ThinkFast: August 19, 2008


The oil industry is spending record amounts of money this year to protect its interests as Congress considers a barrage of energy bills. According to the most recent figures from the Center for Responsive Politics, the industry has spent $55 million on lobbying so far in 2008 and is on pace to break last year’s $83 million record.

Though the White House has long maintained publicly that President Bush had no involvement in the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys, “the administration’s lawyers have been more ambiguous” while speaking in federal court. “The White House press people lie, but the lawyers have to tell the truth because they’re officers of the court,” former House counsel Stanley Brand told ABC News.

Bob Woodward’s newest book — “The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008” – reportedly “traces the internal debates, tensions and critical turning points in the Iraq War during an extraordinary two-year period.” Politico reports, “The book’s revelations are likely to propel a re-examination of the Iraq war into the headlines just as the fall presidential campaign is taking off.”

Harry and Louise, the iconic couple who starred in TV ads credited with defeating President Bill Clinton’s health-care plan, will appear in new commercials soon. But this time, they will be urging congressional action and plead with the new president “to promote an overhaul of the health-care system as his top domestic priority.”

On the trail today: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is expected to tour an offshore oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) will address the Veterans of Foreign Wars annual convention in Orlando, FL.

Iraq is fast becoming at top U.S. customer for military sales, having spent $3.1 billion on U.S. weapons since January 2007 — a number that will “grow exponentially as Iraq uses its vast unspent reserves of petrodollars to develop its army.” In the past two months alone, “the Pentagon has alerted Congress of a possible $8.7 billion worth of additional military sales to Iraq.”

With new ethics rules in place, “Corporations and convention party planners are scrambling” to throw legal parties at the Democratic and Republican national conventions. “Corporate lobbyists are spending as much time talking to their lawyers as to event planners,” while “party planners are trying to come up with innovative ways of providing protein to hungry conventioneers without crossing the line into an actual meal.”

The Senate has trimmed the amount of earmarks in its fiscal 2009 spending bills, but the House has increased its total slightly from last year,” according to a report from Taxpayers for Common Sense, which found that “the dollar amount of earmarks has decreased by more than 15 percent in the Senate bills while increasing by almost 7 percent in the House,” compared to the FY2008 bills.

This fall, anti-affirmative action measures are expected to be on the ballots of Arizona, Colorado, and Nebraska. In response, affirmative action supporters in Colorado are attempting to place a ballot proposal that would condemn quota systems based on race, but also “say that affirmative action permitted by the U.S. Supreme Court should continue to be allowed.” The move has “infuriated backers of Ward Connerly.”

The Clinton administration approved the morning-after pill, RU-486, “using its standard procedures,” a new GAO report finds. Critics — including three Republican senators who have attempted to ban the pill — argued previously that “the agency inappropriately used an approval process intended for drugs to treat ‘serious or life-threatening conditions.'”

And finally: Yesterday, the Capitol’s journalists were agog over the Jonas Brothers, who visited the White House. There the brothers received a “policy briefing” (they are interested in children’s health issues), filmed a public service announcement with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, and spent time with Vice President Cheney (“whose granddaugthers are major fans”). Stacy Cohan, a reporter for WTTG-TV, said, “As a member of the press, I have never asked anyone for an autograph, ever. But my niece wants their autograph more than anything in the world.” The Jonas Brothers also stopped by Madame Tussauds to unveil their wax replicas.

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.