Bill Scheurerto siphon votes from Bean.

McSweeney's winning team:
campaign manager: Jim Thacker
media consultant: Anthem
finance director: Lori Montana
deputy campaign manager: Stephen Rossi
office manager: Sheila Morgan
senior advisor: Charlie Johnston
aide and tech whiz: Drew Veeneman

UPDATE: Release from 10th CD Dem new nominee Dan Seals pitted against Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.).

MORNING UPDATE: Republican Governors Association chief Gov. Mitt Romney (MA) counters Democratic Governors Association as big stakes Illinois race draws national attention.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who faces newly nominated GOP rival Judy Baar Topinka in November, takes his first round of questions about the match-up at a 9 a.m. press conference at a fence company on Cicero near Damen.

Among the political topics on the table:
1. What's the impact of the intended entry of State Sen. James Meeks (I-Chicago) into the governor's race as an independent?
2. Is Cook County the new Florida? Are there AWOL ballots floating around in Baggies?
Look for the Democratic primary for Cook County Board President--already one for the Chicago political history books because of Cook County Board President John Stroger's stroke days before the election showdown with Board Member Forrest Claypool--to head to the courts if the uncounted ballot flap is not quickly resolved.
3. Mudslinging.
Tuesday showed that last-minute negative ad attacks are not always fatal.
Investment banker David McSweeney handily won over chief challengers Kathy Salvi and state Rep. Robert Churchill (R-Lake Villa). Last week, Salvi went up with television spots and direct mail accusing McSweeney of being a tax-and-spender. McSweeney quickly put out rebuttal spot.

Sweet Column: Topinka survives.

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A revealing behind-the-scenes look at Judy Baar Topinka on election day.

President Bush defends decision to go to war in Iraq as he spars at his morning press conference with Hearst columnist Helen Thomas.

Reply from Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-N.V.) follows.

Vice President Cheney tells troops at Scott AFB this morning, ``we'll keep at the task until we finish the job.''


President Bush's day....(all times CST)

9 a.m. Holds news conference. First since January. Brady briefing room in the West Wing.

10:10 a.m. Meets with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Republic of Liberia.

12:55 p.m. President and Laura Bush meet with Iraq and Afghanistan Non-Governmental Organizations.

No gaggle or briefing.

Vice President Cheney heads to Scott AFB in downstate Illinois near Belleville.

Home pundit kit.

MIDMORNING UPDATE: SEN. DICK DURBIN STUMPS WITH DUCKWORTH IN ELMHURST



Winners and Losers scorecard

*Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will have his coattails tested today.

He cut ads for Duckworth and Dem treasurer hopeful Alexi Giannoulias. One of the most popular figures in U.S. politics did not stump for Duckworth or Giannoulias over the weekend. Instead, Obama went on a swing for his HOPEFUND political action committee and Democratic Senate candidates that took him to Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego.

*The treasurer rivalry pits Obama against state House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago), the state Democratic party chairman. Score one for Madigan if the party's endorsed candidate, Paul Mangieri, beats Giannoulias. Madigan looks lame if he can't carry his slated candidate over the finish line.

*If Duckworth does not prevail over rivals Christine Cegelis and Lindy Scott, Emanuel, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and to a lesser degree Obama -- the trio who engineered her bid -- face an embarrassing loss.

Monday, President Bush signed H.R. 2113, which designates a facility of the United States Postal Service located in Joliet, Illinois, as the John F. Whiteside Joliet Post Office Building.


I just had a Crosby Stills and Nash moment. The president. The war. Ohio. Some of you get the reference.

Back to blog business. Said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, ``We're going to be going to Cleveland, where the President will continue to update the American people about our strategy for victory in Iraq.''

SECRETARY GENERAL DE HOOP SCHEFFER: . Let me echo what the President has been saying about NATO delivering, about NATO making the difference.

Drill down in the data this morning from this Newsweek poll, which reports news that should cheer Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House political operation.
Complete questions follow --on Iraq, Censure, Congress--plus demographic breakdowns, sample sizes for registered voter subgroups, trends, historic approval rating for past presidents.

Frontrunners Kathy Salvi and David McSweeney turn up the heat on each other in the 8th congressional district GOP primary contest. The winner takes on Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.)

On Sunday, Salvi knocked on doors in Barrington Township while McSweeney worked the ground around Lake Zurich.

