Congressman Charles Rangel's Ethics Trial Approaches Monday

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- A two-year ethics scandal that saw embattled New York Rep. Charles Rangel lose his powerful position among House Democrats, but not his bid for re-election, will come to a climax when he faces an ethics panel Monday on Capitol Hill.

The ethics trial promises to be a spectacle.  Rangel, 80, a former New York City prosecutor, likely will represent himself as he faces the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.  The proceeding is formally called an adjudicatory hearing.

Rangel fired his legal team in late October, drawing into question whether the trial would be delayed.  But Rangel is expected  to seize Monday's opportunity to clear his name.

Rangel stands accused of 13 counts of violating House rules, but has emphatically denied any wrongdoing.  He allegedly failed to reveal more than half a million dollars in assets on financial disclosure forms, improperly obtained four rent-controlled apartments in New York City and failed to disclose financial arrangements for a villa at the Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic.

Perhaps the most serious charge surrounds Rangel's fundraising activities for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York.  Rangel allegedly used his status as then-chairman on the House Ways and Means Committee to raise money for the center from corporations and foundations that had business before the House of Representatives and his committee.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Tea Party Leader: Romney’s Healthcare Past Won’t Fly

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Mitt Romney could face strong resistance in a potential White House bid from Tea Partiers troubled by the healthcare plan he implemented as governor of Massachusetts. 

In an interview on CBN’s The Brody File Show, Amy Kremer, director of grassroots and coalitions for the Tea Party Express, one of the most public Tea Party groups in the country, was asked if Romney’s hand in the enactment of the Massachusetts healthcare plan would fly with the Tea Party movement.

“I'm being honest here. You can't get away from that,” Kremer told host David Brody.  “These people don't have short memories.  They're digging up everything from the past, and they're not going to let go of the health care.”

In 2006, then Governor Romney instituted a statewide healthcare plan in Massachusetts, mandating each resident buys healthcare coverage and provided subsidies for low-income earners trying to obtain insurance. Meanwhile, similarities between Romney's plan and the president's have been pointed out.

Romney has since attempted to distance himself from the president's healthcare plan, but continued to defend the plan he passed in Massachusetts.  This past March, he called the Massachusetts plan “the ultimate conservative plan” in a television interview.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Health Care Reform Will Lead To More Abortions, Sarah Palin Says

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DALLAS) -- During a speech in Dallas on Wednesday night Sarah Palin attacked President Obama for being the “most pro-abortion president to occupy the White House” and warned that health care reform would lead to more abortions in America.

"It is even worse than what we had thought. The ramifications of this legislation are horrendous," Palin said at an event hosted by Heroic Media, a faith-based, non-profit group that is working to bring down the rate of abortions in the Dallas area.

The 2008 vice presidential nominee urged the newly-elected Congress to repeal health care reform, which she called the “mother of all unfunded mandates.”

“The biggest advance of the abortion industry in America has been the passage of Obamacare,” Palin said.

Although President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortions, the former Alaska governor said it was nonbinding. Palin also noted the administration later allowed federal funding for some “high risk” insurance pools in states that allow elective abortions.

Palin did not address growing speculation that she is gearing up for a presidential run in 2012. However, she joked that she has told so many of the same stories recently that “I need to run for office just so I have more material to share in my speeches.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Christine O'Donnell Hints at Book Deal, Reality TV, and Dirty Laundry

Photo Courtesy - Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Failed Republican U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell of Delaware was back in the TV talk show hot seat Wednesday night. But it didn't appear to be the start of her farewell tour.

O’Donnell, whose penchant for TV talk show appearances during the 1990s became a popular fixation during the 2010 campaign, told the Tonight Show’s Jay Leno that a book deal and reality TV show could be in her future.

"The offers have been interesting," she said. "I am not necessarily interested in a reality show, unless it’s something like a 30-minute ad we did for our campaign that highlighted these issues…I would like to do something like a watchdog-type show," said O'Donnell, who also did not rule out another run for public office.

