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Obama’s selection of N.C. city harkens back to ’08

February 2, 2011

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama’s selection of this Southern city for the 2012 Democratic convention signals he will try to reassemble his diverse coalition of 2008 supporters and fight for the conservative-leaning states that helped him win the White House.

The Democratic National Committee announced the selection of Charlotte yesterday, rejecting bids by a trio of Midwestern cities hit hard by the recession — Cleveland, Minneapolis, and St. Louis — in favor of the more economically stable North Carolina.

With the economy certain to dominate Obama’s reelection bid, North Carolina’s long-term industrial transformation — from tobacco, textiles, and furniture to research, energy, and banking — also plays into what may be the centerpiece of the Democrat’s reelection bid, a call for America to focus on innovation to compete in the changing global marketplace.

The convention’s apparent theme — The People’s Convention — indicates that the president will try to revive the grass-roots flavor of his groundbreaking 2008 bid.

“This will be a different convention, for a different time,’’ Michelle Obama wrote to supporters yesterday in an e-mail that disclosed the city where Democrats plan to nominate Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for a second term. She said the gathering would be “a grass-roots convention for the people’’ and promised to pay for it in a different way.

Democrats will convene the week of Sept. 3, 2012. A week earlier, Republicans will nominate their candidate in Tampa, another important presidential state, after a primary fight to sort out a potentially crowded field.

— Associated Press

Special counsel is named in Ensign investigation WASHINGTON — The Senate Ethics Committee appointed a special counsel yesterday to lead the investigation of activities connected to Senator John Ensign’s affair with a political aide.

The move is a dramatic turn in the probe of the Nevada Republican that has been underway for six months, suggesting the scrutiny will run deep into the 2012 election season.

In a bipartisan statement, the committee disclosed the hiring of Carol Elder Bruce, a veteran white-collar criminal defense lawyer at K&L Gates. It is the first time in two decades that the Senate ethics panel has retained a special counsel to investigate a senator.

The committee is examining Ensign’s affair with Cynthia Hampton, who was one of his wife’s closest friends and who worked for the political committees of the once rising star in the Republican Party. The case appears to be focusing on Ensign’s bid to get lobbying work for Hampton’s husband, Doug, also a close family friend and onetime aide to the senator. Both Hamptons had been dismissed in spring 2008 during a period when federal law and Senate rules required Doug Hampton to refrain for one year from lobbying Ensign’s office.

Ensign, who admitted the affair in June 2009, has not released a statement and has denied any wrongdoing. In December, after the Justice Department said it would no longer pursue a criminal case against the senator, Ensign signaled his intention to continue running for reelection in 2012.

However, the ethics investigation is not focused specifically on whether the senator’s actions were serious enough to warrant a federal criminal trial but on issues connected to congressional rules governing what a senator can do to help former senior aides in the lobbying field.

— Washington Post

GOP-led House panel drafts financial oversight plan WASHINGTON — The House Financial Services Committee aims to “identify and remedy’’ any unintended consequences of the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul, with a focus on rules governing proprietary trading and derivatives, according to a draft of the panel’s strategic plan.

The 20-page document, circulated to committee members and staff for comment by chairman Spencer Bachus of Alabama, says the panel will focus this year on overseeing implementation of Dodd-Frank’s new rules for Wall Street. A copy of the draft oversight plan was obtained by Bloomberg News.

Committee members will monitor regulators who are writing language to enforce the Volcker rule, which limits proprietary trading by banks, to “ensure that it does not result in unintended consequences’’ for jobs and markets, according to the draft. The rule is named after its author, former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, who served as an adviser to President Obama.

The panel also will “examine whether federal regulators will impose margin and capital requirements’’ on nonfinancial firms that use derivatives to hedge legitimate business risk.

House Republicans almost unanimously opposed the law during last year’s congressional debate. Their oversight plans may complement lobbying efforts by Wall Street firms that are seeking to influence the language in rules being written by regulatory agencies. Lawmakers and firms including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. have sent comment letters to regulators about specific provisions.

Should Republicans push for legislative changes, they will probably run into opposition in the Senate, where Democrats still hold the majority.

Bachus and his senior colleagues, who took over the committee after Republicans secured control of the House in the November elections, have spent much of their first month in power dispatching letters to the federal agencies implementing the new law.

The letters have voiced concern over draft rules, requested documentation for costs of contracts, staff and technology and questioned the power of the nascent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Newton, Mass., and the former chairman of the committee, said last week that Republicans are trying to “cripple regulation by failing to fund it.’’

— Bloomberg News

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