Capital Briefs December 8

LABOR LAYS DOWN LAW: As Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao prepares to close out eight years as head of the department, one major accomplishment that the lone member of George W. Bush’s original Cabinet can proudly point to is steadfast criminal prosecution of union financial malfeasance. The department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards has launched probes into embezzlement from unions, extortionate picketing, deprivation of union members’ rights by force or violence, and fraud in union officer elections. Just last month, OLMS secured ten convictions and nine indictments, and restitution totaling more than $625,000 was paid or ordered by courts. As Don Todd, deputy assistant secretary for labor standards, put it: “OLMS had another strong month of criminal enforcement in October and union members are the beneficiaries.”

NAPOLITANO NO BORDER HAWK: Opponents of illegal immigration are expected to raise a firestorm over President-elect Obama’s appointment last week of Janet Napolitano to be secretary of Homeland Security. In two terms as governor of Arizona, Democrat Napolitano has vetoed virtually every measure designed stem the tide of illegal immigration: a requirement of voter identification, a ban on Mexican consul ID cards (which critics say can promote fraud), and an English-only measure. Most significantly, the nominee to head the Cabinet department that has the most to do with securing the border and immigration and custom enforcement has a record of speaking out against the fence along the border.

HOLD IT ON HOLDER: With the press increasingly reviewing his roles in the return of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba and the pardon of convicted swindler Marc Rich eight years ago, the nomination of Eric Holder to be attorney general could be the first major Senate battle for Barack Obama. According to a just-completed Rasmussen Reports poll, 23 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of the attorney general-designate and the same number have an unfavorable opinion of Holder. Rasmusssen also found that 54 percent don’t know enough about the former deputy attorney general in the Clinton Administration to have an opinion.

NO CAP-AND-TRADE IN THIS CONGRESS: With no end in sight to the present economic turmoil, even liberals are conceding that the anti-business emissions-control legislation also known as “cap-and-trade” is probably dead on arrival when Congress convenes in January. “Support for cap-and-trade has steadily eroded, not increased,” concluded environmentalist authors Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger in the arch-liberal American Prospect magazine. “In 2003, cap-and-trade received 43 votes [in the Senate]. In 2005, it received 38 votes. Had the 2008 bill actually been voted on, green lobbyists and Senate staffers said, it would have received no more than 35 votes.”

SARAH’S BIG DAY IN GEORGIA: John McCain and three of his former rivals for the Republican presidential nomination (Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney) all made appearances on behalf of Georgia GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss in his run-off race last week. But the Republican who did the most campaigning to help the Georgia senator roll up a big (57 percent) run-off victory last week was Sarah Palin. While McCain and the others all appeared at rallies for Chambliss in Atlanta, the ’08 vice presidential nominee blitzed the state and spent a full day speaking to large crowds on behalf of the senator before she headed for the National Governors Association meeting in Philadelphia.

PALIN AT CPAC: Conservatives will be happy to hear that Gov. Palin has confirmed that she will be speaking at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that the American Conservative Union is sponsoring February 26-28 at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C. In the wake of the November elections, conservatives are so ready to do battle that ACU Chairman Dave Keene says CPAC registrations are already up 40 percent over last year.

RANGEL’S LAST DAYS? Thirty-eight years after he unseated Adam Clayton Powell amid ethics charges surrounding the Harlem lawmaker, Rep. Charles Rangel (D.-N.Y.) is now under similar fire. Currently the subject of a probe by the House Ethics Committee over unpaid back taxes, Rangel was also the focus of a withering November 25 article in the New York Times detailing the powerful House Ways and Means committee chairman’s role in preserving a tax loophole for a company at the same time its chief executive officer was pledging $1 million to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York. The Washington Post called on Rangel to step down as chairman of the tax-writing panel, concluding that “at a time when President-elect Barack Obama is holding frequent news conferences to reassure the markets and the American people that he is ready to lead the nation to economic recovery, the last thing he will need is a chairman of Ways and Means caught up in a swirl of serious allegations.” In response to a question at a recent speaking date in New York about whether Rangel would lose his gavel, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would review the findings of the Ethics Committee before making any decision. “I don’t foresee that,” the speaker added.