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Campaign Notebook

Clinton steps up push to let Congress monitor troop pullout plan

On a day when Barack Obama got a lot of attention for his tough stance on Pakistan, Hillary Clinton continued her attacks on the Bush administration yesterday over whether Congress has a right to monitor Pentagon plans for a possible withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

The tiff began when Clinton wrote to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates asking him to brief Congress on contingency plans. She got a stinging reply from Eric Edelman, the Defense Department's undersecretary for policy, who said that discussing a withdrawal "reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq."

Gates himself later sought to calm the waters, saying he doesn't question anyone's motives.

But Vice President Dick Cheney wasn't quite so friendly on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Tuesday night, when he said it would be wrong to share operational plans with Congress. To do so "to respond to political charges, such as those that Senator Clinton made, I think would be unwise," he said.

Clinton struck back yesterday in an e-mail asking supporters to sign a letter to Bush. It's the administration that's playing politics, she wrote.

"So which is it, President Bush?" she wrote. "Do you support the safe return of troops from Iraq, or are you going to continue to play politics with their lives?"


Thompson gets a boost
WASHINGTON -- Former senator Fred Thompson got a big home-state boost on the way to raising $3.4 million in June in preparation for a bid for the GOP presidential nomination. Almost half the money raised came from Tennessee donors -- $1.67 million from 789 donors.

Although Thompson is expected to bill himself as a populist outsider when he enters the presidential race in September, the contribution report that his aides released Tuesday is peppered with donations from the inside-the-Beltway crowd.

That included a $2,300 contribution from Douglas Feith, the former undersecretary of defense and one of the most vocal advocates of the war in Iraq, and a donation from David Bossie, the head of Citizens United, a Washington-based conservative grass-roots group.

Unlike declared candidates, who file reports quarterly with the Federal Election Commission, Thompson listed his contributors on a form filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

One element the FEC uses to determine whether Thompson has started campaigning is how much, and how, he spends the money coming into his accounts. Apparently mindful of this, Thompson spent little in June, just over $625,000, and used the money largely to build a staff, travel, and construct his campaign website.

One of his largest sources of donors, contributing more than $27,000, was the firm INS Capital Management LLC, a financial services company with offices in New York and Nashville.

He also received $2,300 (the maximum allowed) from Dick Wolf -- the creator of the "Law & Order" television series, which Thompson starred in until recently -- and the same amount from Wolf's wife. Former senator Alfonse D'Amato of New York also kicked in $2,300.

Fred Malek, president of Thayer Capital Partners, is one of the finance chairmen for Senator John McCain of Arizona, but Malek's wife, Marlene, gave $2,300 to Thompson.


Romney raps security dept.
AMHERST, N.H. -- Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney yesterday contended that the Bush administration had established an inefficient Homeland Security Department and had presided over a bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.

Amid a tour of southern New Hampshire, Romney contrasted the privately based universal healthcare system passed while he was governor in Massachusetts with government health expansions advocated by some Democrats.

"The last thing I want is the guys managing the Katrina cleanup managing my healthcare system," Romney said to laughter from the audience.

He also said one of President Bush's signature domestic security achievements, the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, created "one big bureaucracy" rife with inefficiency and in need of major restructuring.

Romney was a member of a Bush administration homeland security advisory panel while Massachusetts governor from 2003 to 2007.

"There is such duplication in Washington that you'd really like to take the place apart and put it back together, just smaller and simpler and smarter," Romney told about 100 people attending a coffee-and-doughnuts gathering at a cinema in Pelham.

The former management consultant said that if he is elected president, the department would survive but that "it probably needs to be streamlined."

Later, during a stop at the Red Arrow diner in Manchester, N.H., Romney was asked about the federal investigation of Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, and his dealings with a wealthy oil field services contractor.

"I hope the allegations against him are not true. We've seen far too many ethical violations by Republicans," Romney said.