Tags: Obama | Faces | Trouble

Ken Starr: Obama Faces Trouble on Supreme Court Picks

By    |   Sunday, 22 February 2009 05:46 PM

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. FEC Admits Obama Got Preferential Mortgage Rate
2. Rahm Reverses Course on Immigration
3. Israeli Defense Chief Raises Alarm on Iranian Nukes
4. Ken Starr: Obama Faces Trouble Over Supreme Court Picks
5. Controversy Surrounds Hijacked Soviet Tanks
6. We Heard: Mitt Romney, 'Homegrown Jihad,' Newsweek Magazine


1. FEC Admits Obama Got Preferential Mortgage Rate

The Federal Election Commission has closed its file on a complaint alleging that then-Sen. Barack Obama received a below market rate mortgage loan in 2005 for a $1.65 million home in Chicago.

But while the FEC ruled that no laws were violated, the agency did confirm that Obama received the discount rate.

And the lending institution has acknowledged that Obama got preferential loan terms due to his position in the Senate.

The complaint was filed in July 2008 by Judicial Watch, a non-profit educational foundation that works to combat government corruption.

It stated that Obama received a home loan of $1.32 million at a rate of 5.625 percent from Northern Trust in Illinois, although the average going rate at the time, according to two different surveys, was between 5.93 and 6 percent.

The Washington Post, which first raised questions about the loan, noted that "Obama paid no origination fee or discount points, as some consumers do to reduce their interest rates."

The Post calculated that the favorable rate would save Obama $300 a month, amounting to at least $108,000 over the life of the 30-year loan.

Judicial Watch contended that these preferential loan rates constituted an illegal corporate campaign contribution to Obama.

Northern Trust Vice President John O’Connell "essentially admitted the company provided Obama preferential loan terms because of his position in the U.S. Senate," according to a statement from Judicial Watch.

O’Connell told the Post: "A person’s occupation and salary are two factors; I would expect those are two things we would take into consideration."

Judicial Watch's complaint also cited a report from the Center for Responsive Politics that Northern Trust employees contributed $71,000 to Obama’s political campaigns since 1990.

The FEC based its decision to exonerate Obama largely on the fact that Northern Trust claims it provided preferential terms to other "similarly situated" but unnamed borrowers in addition to Obama.

The Judicial Watch statement concluded: "For the FEC to base its decision to excuse Obama on the fact that a few other unnamed borrowers also received sweetheart mortgages seems irresponsible . . . 

"The fact is, Northern Trust's [vice president] admitted Obama received the loan, in part, based on his position. This is improper and almost certainly constitutes an illegal campaign contribution (or gift). In our view, the FEC’s response is inadequate."

The loan enabled Obama and his wife Michelle to buy a mansion with six bedrooms, four fireplaces, a four-car garage, 5 1/2 baths, wine cellar, music room, library, solarium and granite-floored kitchen.

Editor's Note:

2. Rahm Reverses Course on Immigration

As a major force behind the Democrats' takeover of Congress in the 2006 elections, Rep. Rahm Emanuel was seen as stalling House consideration of immigration reform for fear of a backlash against Democratic candidates.

But now as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, "Emanuel is removing roadblocks that stand in the way of some of the legislative agenda benefitting immigration, ethnic minorities and their advocates," Politico.com reported.

Frank Sharry, head of America’s Voice — an organization working for immigration reform, including earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants — told Politico: "Emanuel is a symbol of going from running away from immigration to someone who now says, 'Lean into immigration. It will help Democrats.'"

Emanuel recently engineered increased benefits for legal immigrant children and pregnant women in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Emanuel warned key senators that the bill would not be signed without those benefits.

Emanuel also promised Hispanic and black legislators that the Obama administration would have the next Census director report to White House staffers as well as to the Commerce secretary on the 2010 count, which will determine future political representation and the allocation of federal funds. The Bureau is legally under the control of the Commerce Department.

"On both issues, Emanuel showed an appreciation for the high Hispanic voter turnout and support for Democrats in 2008," Politico observed.

Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Missouri Democrat who oversees the House subcommittee on the Census, said: "I do welcome the president’s and Rahm’s and the entire White House team’s involvement" in the 2010 Census.

But Republicans have expressed concern that the White House will bring politics into the Census.

"They are going to move it from Commerce and from the Census Bureau and put it into the White House, and you will have politics come back into the process, when the Census Bureau has worked for decades to rid itself of political influence," Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, told Newsmax.

"I just find that so very unfortunate and I’m tremendously disappointed and very very concerned about this happening."

Editor's Note:

3. Israeli Defense Chief Raises Alarm on Iranian Nukes

A nuclear-armed Iran is the "main threat to world order" and could lead to "mass proliferation" in the Middle East, said Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Barack told senior Israeli military leaders on Monday that Iran’s development of nuclear weapons was likely to "threaten the existence of the State of Israel."

An Iran with nuclear weapons would greatly strengthen the "immunity" of groups aided by Tehran and dramatically increase the efforts of "enemy regional elements" to develop such weapons, Barak said in remarks reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

"It will be very difficult to stop the trickling of nuclear capabilities, even if primitive, to terrorist organizations," he said.

Barak also said that once the Obama administration begins negotiations with Iran, efforts to use military force against Iran’s nuclear program would become more difficult.

