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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Obama: Between a Rod and a hard place

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Gov. Rod Blagojevich at a news conference

Just as Obama was starting to distance himself from the machinations over filling his Senate seat, Blagojevich’s surprise pick is dragging him back in.
Photo: AP

Barack Obama doesn’t need this, not right now.

Already, Obama’s Hawaiian vacation has been interrupted by news of an Israeli incursion into Gaza. He faces a mounting economic crisis even before he takes office.

And now, just as Obama was starting to distance himself from the machinations over filling his Senate seat, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s surprise pick is dragging him back in to the home-state mess – along with the kind of hard-edged racial politics Obama tries to avoid.

Blagojevich, who has been charged with attempting to sell the Senate seat, announced Tuesday he was tapping Roland Burris, the first African-American to win statewide election in Illinois and the closest thing in the state to a black elder statesman.

But Obama is backing efforts led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to block Burris, saying Blagojevich is too tainted by corruption charges to make the pick.

It’s not clear Reid can block Burris. But Obama’s bigger headache could come from a longtime South Side congressman and one-time rival – Rep. Bobby Rush – who is unmistakably daring officials not to block the ascension of an African-American to replace Obama.

“I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee while you castigate the appointer,” Rush said at Blagojevich’s news conference. “Let me just remind you that there presently is no African-American in the U.S. Senate.”

Until now, Obama and other Democrats have been able to isolate Blagojevich. But Rush’s blessing leaves Obama caught between the Senate leadership and two leading, old-guard African-Americans politicians in his home state.

Rush’s move isn’t the first time he’s made life difficult for Obama. The president-elect ran in a primary against the veteran congressman in 2000. Rush easily held his seat, winning 61-30 and temporarily sidetracking then state Sen. Obama’s ambitions.

In that campaign for a seat on Chicago’s heavily black South Side, Rush, a Baptist minister and former Black Panther, mixed a familiar message of race, class, and generation of the sort that is often used by older African-Americans against upstart primary rivals.

“Barack is a person who read about the civil-rights protests and thinks he knows all about it,” Rush said to a Chicago paper at the time.

Democrats familiar with Obama’s thinking suggest that he’ll stay as quiet as possible about the matter. The president-elect believes the Senate is well within its bounds not to seat Burris that it would be difficult for him to work effectively under the cloud that would come with being appointed by a governor facing federal charges.

One thing could short-circuit the controversy - Jesse White, the Illinois secretary of state, said he will not certify Burris as the replacement for Obama’s seat. White is an African-American.

For his part, Burris said it’s inconceivable that the state of Illinois should start the new Congress “shorthanded,” with just one senator.

Burris also said he has “no relationship” to charges that Blagojevich tried to sell Obama’s Senate seat for personal gain and said of the governor, “In this legal process, you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty.”

“I ask the people of Illinois to place the same faith and trust in me as they have in the past,” said Burris, 71, who has promised to serve the remaining two years of the Senate term and not run for reelection.

Burris was the first African American to be elected to statewide office in Illinois, serving as comptroller from 1979 to 1991 and as attorney general from 1991 to 1995.

He also ran against Blagojevich for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002 – winning the support of much of Illinois African-American political establishment, including then-state senator Barack Obama, who attended Burris’s press conference announcing his bid.

Burris has given $4,500 to Blagojevich’s gubernatorial campaigns since 2004, according to Illinois state records.

“When Blagojevich beat me, I told Barack to get on board with him,” Burris said told the Washington Post earlier this month. “It was kind of like swallowing his pride a little bit, because he didn't really see that they had anything in common.”

Another complication in the selection is that Burris is a registered lobbyist in Illinois and Washington, D.C. His Chicago-based firm, Burris & Lebed, is registered in Springfield to represent clients ranging from Comcast to the Illinois Funeral Directors Association. In 2007, the firm was also registered to represent the Illinois Association of Mortgage Bankers. The firm is registered in both Springfield and Washington to represent MicroSun Technologies LLC, an Illinois-based maker of battery and power supplies.

