Capital Briefs

BP’S MAN AT ENERGY:  President Obama has railed against lobbyists, but a top official at the U.S. Department of Energy must recuse himself from figuring out how to stop 2.5 million gallons of oil a day from flowing into the Gulf of Mexico for a most interesting reason:  He used to work for BP. The Washington Times reported last week that Steven Koonin, undersecretary for science under Obama’s liberal Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, was formerly chief scientist for BP and was paid $1.8 million in compensation and bonus money in 2008-09, as well as $244,600 in BP bonuses and stock assets valued at more than $1 million. Along with paying for preparation of Koonin’s tax returns, the Times noted, BP also paid for temporary housing, a per diem, and a rental car before Koonin came back from London to the U.S. to join the Obama Administration. 

SIN OF OMISSION?  That’s in essence what the administration is claiming regarding the failure of White House Political Director Patrick Gaspard to disclose a payment of nearly $40,000 from a major labor union while he was working for the President.  Politico reported that Gaspard, formerly political director of the Service Employees International Union Local #1199 (the largest SEIU local in the nation), received $37,071 in “carried-over leave and vacation” from the SEIU last year, but failed to reveal the payment on his official financial disclosure forms. White House spokesman Bill Burton said that Gaspard was correcting his disclosure forms to reflect the union’s “typical severance of one week of pay for each of his nine years of service at Local 1199 of SEIU.” 

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION:  More than a few people last week recalled that title of Michelle Malkin’s best-selling book on the Obama Administration. Along with Patrick Gaspard’s not reporting his SEIU compensation and Energy Undersecretary Steven Koonin’s role with BP, SEIU official Tom Balanoff testified in the trial of Rod Blagojevich that Barack Obama told him the night before he was elected President to suggest that the then Illinois governor name close Obama associate Valerie Jarrett to the Democratic presidential nominee’s Senate seat. Balanoff testified that Blagojevich told him he would appoint Jarrett (who is now one of the top White House aides) if he were named secretary of Health and Human Services by Obama. Balanoff said he told Blago:  “That’s not going to happen.” Asked about the exchange, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters he had no comment. 

ANGLE, PAUL UP UNDER FIRE:  Despite intense fire from the liberal media since they won primaries in their respective states, Republican Senate hopefuls Sharron Angle of Nevada and Rand Paul of Kentucky are still running ahead of their Democratic opponents in just-completed polls. After two weeks and nearly $500,000 deployed by Sen. Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) to attack the conservative Angle, the latest Rasmussen Poll shows her still leading the majority leader among likely voters, now by 48% to 41%.  After Angle won the GOP primary in May, Rasmussen showed her leading Reid by 50% to 39%.  In Kentucky, Rasmussen found Paul leading Democrat Jack Conway by 49% to 42%—down from the 25-point advantage Paul held after winning the GOP nomination in May. Both Angle and Paul have been hammered hard in print, online, and on the airwaves for past statements, including their calls for abolishing the U.S. Department of Education, which liberals find preposterous. 

DEMS MELT PAY FREEZE:  Although Franklin D. Roosevelt, members of Congress, and federal employees took a pay cut during the depth of the Great Depression in 1933, Democratic lawmakers last week thwarted an effort to freeze the pay and the hiring of federal employees. An amendment offered by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) to a jobs bill would have frozen federal workers’ salary and the number of federal employees. But the amendment went nowhere, as the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, and other federal employees’ unions weighed in strongly against the measure.  Rep. Gerald Connolly (D.-Va.), whose district includes nearly 70,000 federal workers, told the Washington Post that every time a proposal such as Thune’s comes up, “it has a demoralizing impact on the federal workforce and frankly discourages young people from joining the federal workforce.”

OBAMA FALLING BELOW EXPECTATIONS:  For the first time since Barack Obama became President, more registered voters nationwide thinking he is falling below their expectations than meeting them. According to a just-completed Marist Poll, 50% of voters say Obama is falling below their expectations and 44% say he has met or exceeded them. In March, the same survey showed that 51% said the President had met or exceeded their expectations and only 45% said he had fallen short. The shift over three months is due to a big shift in dissatisfied independent voters, with 58% saying Obama has disappointed them and 34% saying he has met or gone beyond their expectations. (In March, 48% of independents felt Obama did not meet their expectations and 45% said he did meet their expectations or exceeded them). 

DEADBEAT MEMBERS MEAN DEFICIT FOR SOCIALISTS: One little-reported but telling story from the meeting of the Socialist International in New York June 21-22 was uncovered by our correspondent Heather Bachman: After years of debts, the worldwide organization of left-of-center political leaders is broke. Bachman found that the SI’s financial report signed by Chartered Certified Accountant Geoffrey Barber showed that the group’s “Expenditure for the year marginally exceeded income by 2,000 pounds ($2,997.12 in U.S. dollars), expanding their deficit to 286,000 pounds ($428,556.19).” The report blamed the deficit on “persistent nonpayment of fees by certain members.” Calling 2009 their worst year, the Socialists had predicted their membership fee income last year would be 1,226,000 pounds ($1,887,700.14), but the actual collection was only 237,000 pounds ($355,293.32). In spite of the lack of funds, the SI spent 1,066,000 pounds ($1,598,165.94) on expenses and thus increased its deficit. When asked by Bachman if the organization was “very broke,” one member who asked for anonymity replied “Oh, yeah.” The current president of the Socialist International is Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, whose debt-wracked country has benefited from bailouts from the Eurozone nations and the International Monetary Fund.