Two days after Barak spoke, Iran announced that it has built an unmanned surveillance aircraft with a range of more than 600 miles.

Earlier in February, Iran launched a satellite into orbit for the first time, raising concerns that the technology could be used to deliver warheads.

Editor's Note:

4. Ken Starr: Obama Faces Trouble Over Supreme Court Picks

Former independent counsel Kenneth Starr said President Barack Obama is likely to face stern resistance from Republicans over his Supreme Court picks due to his opposition to George W. Bush’s nominees.

At a Feb. 13 lawyers’ conference in Boston, Starr noted that with four members of the Supreme Court in their 70s and Justice John Paul Stephens now 88, Obama could make two or more selections for the high court.

But as a senator, Obama supported a filibuster against nominee Samuel Alito and voted against John Roberts’ appointment. Resentful Republicans could make bipartisan support for an Obama nominee extremely difficult, according to Starr, who investigated Bill Clinton’s Whitewater land transactions and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Starr said in remarks reported by the Washington Times: "There is one historical factoid of note: [Obama] is the first president of the United States ever in our history to have participated in a Senate filibuster of a judicial nominee. Never before has that happened."

Starr quoted from an earlier Times article about the problems Obama faces, which pointed out that his "voting record and long simmering resentments over Democrats’ treatment of President Bush’s nominees will leave Mr. Obama hard-pressed to call for bipartisan help confirming judges or even an up-or-down vote."

In addition to the Supreme Court, the Senate must confirm presidential nominees to the 179-judge federal circuit courts of appeals and the 678-judge U.S. district courts.

Editor's Note:

5. Controversy Surrounds Hijacked Soviet Tanks

Military cargo aboard a ship hijacked and released by Somali pirates has been offloaded in Kenya amid conflicting reports about its ultimate destination.

The Ukrainian vessel MV Faina was hijacked by pirates in September and held for 134 days before being released on February 5 for a reported ransom of $3.2 million.

The cargo includes 33 Soviet-made T-72 battle tanks, which are being shipped by rail from the port of Mombasa to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Kenya says it purchased the tanks for its military. Col. George Kabugi, deputy commander of the Kenya Army Armored Brigade, told journalists: "We shall use this equipment for the defense of our country."

However, the BBC reported that the ship’s manifest suggested the weapons belonged to Sudan, which is fighting a war against rebels in the southern part of that nation. Sudan, which is under a United Nations arms embargo, shares a border with Kenya.

Jane’s Information Group, which covers military affairs around the globe, reported: "Kenya has repeatedly issued claims to be the end user of the weapons, but Jane’s sources state that this is, in fact, the third and final batch of [tanks] and heavy weapons ordered for use in southern Sudan."

The BBC observed: "It would be a huge embarrassment for Kenya if the weapons were found to belong to Sudan, analysts say. Kenya helped broker a peace deal between the government in Khartoum and former Sudan People’s Liberation Movement rebels four years ago."

Interestingly, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reported on the offloading of the equipment without mentioning the tanks, stating: "The consignment aboard the Ukrainian ship includes anti-aircraft guns mounted on four-wheel carriages, rocket-propelled grenades, an armored truck and spare parts."

The Kenyan media outlet Daily Nation reported that a Ukrainian delegation sent to Mombasa to officially hand over the military equipment to the Kenyan government was accommodated at four separate hotels.

A Ukrainian journalist said: "We were initially booked in one hotel but on arrival, we were taken to a separate hotel to limit contact with the military officials. It was clear that they were trying to hide something."

Editor's Note:

6. We Heard . . .

THAT former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has put two of his multi-million-dollar residences on the market.

Romney and his wife Ann are offering their 9,500-square-foot ski lodge in Deer Valley, Utah, for $5.25 million, and are also selling the home in Belmont, Mass., where they raised their five sons, for about $3 million.

Romney still owns a $10 million lakefront home in New Hampshire and a $12 million beachfront compound in La Jolla, Calif., Fox News reported.

A spokesman said Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, plans to buy a condominium in the Boston area.

THAT the Christian Action Network has released a documentary based on its investigation of a group that runs dozens of paramilitary training camps for Muslims in America.

"Homegrown Jihad: The Terrorist Camps Around the U.S." probes Muslims of America, an organization led by Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani. He is a Pakistani national reportedly linked to the 2002 abduction of journalist Daniel Pearl, who was eventually beheaded.

Christian Action Network President Martin Mawyer told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that the organization has 35 camps spread across the U.S, and its members are plotting an attack against Americans.

THAT Newsweek magazine lost an estimated $20 million last year and is on pace to lose even more this year, so it is downsizing its circulation from its current 2.9 million to 1.9 million by July.

The publication will ultimately cut circulation to 1.2 million next year, according to New York Post "Media Ink" columnist Keith J. Kelly.

Ad pages have plunged 38 percent through the Feb. 16 issue. Rival news magazine Time’s ad pages have dropped 48 percent through that date.

Kelly reported that Newsweek staffers were angry that they learned about the planned circulation drop in a New York Times article.

Editor's Notes:

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. FEC Admits Obama Got Preferential Mortgage Rate2. Rahm Reverses Course on Immigration3. Israeli Defense Chief Raises Alarm on Iranian Nukes4. Ken Starr: Obama Faces Trouble Over Supreme Court Picks5. Controversy Surrounds...
Sunday, 22 February 2009 05:46 PM
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