The firm also once represented the Ho-Chunk Nation, a Wisconsin-based Indian tribe. The Ho-Chunks, formerly known as the Winnebagos, operate numerous casinos in Wisconsin and hired Burris’s firm in 2003 to help them lobby to build one on property they purchased in suburban Chicago. The plan has became controversial, with local residents opposing the development. The matter now is in front of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. Illinois state lobbying records show that Burris represented the tribe from 2003-2005.

In the same period, Burris also had another controversial client: the Richmond, Va.-based Council of Independent Tobacco Manufacturers of America, otherwise known as “Small Tobacco.” CITMA is a trade association comprised of local tobacco makers.

Burris’ lobbying partner is Fred Lebed, a veteran Democratic political operative who once served as executive director of the Cook County party and has also held a number of state government posts.

Blagojevich has been under pressure to resign from office, or at least relinquish his gubernatorial authority to fill Senate vacancies. He has remained in office, however, as he fights a federal corruption investigation and a legislative effort to impeach him.

The two-term governor has denied any wrongdoing.

It’s unclear whether Reid has the power to block Burris’ appointment. Senate leaders discussed the impending announcement on a conference call Tuesday afternoon.

John Fortier, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in a Politico Ideas piece this month that the Senate doesn’t have the power to reject the appointment.

“The Senate would have little recourse but to seat Blagojevich, as he meets the minimum constitutional qualifications for office,” Fortier wrote of the possibility that the governor might appoint himself. “But after seating Blagojevich, the Senate could then expel him by a two-thirds vote. The seat would be vacant again, and the new governor could make an appointment. Or by then, the Legislature might have changed the law to do away with appointments, in which case the seat would sit vacant until a special election was held.

In announcing the appointment Tuesday, Blagojevich may have surprised even his lawyer, who had said earlier that the governor did not plan to defy the Senate leaders and impose an Obama successor on them.

Blagojevich's lawyer, Ed Genson, had told a news conference Dec. 17 that the governor did not plan to try to make the appointment. "Harry Reid said that they're not going to accept anybody, so why would he do that?" Genson said.

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Communist Cuba: 50 Years Of Failure

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY

Communism: New Year's Day marks 50 years of communist rule in Cuba. The Castro oligarchy will trumpet its survival and celebrate. But the reality, up close, is that it's the longest-running failure in the New World.

Spare us the fireworks and media-parroted claims of Fidel Castro's dictatorship bringing universal health care and education to Cuba. The real story is that a prosperous Cuba was turned into ruins in just five decades.

Its inflation-adjusted gross domestic product is a mere 5% of what it was in 1958, the year before Castro took over, according to Jorge Salazar-Carillo of Florida International University.

"It's a major failure," Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a University of Pittsburgh economist, told IBD. "Cuba is unable to increase food production to meet its needs and now imports 84% of its food. Cuba produced 7 million tons of sugar in 1952. This year, it's 1.5 million tons. This is the result of economic policy of collectivization, killing of individual incentive, inefficiency, constant changes of policy."

Reliable data are hard to come by. S&P refuses to rate the country for that reason. The regime conceals its failures. But if long lines at the Spanish embassy seeking immigration aren't enough of an indicator, the chronology of Cuba's economy tell an important story:

1957: Cuban GDP is about $2.8 billion, unadjusted for inflation.

1959: Castro and his guerrillas take over and begin confiscating U.S.-owned private businesses.

1960: President Eisenhower imposes trade embargo, excluding food and medicine; Castro responds by "rapidly nationalizing most U.S. enterprises," as he himself wrote.

1961: President Kennedy tightens the embargo. Castro blames it for plant shutdowns, parts shortages and 7,000 transportation breakdowns a month, leaving 25% of public buses inoperable. He then targets Cuban companies for expropriation.

1962: Begins food rationing. Half of passenger rail cars go out of service from lack of maintenance.

1963: President Kennedy freezes Cuban assets in the U.S.

1965: Signs deal with USSR to reschedule $500 million in debt.

1966: Signs new deal with Soviets for $91 million in trade credits.

1968: Begins petroleum rationing, says Soviets cut supplies.

1969: Begins sugar rationing in January, announces state plan to produce 10 million tons of sugar by the following year.

