Nation In Brief

Campaign finance bill muscles through house

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill last Thursday that bans “soft money” political contributions 240-189.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), intends to prevent corporations like energy-giant Enron, which donated $3.5 million to politicians since 1990, from buying political favors.

The push for campaign finance reform began almost seven years ago but was met with constant resistance from Republican lawmakers. A similar bill was passed in the Senate last year.

The new law would double the limit on “hard money” contributions to $2,000 while eliminating corporate-funded political advertisements.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has warned Republicans that Bush will not decide whether or not to sign the bill until it lands on his desk.

The proposal must pass the Senate before coming to Bush for final approval.

Cheney warns Iraq, seeks allied support

Vice President Dick Cheney told the Council on Foreign Relations Friday that the United States would “use all the means at our disposal” to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Cheney’s comments came in the wake of President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” announcement during his State of the Union Address in January which included Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

Iraq is “very much a concern of the president,” Cheney said, citing the country’s capability to produce and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction. Cheney served as the Defense Secretary during the Gulf War against Iraq in 1990.

Former enron vp testifies before congress

Former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay was “largely unaware” of the company’s financial woes, Sherron S. Watkins, former Enron vice president, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week.

Watkins pointed the finger at former CEO Jeffrey Skilling and Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow for their role in creating false partnerships that allowed the company to hide its growing debt from credit rating agencies.

The company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy announcement in December led to the terminating of 4,000 employees, many of whom lost up 100 percent of their savings in the company’s stock plan.

Watkins claimed that everyone was aware of the falsified accounting records, but no one was willing to challenge Fastow or Skilling, two men known for their intimidation abilities according to Watkins.

Skilling’s lawyer, Bruce Hiler rebuked the testimony, saying, “Everything Ms. Watkins has said about my client’s involvement with these issues has been hearsay, rumor or her opinion.”

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