On the third anniversary of the Iraq war, Vice President Cheney on Sunday sat down with Bob Schieffer on CBS' ``Face the Nation.''

The Senate Democratic communication operation, run by the office of Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) , shot off a quick rebuttal, as did the Democratic National Committee.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the number two Democrat in the Senate, is a guest this morning on FOX NEWS SUNDAY.

Another newsmaker is Gen. George Casey , the Commanding General of the U.S. led Multi-National Force in Iraq.

The topics on the docket include three years of war in Iraq plus the legality of the NSA surveillance program and call for Bush censure.

Here's my final overview on the big Democratic primary contest to replace Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.).

http://www.suntimes.com/output/sweet/cst-nws-sweet19.html

Hearing voices on the line, from candidates or their big name surrogates?
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) may be phoning you urging a ballot Tuesday for ailing Cook County Board President John H. Stroger Jr..

Between now and the close of polls on Tuesday, a lot of you will be getting automated phone calls reminding you to vote in the Illinois primary. They are often called robo calls with robo short for robotic.

Who's calling?

Just what happens in the GOP primary, I wondered when I interviewed Judy Baar Topinka at the Elmhurst St. Patrick's Day parade in Saturday, if the jury deciding the fate of former Gov. George Ryan comes in on Monday with a verdict…and the former governor is guilty.

From today's Sun-Times:
Former City Clerk James Laski pleaded guilty Friday to taking bribes in return for steering Hired Truck business to friends.

Help Mayor Daley name a replacement for Laski.

Open line night at the blog......

Tomorrow, your blogger Sweet will be covering all the pols at the St. Patrick's parade in Elmhurst....

And this is blog entry 100!
I'm going to celebrate by hoisting a decaf diet cola later tonight.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Am back in the newsroom working on column now.
From the Elmhurst parade.......... 6TH CD---- Dem candidates Tammy Duckworth, Christine Cegelis and Lindy Scott marched under sunny sky in parade. GO hopeful Peter Roskam said he's eager to take on Tuesday's winner.

Republican governor candidates at the parade--Judy Topinka, Jim Oberweis and Ron Gidwitz. Oberweis was handing out 2 for 1 coupons for stuff at his ice cream stores.

It was a Shamrock ceremony in the Roosevelt Room over at the White House...

I just finished watching the three-way Republican debate on WTTW-channel 11.

My colleague political writer Scott Fornek is doing the heavy lifting and writing the news story about the matchup between Bill Brady, Ron Gidwitz and Jim Oberweis right now. Judy Topinka opted out of the joint appearence.

I'll handle some of the lifestyle stuff. Host Phil Ponce played the theme of the movie ``Brokeback Mountain'' and asked the three men running for governor if they could identify the music.

Well, they could not.

Using tough language aimed at President Bush, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton(D-N.Y.) signed a fundraising letter today for the Senate Democratic campaign operation.


I wish Cook County Board President John H. Stroger Jr. a full recovery from the stroke he suffered this week. With all due respect to Stroger, whom I have covered on and off for almost 25 years, I think a Cook County voter deserves to know the answer to this question before Tuesday's balloting:

Will Stroger be fit to serve another term?

to read entire column, click here

Open for business......


President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, the first woman to be elected President of an African country, will pay a visit to Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., on Thursday, March 16, at 10am (ET) in his office, 2419 Rayburn HOB, to thank him for securing $50 million in Economic Support Funds (ESF) for her country - which amounted to $30 million for emergency employment activities to strengthen security and build roads, $10 million to establish an electricity grid and $10 million to demobilize and reintegrate ex-combatants.

The White House today is focusing on National Security. releasing what is called a National Security Strategy.


The document `` reflects the President’s most solemn obligation: to protect the security of the American people.''

Should Stroger Quit?

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Cook County Board President John H. Stroger Jr suffered a stroke on Tuesday.

He's in a big Democratic primary race next Tuesday against Cook County Board Member Forrest Claypool.

Stroger's recovery prospects are not clear, though reporters were told yesterday he was alert last night.

Should he stay in the race?

UPDATE 1. Democratic candidates in the 6th congressional district will make a joint appearance with the Chicago Sun-Times' Carol Marin on WTTW's Chicago Tonight this evening at 7pm. Scheduled to appear are rivals Christine Cegelis, Tammy Duckworth and Lindy Scott.