1970: Castro announces only 8.5 million tons of sugar produced. Blames U.S. Diverts 85% of all Cuban trade to the USSR.

1973: Tries for the first time to tie wages to productivity.

1974: Ramps up wartime spending to send 3,000 Cuban troops to Africa. It hits $125 per person, highest in Latin America, by 1988.

1975: President Ford announces softening of the embargo, letting foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies sell products in Cuba.

1979: President Carter lets Cuban-Americans visit family in Cuba. Soviet aid totals $17 billion from 1961-79, or 30% of Cuba's GDP.

1980: Economic hardship forces Castro to permit farmers to sell surplus to state quotas in private markets with unregulated prices. 100,000 Cubans flee the island for the U.S. via the Mariel boatlift.

1982: Cuba doubles military spending. President Reagan re-establishes travel ban and prohibits spending money on the island.

1983: Cuba signs accord in Paris to refinance its foreign debt.

1984: "Armed Forces of Latin America" yearbook says: "Cuba is probably the world's most completely militarized country."

1985: Cuba signs new debt restructuring, blaming Mexico's crisis for its debacle. Permits selling of private housing for the first time. Total aid from USSR since 1961 hits $40 billion.

1986: Castro defaults on $10.9 billion in Paris Club debt. Blames sugar prices. Abolishes coffee breaks, cuts subsidies. Soviets give $3 billion more in credit and aid. Castro bans farmers markets.

1987: Stops paying entirely on $10.9 billion Paris Club debts.

1988: Forbids release of inflation data, making it impossible for researchers to assess Cuban economic performance.

1990: By official statistics, GDP per capita declines 10.3%.

1991: Sugar crop falls to 7 million tons. Politburo purged. USSR ends $5 billion in subsidies. "Special Period" of austerity begins.

1992: Horse-drawn carts replace cars, oxen replace Soviet tractors. Time magazine reports tin cans are recycled into drinking cups and banana peels into Cuban sandals.

1993: World Bank says GDP contracts 15.1% per capita, as industrial output plunges 40% per person.

1994: Some private-sector activity permitted. GDP per capita shows no growth, but Castro hails "recovery." Agricultural output down 54% from 1989, with sugar at 4 million tons. Castro blames bad finances, and "errors and inefficiency." Food consumption, according to USDA, falls 36%. Some 32,000 Cubans flee for Florida.

1995: Havana admits GDP fell 35% from 1989 to 1993. Vice President Carlos Lage claims GDP grew 2.5%, as inflation hits 19%.

1996: Castro hikes private business taxes. President Clinton tightens embargo. Castro claims GDP rose to 7% in year.

1997: GDP reported up 2.5%, falling short of 5% projection. Failed sugar harvest, bad weather, crop pests, foreign debts blamed.

1998: GDP growth claimed at 1.2% with no inflation. U.S. embargo, global financial crisis, low commodity prices, too much rainfall, Hurricane Georges and severe drought blamed. Castro urges other debtor nations to form a cartel.

1999: GDP claimed at 6.2%. Subsidies from Venezuela begin. Castro blames U.S. dollar for woes and urges use of the euro.

2000: Cuban court rules U.S. owes Cuba $121 billion for embargo.

2001: 3.6% GDP growth, output remains below 1989. Blames loss of subsidies, second-worst sugar harvest ever at 3.5 million tons.

2002: Freezes dollar sales to preserve foreign reserves. Shuts down 118 factories due to power shortages. Buys $125 million in U.S. food. Defaults on $750 million in Japanese debts.

2003: Earns more tight sanctions from President Bush and European Union over dissident roundups. GDP rises just 1.8%.

2004: Castro declares GDP a capitalist instrument, adjusts calculations, declares GDP growing at 5%.

2005: Foreign firms asked to leave and market liberalization scrapped. Imports hit three-times the level of exports. Hurricanes blamed for falling farm output. Sugar figures not released. Castro calls economic crisis an "enemy fabrication." Claims GDP up 11%.

2006: Castro claims 12.5% economic growth, "despite the crippling effects of the U.S. embargo," Luxner News notes.

2007: 7.5% GDP growth claimed; adverse weather said to have affected construction and agriculture.

