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WILMINGTON, Del. – Edward “Ted” Kaufman, a former aide to Sen. Joe Biden, was named Monday by Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to fill the Senate seat Biden is leaving for the vice presidency. Kaufman, co-chair of Biden’s transition team and an Obama-Biden transition project advisory board member, plans to serve until the 2010 election, when a new senator is elected. He said he is comfortable stepping down after two years in office.

Ted Kaufman speaks after being appointed by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to fill the Senate seat Joe Biden is leaving for the vice presidency, in Wilmington, Del. Monday, Nov. 24, 2008. Kaufman, a former aide to Sen. Joe Biden, is president of a political and management consulting firm based in Wilmington.

Ted Kaufman speaks after being appointed by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to fill the Senate seat Joe Biden is leaving for the vice presidency, in Wilmington, Del. Monday, Nov. 24, 2008. Kaufman, a former aide to Sen. Joe Biden, is president of a political and management consulting firm based in Wilmington.

“I don’t think Delaware’s appointed senator should spend the next two years running for office,” Kaufman said. “I will do this job to the fullest of my ability, and spend my days focused on one thing and one thing only: serving Delaware.”

Speculation on Biden’s successor had centered in recent weeks on his son, Attorney General Beau Biden. But last week the younger Biden announced that he planned to fulfill his National Guard duties and wouldn’t accept an appointment to his father’s U.S. Senate seat.

Biden is a prosecutor for the 261st Signal Brigade, which left for Iraq last week. The unit is due back in September 2009, in time for Biden to run for his father’s Senate seat.

Kaufman, 69, said Monday night that he was “not a placeholder for anyone. At the end of the two years, anyone who wants to run can run.”

The elder Biden said in a statement, “It is no secret that I believe my son, Attorney General Beau Biden, would make a great United States Senator just as I believe he has been a great attorney general. But Beau has made it clear from the moment he entered public life that any office he sought he would earn on his own.”

Just before announcing Kaufman as the appointee, Minner acknowledged speculation about the younger Biden being picked for the post and said she would have strongly considered him.
“The fact that Beau Biden is committed to fulfilling his obligation and not seeking appointment to this office tells us everything we need to know about his character,” she said. “Should Beau choose to run for this office in 2010, he will — as will whoever runs — have to earn on his own the trust of the people of Delaware.”

Minner said she thought Kaufman was the best qualified candidate and she also looked for an appointee whose political views were close to the Biden’s.

Kaufman said he couldn’t think of anything he and Biden disagreed on and he was impressed by that even back in 1972 when Biden was first running for office.

“I was struck by how many things he believed that I also believed,” he said.

However, Kaufman’s experience in Washington will differ from Biden’s in one respect. He does plan to spend time in Delaware, but he and his wife will get a home in Washington, unlike Biden, who rode Amtrak between Washington and Wilmington.

Biden will be sworn in on Jan. 6, but in mid-January he will step down and Kaufman will be sworn in, Kaufman said.

Kaufman held a senior position in all of Biden’s federal campaigns. He served on Biden’s Senate staff from 1973 to 1994, including 19 years as chief of staff.

He is a senior lecturing fellow at Duke University and has served by presidential appointment since 1995 as a charter member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. He also heads a political and management consulting firm based in Wilmington, Del., and previously worked for the DuPont Co.

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The initial reports of Attorney General Mukasey’s collapse last night sounded very grim. But his friends and family must now be breathing a deep sigh of relief. According to a Justice Department statement just moments ago, doctors at George Washington University Hospital gave him various stress and cardiac tests overnight. And they all came up normal. So they appear to have ruled out a stroke or cardiac event. And they expect he’ll be released from the hospital later today.

TPM

Bush

While Americans eagerly vote for the next president, here’s a sobering reminder: As of Tuesday, George W. Bush still has 77 days left in the White House — and he’s not wasting a minute.

President Bush’s aides have been scrambling to change rules and regulations on the environment, civil liberties and abortion rights, among others — few for the good. Most presidents put on a last-minute policy stamp, but in Mr. Bush’s case it is more like a wrecking ball. We fear it could take months, or years, for the next president to identify and then undo all of the damage.

Here is a look — by no means comprehensive — at some of Mr. Bush’s recent parting gifts and those we fear are yet to come.

