Groups Want FEC Chief Out of Swift Boat Case

Leaders of three campaign finance groups urged the Federal Election Commission yesterday to disqualify the agency's chairman, Bradley A. Smith, from helping to decide whether a veterans group critical of Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry's war record should have registered as a political action committee.

The groups said in a legal filing that Smith had made inappropriate remarks in recent weeks defending the anti-Kerry campaign activities of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- indicating, they said, that Smith had made up his mind on the subject.

"A basic requirement for all federal regulatory officials is that they not prejudge the facts of cases before them," said Trevor Potter, a former FEC chairman and president of the Campaign Legal Center. The other groups complaining about Smith's comments included Democracy 21 and the Center for Responsive Politics.

Smith said he has not made up his mind on the subject. But he said he would speak to his agency's ethics lawyer for advice and might step aside.

HUD Reconsiders Changing Policy on Vouchers

The Bush administration backed away from a proposal that critics said would have forced many of the 2 million poor, elderly or disabled families who use government housing vouchers to foot more of the rent on their own or find substandard apartments.

How much a Section 8 housing voucher is worth depends on the amount needed to pay for rent and utilities for a typical apartment. The figure fluctuates by city and depends on the Department of Housing and Urban Development's local "fair market rent" calculations.

Housing advocates and lawmakers from both parties had urged HUD to reconsider a proposal to adjust the rent formula that they said would have worsened conditions for many voucher holders. HUD officials told the Associated Press that fair-rent revisions to take effect Friday would still incorporate for the first time population and housing statistics from the 2000 census.

But in a change, HUD said the new fair rents will not consider boundary-line revisions for many metropolitan areas. The boundary changes by the Office of Management and Budget accounted in large part for expanded commuting patterns from farther-out suburbs into downtowns.

Administration's Use of Science Challenged

A group of high-profile scientists and engineers, including 10 Nobel laureates and a former National Science Foundation director, announced it had created a political committee to inform the public about what it calls weaknesses in the Bush administration's handling of science.

Scientists and Engineers for Change -- a 521 organization, named in reference to its tax code status -- is the latest group to make the case that on issues such as stem cell research, energy, public health and the environment, President Bush has ignored science that runs counter to the interests of his religious or business supporters.

"The current administration isn't paying attention to science. It's paying attention to ideology," said Vint Cerf, widely regarded as a chief architect of the Internet and a founding member of the group.

Cerf said in a telephone news conference that technology would be central to national security but that the administration is undercutting the nation's scientific edge. Cerf said he is a registered Republican.

Scientists in the group intend to speak in swing states to compare the science agendas of Bush and Democrat John F. Kerry. Details are at www.scientistsandengineersforchange.org.

-- Compiled from reports by staff writer

Rick Weiss and news services