2008: 4.3% GDP growth claimed, far short of 8% forecast. "One of the most difficult years since the collapse of the Soviet Union," economy minister says. Hurricanes and fuel prices blamed.

That, in sum, is Cuba after 50 years. But lest you get the wrong idea, Cuba hasn't failed at everything: "Given their goal — to destroy capitalism and entrench themselves — they're a success," said Humberto Fontova, an expert on Castro's regime.

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Cornyn promises filibuster on Franken

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) threatened Friday to filibuster any attempt to seat Democratic Minnesota Senate candidate Al Franken next week.

The new National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chairman said he had not whipped votes in the GOP caucus, but added that he could not imagine any members defecting and seating Franken without a certificate of election.

Franken will not have that certificate as long as the election is challenged in the courts — a likely scenario, with Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-Minn.) legal team already attacking the credibility of the recount process.

“This is a very, very serious matter,” Cornyn said. “I can assure you that there will be no way that people on our side of the aisle will agree to seat any senator without a valid certificate.”

Some have suggested that Franken could be seated provisionally, which would allow for any court challenges to play out and potentially change the outcome.

But since Minnesota state law won’t provide Franken a certificate of election with an election contest pending, seating Franken could be a risky and difficult proposition.

Franken leads the race by 49 votes with all challenged ballots resolved, but Coleman’s campaign is attempting to include about 650 improperly rejected absentee ballots from areas friendly to the incumbent.

That would be on top of about 1,350 improperly rejected absentees already designated by recount officials.

Beyond that, Coleman is expected to take up a legal challenge to the result.

Cornyn, a former Texas Supreme Court judge, suggested Friday that the case could go to the Minnesota Supreme Court or beyond.

“I think it is very clear that the people of Minnesota and the courts in Minnesota should make the decision about who won the Minnesota Senate election, and not political leaders in Washington, D.C.,” Cornyn said. “That process is ongoing and will not be resolved, in all likelihood, for weeks and maybe longer.”

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Who Gets U.S. Foreign Aid


The U.S. will give an estimated $26 billion in foreign aid in 2008—70% more than when President George W. Bush took office (the figure doesn’t include funds related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). More than 150 countries get financial assistance from the U.S. Here are the six that received the most this year.

COUNTRY AID PURPOSE
1. Israel $2.4 billion Virtually all of this money is used to buy weapons (up to 75% made in the U.S.). Beginning in 2009, the U.S. plans to give $30 billion over 10 years.
2. Egypt $1.7 billion $1.3 billion to buy weapons; $103 million for education; $74 million for health care; $45 million to promote civic participation and human rights.
3. Pakistan $798 million $330 million for security efforts, including military-equipment upgrades and border security; $20 million for infrastructure.
4. Jordan $688 million $326 million to fight terrorism and promote regional stability through equipment upgrades and training; $163 million cash payment to the Jordanian government.
5. Kenya $586 million $501 million to fight HIV/AIDS through drug treatment and abstinence education and to combat malaria; $15 million for agricultural development; $5.4 million for programs that promote government accountability.
6. South Africa $574 million $557 million to fight TB and HIV/AIDS; $3 million for education.
7. Mexico $551 million Click here for details.
8. Colombia $541 million Click here for details.
9. Nigeria $491 million Click here for details.
10. Sudan $479 million Click here for details.

*Source: Estimates based on figures and documents from the U.S. Department of State. Click here for more information.

— Rebecca Davis O'Brien

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Raise gasoline tax by 10 cents, Congress urged

Federal panel: Revenue for roads, bridges declines as motorists drive less

Image: Motorists
A federal commission is calling for an increase in the federal fuel tax to raise more money for maintaining roads.
David J. Phillip / AP file

WASHINGTON - Motorists are driving less and buying less gasoline, which means fuel taxes aren't raising enough money to keep pace with the cost of road, bridge and transit programs.

That has the federal commission that oversees financing for transportation talking about increasing the federal fuel tax.

A 50 percent increase in gasoline and diesel fuel taxes is being urged by the commission to finance highway construction and repair until the government devises another way for motorists to pay for using public roads.