UPDATE 2. Read in posts comment by 3rd CD candidate John Kelly spokesman about Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) refusing to appear on joint tv interviews has shut down some coverage of three-way race with John Sullivan.


In the meantime:
If anyone spots Lindy Scott, Tammy Duckworth or Christine Cegelis.... on the campaign trail and wants to send in a report...or receives new direct mail from any of the candidates...please post....
That goes for the 3rd CD, the 8th with a big GOP primary....and any other contests.

U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY CARLOS GUTIERREZ TO SPEAK NEXT WEEK AT

2006 NATIONAL MANUFACTURING WEEK IN ROSEMONT

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), President Bush, and Prime Minister of Ireland at Capitol lunch on Thursday to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

SENATOR KENNEDY’S ST. PATRICK’S WEEK SCHEDULEWashington, DC – An ardent and lifelong supporter of peace in Ireland, Senator Kennedy will have several meetings this St. Patrick’s week to continue to foster progress on this front.

Senator Kennedy will be meeting with the McCartney sisters on Wednesday, March 15th with a brief press availability from 2:20 PM to 2:30 PM. Press may come to the Russell Senate Office Building, Room 317.

On Thursday Senator Kennedy will be meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Gerry Adams. The press availability with Ahern will be from 2:30 PM to 2:40 PM in Room 330 of the U.S. Capitol. The Adams availability will be at 3:30 PM at a location that is to be determined.

Seniors who don't pick a Medicare Part D plan for prescription drug coverage by the May 15 deadline face a lifetime of financial penalties for late enrollment.
Democrats this week are in a big push to get the Bush administration to extend the deadline.
Congress could act to push the deadline--but Republicans may fear some of their own may use a vote on a bill to extend the deadline as an excuse to revamp or repeal the costly new program.

I just got off a conference call with Rep. Pete Stark(D-Calif.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)

Among other items, they want Part D enrollment deadlines set to the end of the year.
They say the White House does not need congressional authority to reset theh deadline.
``If the president has the authority to wiretap you and me,'' Stark said, ``he can extend this deadline.''

Bush in New York downplayed the confusion factor: `` Anytime Washington passes a new law, sometimes the transition period can be interesting. And so we had some early challenges.''

Should the deadline be extended?

CORRECTED HEADLINE
(sorry, ron, my mistake. lynn)

United States House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515

March 13, 2006

Speaker Hastert Comments on the Democrats'

Extreme Attempts to Censure the President

(Washington, D.C.) House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) released the following statement in response to recent news reports regarding a censure resolution against President Bush being introduced in the Senate.

Background on the new National Security Division in the Justice Department, created under the reauthorized USA Patriot Act.

Comedy writers for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Lynne Cheney and President Bush working up material for Saturday's annual Gridiron dinner in Washington caught a big break when Vice President Cheney recently shot a hunting companion by accident.

What grist.

With a heavy dose of self-effacing humor, Obama successfully mocked himself while speaking for the Democrats. In a song, he made fun of his recent dust-up with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) To find out if Obama had sex with his wife Michelle before the show, hit the click below to read his entire speech.

Comic Al Franken was at the dinner and I heard him tell Obama's media consultant, David Axelrod who wrote most of Obama's speech, ``It was funny.''

Lynne Cheney, wife of the Vice President, represented the Republicans and she offered this daring riff on her supposed humorless spouse:

``I know he has a great sense of humor. Just the other day I asked him, `Do you know how many terrorists it takes to paint a wall?' and he answered right back, ``It depends on how hard you throw them.''

Bush, pitch-perfect, also hit on his vice president. ``By the way, when Dick first heard my approval rating was 38 percent, he said, ``What's your secret?''

Sunday, Democratic congressional primary candidate Tammy Duckworth to New York for a day of fundraising capped by an event headlined by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)

Monday, Vice President Cheney to suburban Addision to keynote funder for GOP congressional candidate Peter Roskam

On Friday, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was scheduled to stump for Rep. Bernie Sanders, the independent running as a Democratic for a Senate seat from Vermont.

Vermont is next to New Hampshire, but this is not an item about 2008 White House bids.

But Obama is having another one of those types of weekends that can fuel more (could there be more) speculation about his future.

Friday, as noted,Obama in Vermont.
Saturday, after a stop in Boston he's paired with Republican Lynne Cheney at the Gridiron ( see previous posts for details)
Sunday, he's on ``Face the Nation'' on CBS.

