Capital Briefs April 20, 2009

TAXER OBAMA: As tea parties last week were attracting hordes of tax opponents across the country, a nationwide survey showed that two-thirds of voters believe President Obama, despite his promises to the contrary, is likely to raise taxes on people who make less than $250,000 a year. The Rasmussen Poll also showed that, of that same two-thirds, 47% feel Obama is “very likely” to raise taxes on incomes of less than $250,000. While 46% of Democrats believe that, so do 89% of Republicans and 68% of unaffiliated voters, Rasmussen found. The same survey showed that 42% believe that Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget will help the economy, while 43% believe it will hurt.

NAPOLITANO RETREATS ON VETS CHARGE: After initially defending the leaked domestic intelligence report that points to returning military veterans and gun-rights advocates as potential sources of violence, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano last week apologized to the men and women in uniform. Asked about the blast from American Legion National Commander David K. Rehbein and other veterans’ leaders calling the report incomplete and politically biased, Napolitano told CNN: “I know that some veterans’ groups were offended by the fact that veterans were mentioned in this assessment. So, I apologize for that offense. It was certainly not intended. I’ll be meeting with the leaders of some of those groups next week.”

PALIN WON’T CHALLENGE MURKOWSKI: As Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin wrestled with her state legislature after announcing she would accept only 55% of the $930 million in federal stimulus money Alaska is eligible for, Palin last week ended speculation she would challenge Sen. Lisa Murkowski next year. “The governor has no intention of running for the senator’s seat in 2010,” Palin spokeswoman Meg Stapleton told the Anchorage Daily News, adding that Palin feels fellow Republican Murkowski “is doing a great job and that’s why she is looking forward to hosting a fund-raiser for her.” Palin, who has yet to say whether she will seek re-election as governor next year, also made her first out-of-state speech since the November election by addressing the Vanderburgh County (Ind.) Right to Life Banquet in Evansville April 17, sharing the dais with Republican National Chairman Michael Steele.

? Almost six months after Minnesotans voted for a U.S. senator, no one knows yet who won and there has been a Senate vacancy since Republican Sen. Norm Coleman’s term ran out in January. After a three-judge panel ordered fewer than 400 new absentee ballots to be counted — far less than Coleman had called for — and Democrat Al Franken’s lead held at 312 out of 2.9 million cast, signs were strong that Franken will soon be issued a certificate of election and seated by the Democratic-controlled Senate. But Coleman won’t go quietly into the night. His attorney Ben Ginsburg is almost certain to file an appeal to the state Supreme Court and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said “Minnesotans deserve a final ruling that applies consistent ballot standards and addresses serious unresolved questions in order to have any confidence in the accuracy of the result.”

: In the wake of the latest seizures by the Somali pirates and growing concern for the lives of Americans at sea, Rep. Ron Paul (R.-Tex.) last week called on Congress to dust off a means of dealing with pirates written into the U.S. Constitution and last used during the War of 1812: letters of marque and reprisal, official warrants from the government empowering private citizens hired by the U.S. to keep international waters safe by seizing enemies and their vessels in return for private bounty money. The letters of marque and reprisal would also require the privateers to post bond promising to abide by international rules of war. “I think if every potential pirate knew this would be the case, they would have second thoughts because they could probably be blown out of the water rather easily if those were the conditions,” Paul said.

CHARITY WARS: Days after President Obama defended his support for lowering the tax deducibility of charitable donations from 35% to 28% among the highest givers, several past and present heads of national charities weighed in strongly against the proposed change in the tax code. “If major and small donors to charities were all giving $100, that’s one thing,” Dr. Bernadine Healy, former president of the American Red Cross, told HUMAN EVENTS. “But after spending a good part of my life in the world of non-profits, I found that people who make a lot more money tend to be major givers to charity.” Another past Red Cross President, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R.-N.C.), agreed, telling us: “A proposal that seeks to reduce incentives on the contributions of the wealthy will do far more harm to the poor than the revenue raised from such a scheme can possibly produce.” Acknowledging that Obama is aware of this criticism, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted to HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi last week that the change in deductibility “would have a very, very, very minor impact on charitable giving, and that I think [the proposal] is an equitable solution.” Gibbs offered no evidence that the change’s impact on charitable giving would be minor, however.