The National Commission on Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing, a 15-member panel created by Congress, is the second group in a year to call for increasing the current 18.4 cents a gallon federal tax on gasoline and the 24.4 cents a gallon tax on diesel. State fuel taxes vary from state to state.

In a report expected in late January, members of the infrastructure financing commission say they will urge Congress to raise the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon and the diesel tax by 12 cents to 15 cents a gallon. At the same time, the commission will recommend tying the fuel tax rates to inflation.

The commission will also recommend that states raise their fuel taxes and make greater use of toll roads and fees for rush-hour driving.

Deteriorating roads
Although the cost of gasoline has dropped dramatically in recent months, such tax increases could be politically treacherous for Democratic leaders in Congress. A gas tax hike was one of the reasons they lost control of the House and Senate in the 1994 elections. President-elect Barack Obama has expressed concern about raising fuel taxes in the current economic climate.

But commission members said the government must find more road and bridge building money somewhere.

"I'm not excited about a gas tax increase, but the reality is our current gas tax doesn't pay for upkeep of the system we have now," said Adrian Moore, vice president of the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank in Los Angeles, and a member of the highway revenue commission. "We can either let the roads go to hell or we can pay more."

The dilemma for Congress is that highway and transit programs are dependent for revenue on fuel taxes that are not sustainable. Many Americans are driving less and switching to more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, and a shift to new fuels and technologies like plug-in hybrid electric cars will further erode gasoline sales.

According to a draft of the financing commission's recommendations, the nation needs to move to a new system that taxes motorists according to how much they use roads.

"Most if not all of the commissioners have a strong belief and commitment that we need a fundamental transformation of the current system," said commission chairman Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a technology policy think tank in Washington.

Revenue gap
A study by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies estimated that the annual gap between revenues and the investment needed to improve highway and transit systems was about $105 billion in 2007, and will increase to $134 billion in 2017 under current trends.

Projected shortfalls in revenue led the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, in a report issued in January 2008, to call for an increase of as much as 40 cents a gallon in the gas tax, phased in over five years.

Charles Whittington, chairman of the American Trucking Associations, which supports a fuel tax increase as long as the money goes to highway projects, said Congress may decide to disguise a fuel tax hike as a surcharge to combat climate change.

Transportation is responsible for about a third of all U.S. carbon emissions created by burning fossil fuels. Traffic congestion wastes an estimated 2.9 billion gallons of fuel a year. Less congestion would reduce greenhouse gases and dependence on foreign oil.

"Instead of calling it a gas tax, call it a carbon tax," Whittington said.

Bottlenecks around the nation cost the trucking industry about 243 million lost truck hours and about $7.8 billion per year, according to the commission.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

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Federal Government Sued by California over Gutting of Endangered Species Act

by Derek

sequoia480 Federal Government Sued by California over Gutting of Endangered Species Act

On Tuesday, California Attorney General Jerry Brown charged the federal government with illegally gutting provisions of the Endangered Species Act that call for scientific review of decisions threatening the habitat of endangered species.

“The Bush Administration is seeking to gut the Endangered Species Act on its way out the door. This is an audacious attempt to circumvent a time-tested statute that for 35 years has required scientific review of proposed federal agency decisions that affect wildlife.”- Attorney General Brown

The rule changes will allow federal agencies to decide if their actions put wildlife at risk, getting rid of the previous requirement of conducting scientific reviews determining if their actions might be detrimental to endangered or threatened species. The Department of Interior maintains that they can make good decisions themselves without scientist’s input.

“The Department of Interior is ignoring the vast majority of the over 200,000 comments they got on this rule change-by moving forward. They are basically saying public be damned.” - Andrew Wetzler, Director, NRDC Endangered Species program

The administration’s push for “midnight regulation” changes has been denounced by several environmental groups, and now the state of California has decided to file a suit challenging those regulations and calling them “illegal”. The attorney general’s office says they went forward with the suit because “it has both the legal right and the moral responsibility to protect California’s environment and resources.” They state that the new rules will threaten endangered wildlife in California and end up costing the state far more for the protection of plants and animals on the list.