CIVIL LIBERTIES We don’t know all of the ways that the administration has violated Americans’ rights in the name of fighting terrorism. Last month, Attorney General Michael Mukasey rushed out new guidelines for the F.B.I. that permit agents to use chillingly intrusive techniques to collect information on Americans even where there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

Agents will be allowed to use informants to infiltrate lawful groups, engage in prolonged physical surveillance and lie about their identity while questioning a subject’s neighbors, relatives, co-workers and friends. The changes also give the F.B.I. — which has a long history of spying on civil rights groups and others — expanded latitude to use these techniques on people identified by racial, ethnic and religious background.

The administration showed further disdain for Americans’ privacy rights and for Congress’s power by making clear that it will ignore a provision in the legislation that established the Department of Homeland Security. The law requires the department’s privacy officer to account annually for any activity that could affect Americans’ privacy — and clearly stipulates that the report cannot be edited by any other officials at the department or the White House.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has now released a memo asserting that the law “does not prohibit” officials from homeland security or the White House from reviewing the report. The memo then argues that since the law allows the officials to review the report, it would be unconstitutional to stop them from changing it. George Orwell couldn’t have done better.

THE ENVIRONMENT The administration has been especially busy weakening regulations that promote clean air and clean water and protect endangered species.

Mr. Bush, or more to the point, Vice President Dick Cheney, came to office determined to dismantle Bill Clinton’s environmental legacy, undo decades of environmental law and keep their friends in industry happy. They have had less success than we feared, but only because of the determined opposition of environmental groups, courageous members of Congress and protests from citizens. But the White House keeps trying.

Mr. Bush’s secretary of the interior, Dirk Kempthorne, has recently carved out significant exceptions to regulations requiring expert scientific review of any federal project that might harm endangered or threatened species (one consequence will be to relieve the agency of the need to assess the impact of global warming on at-risk species). The department also is rushing to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list — again. The wolves were re-listed after a federal judge ruled the government had not lived up to its own recovery plan.

In coming weeks, we expect the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a final rule that would weaken a program created by the Clean Air Act, which requires utilities to install modern pollution controls when they upgrade their plants to produce more power. The agency is also expected to issue a final rule that would make it easier for coal-fired power plants to locate near national parks in defiance of longstanding Congressional mandates to protect air quality in areas of special natural or recreational value.

Interior also is awaiting E.P.A.’s concurrence on a proposal that would make it easier for mining companies to dump toxic mine wastes in valleys and streams.

And while no rules changes are at issue, the interior department also has been rushing to open up millions of acres of pristine federal land to oil and gas exploration. We fear that, in coming weeks, Mr. Kempthorne will open up even more acreage to the commercial development of oil shale, a hugely expensive and environmentally risky process that even the oil companies seem in no hurry to begin. He should not.

 Soon after the election, Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, is expected to issue new regulations aimed at further limiting women’s access to abortion, contraceptives and information about their reproductive health care options.

Existing law allows doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in an abortion. These changes would extend the so-called right to refuse to a wide range of health care workers and activities including abortion referrals, unbiased counseling and provision of birth control pills or emergency contraception, even for rape victims.

The administration has taken other disturbing steps in recent weeks. In late September, the I.R.S. restored tax breaks for banks that take big losses on bad loans inherited through acquisitions. Now we learn that JPMorgan Chase and others are planning to use their bailout funds for mergers and acquisitions, transactions that will be greatly enhanced by the new tax subsidy.

One last-minute change Mr. Bush won’t be making: He apparently has decided not to shut down the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — the most shameful symbol of his administration’s disdain for the rule of law.

Mr. Bush has said it should be closed, and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and his secretary of defense, Robert Gates, pushed for it. Proposals were prepared, including a plan for sending the real bad guys to other countries for trial. But Mr. Cheney objected, and the president has refused even to review the memos. He will hand this mess off to his successor.

We suppose there is some good news in all of this. While Mr. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20, 2009, he has only until Nov. 20 to issue “economically significant” rule changes and until Dec. 20 to issue other changes. Anything after that is merely a draft and can be easily withdrawn by the next president.

Unfortunately, the White House is well aware of those deadlines.

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