Reflecting on her loss to Democrat Chris Coons -– her third failed bid for the office –- O’Donnell said intra-party politics hurt her campaign.  Many party leaders refused to support O’Donnell’s candidacy, which was backed by Tea Party groups and Sarah Palin.  GOP Rep. Mike Castle, whom she defeated in the primary, also refused to endorse her in the general election.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Sen. Conrad: Extend All Tax Cuts; Time to Get 'Serious' About Deficit

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The White House conceded that in order to get the middle class tax cuts passed in the lame duck session they would need to agree to extend all of them, The Huffington Post reports.  They will also have the full support of Sen. Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.  He told ABC News Thursday, he “certainly hope[s]” Obama and Congress can come to an agreement before everyone’s taxes go up on Dec. 31.

“I think the president’s remarks are constructive, as you know I proposed some weeks ago that we extend all the tax cuts for a period of time until we are able to fundamentally reform the tax system,” he said. “Because that is what is required in part here along with spending reductions. Both are going to have to be done if we are going to get out of this deep hole.”

The North Dakota Democrat serves on the commission for deficit reduction -- which just came out with a draft proposal that includes tax increases and spending cuts to social security and Medicare. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Rand Paul, Incoming Republicans Target Federal Employees

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Some newly-elected Republicans are going after federal employees, or at least their wages.

Among them is GOP Sen.-Elect Rand Paul, who wants to reduce federal wages by 10 percent.  And his views happen to be in line with those of the Federal Debt Commission, which said Wednesday that the federal workforce should be cut by 10 percent and federal government salaries frozen across the board.

Paul made his case on ABC's This Week, arguing that such drastic measures would be justified because, by his calculations, the average government employee earns a six-figure salary.

"The average federal employee makes $120,000 a year," Paul of Kentucky said.  "The average private employee makes $60,000 a year.  Let's get them more in line, and let's find savings.  Let's hire no new federal workers."

But the average government employee earns nowhere near $120,000 per year.  "The median salary is $65,000," said Jennifer Dorsey of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Meanwhile, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, full-time federal employees earned, on average, $73,765 in 2009; federal civil servants earned $81,258.

"If you look at federal employment, civilian employment, a large faction of those are postal workers, who clearly aren't making $120,000 a year," said Al Lee, director of analysis at, a compensation data company. "If you take those out, over half the remaining work in the Department of Defense as civilian employees, and even with can't get the $120,000."

Federal employees earn a median salary of $61,574, according to

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Judge Denies Joe Miller’s Request to Halt Write-In Ballot Counting

Photo Courtesy - Joe Miller for US Senate(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) -- A federal court judge denied late Wednesday Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller's appeal to stop the counting of write-in ballots that were misspelled or incorrectly written.  Instead, the judge asked both the elections division and Miller’s campaign to file a response by next week.

Miller had filed a lawsuit Tuesday to keep the Alaska Elections Division from counting ballots that may be misspelled but that the division said it would accept if it clearly represented voter intent.

Election officials say that Miller’s campaign observers have been questioning many legitimate ballots, a charge his aides deny, according to local reports.

"Watching the application of the newly invented ‘voter intent’ standard has been troubling,” said Miller’s attorney John Tiemessen, who has been monitoring the ballot count in Juneau.  “We have seen first hand ballots 'put on hold' because the state employee could not figure out voter intent, but thought if they looked at the same ballot tomorrow or the next day, the ballot might be easier to understand. This is precisely the problem with having a state bureaucrat guess what a voter supposedly meant.”

Incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski has garnered about 98 percent of the write-in votes that have been counted thus far, but the elections division has a long ways to go.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


While Honoring Veterans, Obama Condemns North Korea

Photo Courtesy - Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- While honoring U.S. troops on Veterans Day at a U.S. Army base in South Korea, President Obama condemned North Korea, saying that the path it is on will only lead to more isolation and less security.

“Today, the Korean peninsula provides the world’s clearest contrast between a society that is open and one that is closed; between a nation that is dynamic and growing, and a government that would rather starve its people than change,” Obama said at Yongsan Army Base in Seoul, South Korea.  “It’s a contrast so stark you can see it from space, as the brilliant lights of Seoul give way to utter darkness in the north.”

