Political Notebook

Carter still blames Kennedy for blocking bill

Edward M. Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980. Carter won the nomination, but lost the White House to Ronald Reagan. Edward M. Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980. Carter won the nomination, but lost the White House to Ronald Reagan. (Associated Press/File)
September 17, 2010

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WASHINGTON – Edward M. Kennedy may have died of brain cancer last year, but that has not softened Jimmy Carter’s assessment of his rival for the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination.

In a “60 Minutes’’ interview to be aired Sunday, Carter blames Kennedy for delaying comprehensive health care coverage for Americans by not joining forces with him on a bill during his presidency.

If Kennedy had dropped his insistence on full national health insurance and endorsed Carter’s compromise plan, the former president says, repeating views he and aides have held for decades, Americans could have had universal coverage long ago.

“The fact is that we would have had comprehensive health care now, had it not been for Ted Kennedy’s deliberately blocking the legislation that I proposed,’’ Carter tells Lesley Stahl, according to a “60 Minutes’’ press release.

“It was his fault. Ted Kennedy killed the bill.’’

The former president also repeats in the interview his view that Kennedy ran against him for the 1980 nomination out of spite. “He did not want to see me have a major success in that realm of life,’’ Carter says.

He defeated Kennedy for the nomination but lost the White House to Ronald Reagan.

Carter is on “60 Minutes’’ to discuss his new book, “White House Diary,’’ which is based on a diary he kept during his presidency.

A reprinted diary entry from the battles over health care reads: “Kennedy continuing his irresponsible and abusive attitude, immediately condemning our health plan. He could not get five votes for his plan.’’

In later decades, Kennedy dropped his single-minded insistence on national health insurance and pursued a variety of incremental coverage expansions.

When asked about his greatest legislative regret, he often mentioned his failure to cut a health care deal earlier in the 1970s, with Richard Nixon. Kennedy died in August 2009 while President Obama’s overhaul, approved this year, was still being debated.

— Christopher Rowland

Lobbyist to change plea in illegal donations case
WASHINGTON — A former lobbyist has decided to plead guilty and cooperate in a Justice Department probe of campaign donations to members of Congress who directed hundreds of millions of dollars to defense contractors without competitive bidding.

Paul Magliocchetti had pleaded not guilty to an 11-count felony indictment on Aug. 20. He is charged with paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal donations to scores of campaigns dating back to 2003 to enrich himself and increase his firm’s influence with public officials.

The former lobbyist was scheduled to go on trial Oct. 5.

A person outside the government who is familiar with the criminal investigation said that the once-prominent lobbyist will enter a plea on Sept. 24 in federal court in Alexandria, Va., where a new entry on the courthouse docket specifies that Magliocchetti will have a “change of plea hearing’’ on that date.

A Justice Department spokeswoman and one of Magliocchetti’s lawyers, William Lawler, declined to comment.

A federal grand jury more than a year ago subpoenaed documents from the office of Representative Pete Visclosky, Democrat of Indiana, from some of Visclosky’s employees, and from the congressman’s campaign committees.

The person familiar with the probe, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to be able to discuss the matter more freely, said a combination of circumstances led Magliocchetti to decide to enter a guilty plea.

One was that a son, Mark, pleaded guilty in the same investigation and would have become a witness against him at a trial. Also, many of the illegal donations were allegedly passed through members of Paul Magliocchetti’s extended family, which would have meant that they, too, would have been in a position of having to testify against him.

Democrats on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, where Magliocchetti once worked as a staffer, became favored recipients of donations by lobbyists in Magliocchetti’s firm, PMA Group Inc.

From 1989 to late 2008, Magliocchetti and his employees gave members of Congress $3.4 million in campaign donations. If the allegations in the indictment are true, a sizable chunk of that money actually came from Magliocchetti personally or from the firm’s coffers.

In 2007 and 2008 alone, three top Democrats on the House defense subcommittee directed $137 million to defense contractors who were paying Magliocchetti’s PMA Group to get them government business.

The three were subcommittee chairman John Murtha of Pennsylvania, James Moran of Virginia, and Visclosky.

Murtha, who died in February, collected $2.37 million in campaign contributions from PMA’s lobbyists and the companies it has represented since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. Visclosky collected $1.36 million; Moran, $997,348.

The indictment says Magliocchetti directed his firm’s lobbyists to write donation checks from their personal accounts to specific candidates and reimbursed their donations either through personal checks or the company’s coffers.

— Associated Press

Warren to start work on consumer bureau
WASHINGTON — President Obama will introduce Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren as the head of a steering committee to create the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at a Rose Garden event this afternoon, an administration official said.

The White House expects her to start immediately setting up the agency, which was established by this year’s financial regulatory overhaul.

Warren will play a role in determining who will be the first director of the bureau when it becomes an independent agency housed at the Federal Reserve. That decision isn’t expected for several months, perhaps not until 2011, said the official.

By ensconcing Warren at Treasury, the White House has avoided a Senate confirmation battle while letting her influence the birth of the agency she is credited with proposing.

It is unclear whether Warren will be a candidate for director. While praising Warren, Senator Christopher Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who helped shepherd the regulatory bill, has questioned whether she would be able to get the 60 votes necessary for Senate confirmation.

— Bloomberg News