WASHINGTON IN BRIEF

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Black Farmers Rally on Settlement

Black farmers rallied outside the Agriculture Department to press their claim that thousands of people were left out of the settlement of a discrimination lawsuit.

Seven years ago, the department agreed to pay farmers who could show they were discriminated against. The settlement provided for payments of $50,000 in most cases but allowed for unlimited payments in extreme cases.

As of January, the government had paid about $900 million to settle 14,300 claims. An additional 8,100 claims were denied; many are under review by a court-appointed monitor.

General Defends Defense Spending

Americans spent as much on "plastic Santa Clauses," tinsel and other holiday purchases last year as they will for defense in the coming year, the Army's top general said yesterday, lamenting complaints about the military's budget requests.

Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, told reporters: "I just don't understand. . . . What's the problem?"

Schoomaker said the defense budget requested by the Bush administration for the fiscal year that begins in October, nearly $440 billion, combined with the costs of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, constitutes 3.9 percent of the nation's overall economy of nearly $13 trillion

During World War II, military expenditures accounted for more than one-third of the economy, he said, calling today's piece of the pie the "lowest percent . . . that we've ever spent in wartime."

"Here's what is amazing to me. . . . What do you think we spent on plastic Santa Clauses and tinsel and all this stuff for Christmas last year . . . the holidays?" Schoomaker asked during a meeting with reporters. "The answer is $438.5 billion, roughly equivalent to the defense budget."

The general said he got the figure on Christmas spending from a newspaper clipping quoting the National Retail Association.

The number from the group was $435.3 billion, and it was a projection for "winter holidays," meaning it included Thanksgiving turkeys and other seasonal spending, said association spokeswoman Kathy Grannis.

Stabenow Corrects Finance Reports

Sen. Debbie Stabenow's campaign has corrected her campaign finance reports to show that some donations from 2002 and 2003 came from an Indian tribe then represented by now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, not an individual as the Michigan Democrat reported at the time.

Stabenow's campaign originally reported that $4,000 in donations came from Christopher Petras, who was the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe's legislative director at the time. The donations came during a period in which Stabenow and other Michigan lawmakers sought funding for the tribe and wrote letters to federal regulators on the tribe's behalf.

The campaign wrote the Federal Election Commission on April 14 to correct the report to show the donations came from the tribe. Records originally listed Petras as giving Stabenow's campaign $2,000 on March 6, 2002, and an equal amount on June 30, 2003. Copies of the checks showed the first was dated Feb. 20, 2002, and the second June 2, 2003.

Stabenow campaign manager Tom Russell said the tribe made the contributions and the error was "a glitch in filing the report which was corrected" as soon as it learned of the problem.

-- From News Services


© 2006 The Washington Post Company