The president said this is no accident of history, but rather a direct result of the path of “confrontation and provocation” taken by North Korea, including, he said, its pursuit of nuclear weapons and its attack on the South Korean ship Cheonan last March.

“In the wake of this aggression, Pyongyang should not be mistaken: The United States will never waver in our commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea," Obama said.  "Along the with the rest of the world, we have made it clear that North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons will only lead to more isolation and less security.”

The president said that there is another path available to North Koreans: to fulfill their international obligations and offer their people “greater security and greater respect.”

The president’s remarks came largely as part of a Veterans Day message to troops.

“We recall acts of uncommon bravery and selflessness," he said, "but we also remember that honoring those who’ve served is about more than the words we say on Veterans Day or Memorial Day; it’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year.”

The president also paid tribute to those who fought, both from the U.S. and Korea, in the Korean War.  This year marks the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the war.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Stubborn Renter Considering Challenge to Emanuel for Chicago Mayor

Photo Courtesy - Chicago for Rahm Emanuel(CHICAGO) -- Rahm Emanuel not only has a turf fight on the homefront in his bid to become Chicago's mayor, but a turf fight in his home.

When the former White House chief of staff decided to return to Chicago this year, he first asked Rob Halpin, the man renting his house while he was in Washington, to move out. Halpin refused.

Now, from the comfort of Emanuel's own home, Halpin is considering a bid for Chicago mayor.

''People have come to me asking me to consider running for mayor," Halpin told ABC affiliate WLS in Chicago. "If they get the signatures needed and get me on the ballot, I will run."

That is a pretty tall order. Halpin needs to file a petition with 12,500 signatures by Nov. 22 to make the February election.

Opposition to Emanuel's march to become mayor may need some help. In the days after longtime mayor Richard Daley's surprise announcement that he would not seek another term, as many as 15 local leaders suggested they'd be interested in succeeding him.

"Some just don't have the resources to go up against Rahm," says Dick Simpson, a politics professor at the University of Illinois. "He'll face four or five viable candidates" when they file later this month, but "Rahm is the frontrunner."

But even if Halpin's bid is a non-starter, it has drawn attention to an issue that helps the so-called Rahm-stoppers: Emanuel's residency.

The question of whether he is even qualified to run has loomed over him. The challenge likely to be raised by opponents is based on a longstanding municipal statute that says a candidate must have resided in the city for one year preceding the election.

The city code is clear and there's a real case to be made against Emanuel, election lawyer Burton Odelson said.

"If Rahm had left his house vacant, just as the president of the United States did, and come back to it on occasion, he would have no problem," he said. "He gave up his interest in living in the city of Chicago."

If so, he also gave it up to a stubborn renter and now a possible challenger.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Campaign Spending Scorecard: Record Cash, Little Impact

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Despite all the attention on record spending by outside groups during the 2010 midterm campaign, a post-election analysis by the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute found that the huge sums had little effect on the outcome of the election.

Non-party organizations reported spending more than $280 million, or 130 percent more money, during the 2010 campaign than they did in 2008, according to the Institute. The figure eclipsed spending totals by the national political parties for the first time in recent memory.

However, in the most competitive races across the country, spending by party and non-party groups combined was roughly equal in support of Republican and Democratic candidates, a dynamic that suggests the electoral wave was rolling well ahead of any outside groups' attempts to sway voters' hearts and minds, the Institute said.

"Neither set of expenditures [party or non-party spending] could be said to have tipped the electoral balance," Institute researcher Brendan Glavin wrote in the report.

Republicans captured at least 60 seats from Democrats Nov. 2 to decisively seize majority control of the U.S. House. In the Senate, GOP candidates flipped six seats, although not enough for Republicans to claim a majority.

While the skyrocketing spending by outside non-party groups did favor Republicans overall, according to the Institute, in most races the influence seemed to have been offset by a significant difference in party spending, which favored Democrats.

"These [non-party] organizations that are spending money independently are doing exactly the same thing as parties," said Steve Ansolabehere, a political scientist at Harvard University, of the new dynamic. "When all is said and done after this election, we're going to look at those organizations and they're going to look like parties. It's just going to be another way money is flowing into campaigns."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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