Political Notebook

Harvard professor gets post at Pentagon

Newly elected congressman Scott Murphy of New York is a venture capitalist. Newly elected congressman Scott Murphy of New York is a venture capitalist.
April 25, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Harvard professor Ashton Carter has won confirmation as the Pentagon's top acquisitions official, after weeks of delay caused by two Alabama senators looking out for a home-state defense program.

Carter's nomination was approved on a voice vote by the Senate late Thursday, said a spokeswoman for the Senate Armed Services Committee, which held his confirmation hearing.

Republicans Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, who used the Senate prerogative of putting a "hold" on the nomination, dropped their objection after seeking assurances that Carter will not change the specifications for the $35 billion refueling tanker contract being sought by Northrop Grumman Corp., which would build the plane in Mobile, Ala.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who handpicked Carter, met earlier Thursday with Shelby on the issue.

Carter comes to the job with no weapons-buying experience or ties to the arms industry. Rather, he is a longtime academic and leading authority on arms control.

He replaces John Young, who has served as undersecretary of defense for acquisitions since November 2007.


Democratic shift continues in upstate N.Y. district
ALBANY, N.Y. - Almost a month after a special election that focused attention on President Obama's economic stimulus plan, Republican candidate Jim Tedisco bowed yesterday, handing Scott Murphy the third straight win for a Democrat in the heavily Republican upstate congressional District.

After the March 31 special election, the two were separated by only a handful of votes with thousands of absentee ballots to be counted.

Murphy, a venture capitalist multimillionaire from Missouri who has lived in New York for more than a decade, replaces Kirsten Gillibrand, who succeeded Hillary Rodham Clinton in the US Senate after Clinton was chosen to be Obama's secretary of state.


Union activist appointed senior adviser to Labor
WASHINGTON - President Obama has appointed a key union activist as senior adviser to Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, another sign of the influence that organized labor wields in the Obama administration.

Mary Beth Maxwell spent the past five years as executive director of American Rights at Work, a nonprofit pushing for passage of a bill to make it easier to form unions. She will serve as a liaison to a White House task force trying to raise the living standards of middle-class families by improving labor standards, boosting workplace safety, and protecting retirement security.

Democratic leaders in Congress hope to bring a version of the Employee Free Choice Act to a vote this summer and to rally enough votes to overcome an expected GOP filibuster.

Business groups strongly oppose the bill, which would remove the right of employers to demand a secret ballot election before workers could form unions.