According to the lawsuit filed in Northern California Federal District Court, the Bush administration has violated the Endangered Species Act by:

  • Adopting regulations that are inconsistent with that statute.
  • Failing to consider the environmental ramifications of the proposed new regulations.
  • Not adequately considering public comments submitted by the Attorney General and many other organizations and concerned citizens.

My view? I’ve completely lost faith in the ability of bureaucracy and federal oversight to protect our most valuable heritage: our natural landscape and the plants and animals inhabiting it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

Why is it that a “lame duck” leaving office (forever) can push through last minute rule changes that his successor has to either enforce or overturn, wasting valuable time and money?

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Your request is being processed... Now Where'd I Put That $700 Billion?

WASHINGTON — Government officials overseeing a $700 billion bailout have acknowledged difficulties tracking the money and assessing the program's effectiveness.

The information was contained in a document, released Wednesday, of a Dec. 10 meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Board. The panel, headed by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, includes Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Securities and Exchange Commission chief Christopher Cox.

While offering no details, the document also mentioned that officials at that meeting discussed "potential methods" of using the bailout program to help curb home foreclosures and ease problems in the housing market.

More broadly, the officials discussed "the difficulty of isolating the effects" of the bailout program "given the variety of policy actions taken by the U.S. government to support financial stability and promote economic growth."

The officials also noted the "difficulties associated with monitoring the use of specific funds" provided to individual financial institutions, according to the document.

The bailout program, created Oct. 3, is designed to break through a debilitating credit clog and spur financial markets to operate more normally again. Credit and financial woes _ along with a severe housing crisis _ have plunged the economy into a painful recession.

Separately, Treasury said Wednesday it will decide on a case-by-case basis whether other companies connected to the struggling automotive industry should be provided emergency aid from the bailout pool.

President George W. Bush reversed course on Dec. 19 and announced a $17.4 billion rescue package for teetering auto giants, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, which were burning through cash and bleeding jobs.

The government earlier this week provided $5 billion in aid to GMAC Financial Services, GM's troubled financing arm, and said it would lend GM up to $1 billion.

In deciding whether to aid others, the department said it will consider "the importance of the institution to production by, or financing of, the American automotive industry," and whether a major disruption of the companies' operations would likely hurt employment and the national economy.

In another report responding to questions from the top congressional watchdog overseeing the bailout, the Treasury Department defended its management of the program amid criticisms about confusing shifts in strategy.

Paulson's decision to focus the program on providing banks and other companies with capital injections _ rather than the original strategy of buying rotten assets from banks_ was necessary to respond to quickly changing financial market conditions, according to the new Treasury report.

Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, the chairwoman of a congressional oversight panel, has said she didn't understand why it's taken so long for the Bush administration to explain its plan. The five-member panel _ made up of three Democratic appointees, including Warren, and two Republicans _ has criticized Treasury for not saying exactly what problems they're trying to fix or how the investments will fix them.

The department insists the program is helping to stabilize the financial system, but acknowledges it will take time for conditions to return to normal.

"We have made significant progress, but there is no single action the federal government can take to end the financial market turmoil and the economic downturn," the report said. "We are confident we are pursuing the right strategy."

Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have complained that Paulson has sent confusing signals to taxpayers and Wall Street investors by shifting strategy and not communicating clearly about objectives.

The oversight panel is one of several entities monitoring the bailout, in addition to a special inspector general and the Government Accountability Office, a congressional auditor.

Earlier this month, the GAO said the government must toughen its monitoring of the bailout program to better keep track of how the money is used.

The government has pledged to provide $250 billion to banks in return for partial ownership. The goal is for banks to use the money to boost lending. However, a recent review by The Associated Press found that after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks can't say exactly how they're spending the money. Some wouldn't even talk about it.

The idea behind the capital injection program is for banks to use the money to rebuild reserves and lend more freely to customers. However, banks do have leeway to use the money for other things, such as buying other banks, paying dividends to investors or bonuses to executives. That's touched a nerve with some lawmakers and other critics.

Money from the bailout pot also has been used for other things, including throwing a financial lifeline to ailing auto companies, and teetering insurance giant American International Group. Money also was used to back a rescue for Citigroup Inc.

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