President Bush will host Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern at the White House on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2006

This just in...Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) rehearsed Thursday night a song he will sing Saturday as part of his keynote at the annual Gridiron Club dinner. And he will confront head-on his recent run-in with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

He's got pipes.

See Thursday column posted below for more details on this event...


Will it be a swamp or snazzy?
There is a celebration this afternoon to mark the opening of the new Tribune Media Center, the new home of the Chicago Tribune's Washington Bureau. All the Tribune Washington based print and broadcast operations are now working in one place. Members of the Tribune family graciously invited me to attend.

POST RECEPTION UPDATE: Very cool workspace. Very clean. Very big. Nice food.Thanks Jeff Z and Frank, the swampster, for showing me around.

Among the attendees...Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.), Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) and Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.)

I was in the Capitol this morning and ran into Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) as I was leaving to cover a press conference over at Democratic National Committee headquarters featuring the two Democrats who head the House and Senate political operations, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).


Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) lives in Western Springs -- that is, he moved there from Tennessee after his dad, former Rep. William Lipinski (D-Ill.), lured him home with the promise that he would be handed his seat with the help of political sleight of hand.

Challenger John Sullivan, an attorney, is in the 19th Ward in Chicago, and rival John Kelly, an insurance broker who co-owns a tavern, lives in Oak Lawn.


For entire column, on the political makeup of the third congressional district, click here.

A House committee today advanced a measure by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) to keep cell phone records secret, following up on a Sun-Times expose.

My colleague crime reporter Frank Main provided this update on efforts in Washington and Springfield to safeguard your cell phone records.

from a Jackson statement....

CONG. JACKSON: GORDON PARKS A RENAISSANCE MAN


Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., speaking about the passing of Gordon Parks
today said, "Gordon Parks was a renaissance man. He was born poor and was
mostly self-educated, nevertheless he was able to soar to the top of
American arts and letters, mainly through his photo journalism - he was the
first African American photojournalist and worked for Life Magazine for 24
years - but also through his music, movies, poetry and other writings.

"Gordon Parks was a man with a mission and early in life he discovered that
photography could help to expose wrongs and help to make them right. As a
result, his photography exposed poverty on a worldwide basis, and he
contributed to the success of the American civil rights movement as well.


I just had an ``only-in-Washington'' moment.

A few hours ago, I sent an e-mail to two of my Sun-Times colleagues in the Chicago newsroom attaching a press release about the upcoming Cherry Blossom festival. My thought was they may want to come visit me in Washington and see the lovely blooms.
Replied one of my invitees, Nancy Moffett, an assistant city editor, ``only in D.C. is God's work schedule announced by press conference!''

At this point, it would be news if the House political boss Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and his Senate counterpart, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) did not turn up the heat on Republicans. But here's what's coming...

The Senate is taking up ethics legislation today. The House still has to act.

Sweet's prognosis: Final product will be thin broth, not soup.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Democratic lead on ethics reform just spoke from the Senate floor on behalf of a measure to ban lawmakers from getting free meals from lobbyists.

( Obama's use of corporate jets to take discount flights and his decision to stop was the lead of a story in the New York Times today. It's old news to my Sun-Times readers. Last month, I broke the story about Obama's taking these subsidized flights--and his new policy to pay full fare if he takes a private plane)


In the Senate chamber, Obama just said, ``on the way to the floor,'' he asked folks working in the Capitol if lobbyists paid for any of their meals and it ``turns out people pay for their own lunches and their own dinners.''

It's just not right, said Obama, for lawmakers to ``feast on a free steak dinner.....It’s not just the meal that’s the problem, it is the perception….the best way to get face time with a member is to buy them a meal…something has to stop.''

No one is proposing lawmakers do not eat with lobbyists. Just pay your way. Said Obama, ``simply pull out your wallet and pay for it.''


Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) traveled to Sudan and other countries in Africa two weeks ago with other members of Congress.

The main purpose of the trip was to evaluate the situation in Darfur, Sudan to learn more about what can be done to stop the genocide.

Today, Schakowsky and other House Democrats were at the United Nations in New York.


Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and vice presidential spouse Lynne Cheney speak at the annual Gridiron Club dinner on Satuday night. It's Obama for the Democrats and Cheney for the GOP. President Bush closes the evening.
They will be under pressure to be very, very funny. It's a white tie night. That's tails for men and gowns for women.
Disclosure: Your blogger Sweet is a Gridiron Club member and, coifed and gowned, will be on stage singing with the Mighty Gridiron Chorus.

PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN

React to the death of Dana Reeve, 44, the widow of Christopher Reeve, from cancer. From Democrats Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry (she endorsed his presidential bid) and Howard Dean

AFTERNOON UPDATES....Harry Reid

President Bush asks Congress for line item veto authority...

Briefing excerpt from Scott McClellan: ``I think that there is a strong willingness and a lot of bipartisan support for acting on this line-item veto legislation.''

Statement from Congressman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.)
"Today, I am announcing that I will not seek reelection to the United States Congress."

"Over the past several weeks, I have weighed this decision. Ever since I was first elected to Congress in 1978, I set a goal to study the issues and become as effective a legislator as I could be to promote the interests of my constituents, the State of California, and our nation. In doing so, I have been extremely grateful to the voters who have returned me to office over the past four decades, and I hope, through legislation, advocacy, and constituent service, that I have returned that appreciation."

"One of the great honors I have received was being selected House Ways and Means Chairman in 2001, not because I was the first Californian to achieve this post, but because of the great challenge it offers to legislate in wide-ranging national issues. We passed over $2 trillion in tax relief for hardworking American families, we provided the President with trade promotion authority so that he could seek freer and fairer trade markets, and we approved a long overdue voluntary prescription drug benefit in Medicare for the first time in the program's history."

"Over the next nine months, I intend to continue to work hard and finish my congressional term with the same vigor as my first. Challenges lie ahead, and I intend to work hard to tackle the problems caused by our outdated entitlement programs and our currently flawed income tax structure."

"My constituents' interests and the interests of our state and our nation will determine my decisions on the last day just as they have from my first day in office."

####

New GW survey finds:
The 2004 election was a watershed in presidential campaign fundraising. Three or four times as many people contributed to the candidates in 2004 as in 2000, including an unprecedented number of small donors and Internet donors.

Big names back Duckworth, but where's ground support?

I spent part of Saturday and Sunday in the sixth congressional district -Des Plaines, Lombard and Roselle. For a report from the field on the biggest Democratic primary in Illinois-- a race with national implications, click here.


http://www.suntimes.com/output/elect/cst-nws-sweet06.html

From PoliticalMoneyLine, one of my favorite sites to track money and politics, www.tray.com....
see how Illinois is a leading state for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)to pick up political money.....

Catching up.... posting Friday's column about Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) paying his dad, former Rep. William Lipinski (D-Ill.), get started by clicking here...

http://www.suntimes.com/output/sweet/cst-nws-sweet03.html

Freshman Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) has been paying his father, former Rep. William Lipinski (D-Ill.), for political advice, as the plot the senior Lipinski hatched to install his Tennessee son in his seat has become the major issue of his two March Democratic primary rivals.

The senior Lipinski is affiliated with Dykema Gossett, a law firm with a federal lobbying and government affairs practice, and the Chicago office hosted a fund-raiser for Dan Lipinski last December.


The end of an era is coming.

Dick Kay will retire June 1 after a long career of covering Chicago politics.

Just got this e-mail from Dick.

click here..


In New Delhi, the White House puts out a ``fact sheet'' arguing the Aug. 28th Hurricane Katrina videoconference is old news.

Tuesday column: Democratic congressional contender Tammy Duckworth's campaign would rather the national aspect of her fund-raising strategy not be the subject of stories.

Wednesday, Cegelis campaign reacts -- See posting

For more on Duckworth's campaign fundraising and her powerful patrons--information her campaign would rather keep under wraps--click here for my latest column.

http://www.suntimes.com/output/sweet/cst-edt-sweet021.html

Glossary for this briefing on President Bush's unscheduled stop in Afghanistan:

Embargo: Do not publish until a later time. The White House works on the honor system in these types of situations because the embargoed briefing was sent to a big e-mail list of reporters.
File: To contact a news outlet and report a story that can immediately go out, as in ``Can we file this now?''
Wire call: Releasing information just to the big wire services, as in `` Can we do a wire call just to -- on an embargoed basis?''
Availability: Usually a short,somewhat informal event where a newsmaker will take questions from reporters. Not a ``formal'' press conference. The news that can come out of an availability can be significant.


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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