Democrat Urges Probe

Of Patriot Act Promotion

The ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee asked the Justice Department's inspector general yesterday to investigate the cross-country travels of Attorney General John D. Ashcroft in support of a controversial anti-terrorism law.

In a letter to Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) wrote that Ashcroft may have violated federal anti-lobbying laws and other restrictions by spending more than $200,000 in public money last year on appearances promoting the USA Patriot Act.

Ashcroft visited 32 cities in September and October 2003 while Congress was debating whether to revise the Patriot Act, which has come under fire from civil liberties groups and some lawmakers.

Justice spokesman Mark Corallo said Ashcroft's tour was cleared beforehand by government legal and ethics experts.

For the Record

* House Republicans pushed through legislation aimed at reducing frivolous lawsuits on a 229 to 174 mostly partisan vote.

* The Forest Service broke no laws in paying a public relations firm to promote its plan to triple logging in Sierra Nevada forests, congressional investigators said this week. "An agency has a legitimate right to explain and defend its policies and respond to attacks on that policy," said a report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.

* The government conceded in court papers filed Friday that the U.S. Marshals Service violated federal law when a marshal ordered reporters with the Associated Press and the Hattiesburg American to erase their recordings of a speech by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The Justice Department also said the reporters and their employers are each entitled to $1,000 in damages and attorneys' fees.

-- From News Services