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THIS FIRST — RE-LAX AT WORK — Workplace safety programs run by North Carolina and South Carolina downplay serious safety problems, issue weak fines to violators and fail to properly handle whistleblower complaints, according to reports released by the federal government. South Carolina’s problems are so severe that auditors said increased federal oversight may be needed. South Carolina has the nation’s lowest average penalties for workplace safety violations, noted Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Released just in time for cake and ice cream: Jimmy Carter and Randy Quaid
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NATIONAL LENS — MAKE AN APPT — With the departure of his chief of staff, President Barack Obama has been handed a rare chance to reshape the character of the West Wing at a pivotal time in his presidency, when his polls are down and he could lose a Democratic-controlled Congress in the November elections. But despite the praise from some Democrats for Pete Rouse as the next White House chief of staff, others fret that Obama seems poised to squander a rare opportunity by appointing an insider to replace Rahm Emanuel, who will step down Friday to explore a run for mayor of Chicago. Some members of Congress, such as House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), even say Obama should look outside politics to the world of business for Emanuel’s permanent replacement.
CHEAP TEA — The GOP figures jockeying for a 2012 bid have largely avoided contributing from their political action committees (PACs) to Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Joe Miller in Alaska, Mike Lee in Utah, Ken Buck in Colorado and Sharron Angle in Nevada. All six won GOP contests against rivals backed by the Republican establishment, largely because of support from the Tea Party movement. But the six have received only a combined $38,000 from 10 leading Republicans thought to be eyeing a White House run. In comparison, Rob Portman, a former congressman and Bush administration official who is the GOP Senate candidate in Ohio, has received $29,400 alone.
DOUBLE DOWN — Despite a lingering debate among GOP strategists over the effectiveness of using House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a wedge in pivotal races, the House Republican campaign operation is doubling down on their anti-Pelosi efforts in the final weeks of the campaign, betting that the California Democrat’s high negatives can serve to galvanize an already aroused conservative voter base. In the past two weeks alone, the National Republican Congressional Committee has released television ads in 22 House races either tying the Democratic candidate to the speaker or using unflattering images of her in the 30-second spots. “Since Nancy Pelosi took over, [John Spratt has] become a rubber stamp,” states the NRCC’s ad targeting the House Budget Committee chairman from South Carolina.
DUCK, DUCK, GOOSE — South Carolina’s lopsided Senate race is getting spicier. Celebrity Charleston chef and cookbook author Nathalie Dupree is getting out of the kitchen to run as a write-in candidate. Dupree says she doesn’t believe anybody else will challenge incumbent Republican Jim DeMint, whom she accuses of spending more time aiding Tea Party-backed candidates in other states than trying to do anything for South Carolinians.
GET REAL — This year, Congress passed the most ambitious agenda in recent memory, overhauling how the nation regulates banks and financial products and dramatically reforming the health-care system. President Obama had hoped to add comprehensive energy legislation — with a cap-and-trade program — to that list, but the Senate failed to move even a slimmed-down version of the bill this summer. Environmentalists are increasingly realistic about the dwindling chances for ambitious legislation, despite a recent pledge by President Obama to move a comprehensive energy bill in 2011.
JIM JOINED — A federal court judge in Madison, Wis., has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of engravings of the National Motto — “In God We Trust” — and the Pledge of Allegiance at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. U.S. District Judge William M. Conley ruled that the atheist Freedom From Religious Foundation did not have the legal standing to sue the Architect of the Capitol – the office responsible for the Capitol building and grounds – to remove the engravings and that it was pointless to try to stop the engravings, since they have already been made.
BEAT BOBBY — Gov. Bobby Jindal’s stance against raising taxes is garnering recognition by a libertarian think tank. The Cato Institute gave Jindal an “A” on Thursday in a report card on governors and their fiscal policies. Jindal was one of four governors who received an “A.” Only one governor — Mark Sanford of South Carolina — outscored him.
COOL, CALM, COLLECTED — House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn emerged from a strategy meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday and defied doomsday predictions of sweeping Democratic defeat in November. Clyburn said Obama and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate were upbeat at the White House session to discuss election prospects and craft a legislative agenda for the lame-duck session after the Nov. 2 elections. “Everybody was upbeat,” Clyburn said. “The president was upbeat, we were upbeat, our members who left (Washington) last night were upbeat. As I travel the country, I don’t hear all this gloom and doom out there that everybody’s talking about.”
JOE SIGNED — Federal lawmakers have sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking him to suspend a grant program that provides money for law enforcement agencies to set up motorcycle-only traffic checkpoints, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports. In a letter dated Sept. 30, House members told LaHood that safety-related funds would be better spent in other areas to improve motorcycling safety. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) drafted the letter and then circulated it to his congressional colleagues for signatures before sending it to LaHood.
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2010 WATCH — HOW CRITICAL — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen criticized state lawmakers for putting some college construction projects on hold this week at a campaign stop at the University of South Carolina Upstate, calling the move “an example of a lack of leadership.” Sheheen, after delivering his stump speech to about 250 students and activists, said in a series of brief interviews that “We can’t have higher-ed policy set by the Budget and Control Board. It doesn’t make any sense.”
GET THE PICTURE TWEET — vincentsheheen
FEELING LUCKY — Most people are thinking of the winnings when they buy a lottery ticket, but what they don’t think about is how many students are winning in the classrooms later in life thanks to the South Carolina Education Lottery. Since the South Carolina Education Lottery began over 794,000 scholarships and grants have been awarded to students.
CATCH AND RELEASE — A small group of Republicans is calling on South Carolina GOP gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley to fully answer questions about her past jobs, taxes she paid late and allegations of two extramarital affairs. “Nikki wants votes. We want answers,” said Cyndi Mosteller, a former first vice chairwoman of the state GOP who held a press conference Thursday to announce the formation of her new group, Conservatives for Truth in Politics.
STUDY UP — A state budget panel has asked for more time to review a controversial proposal to create a state-run company to devote more pension money to more profitable but higher-risk investments. The contentious meeting included an unusual show of strength from lawmakers, Gov. Mark Sanford and the other members of the five-member state Budget and Control Board, asking the S.C. Retirement System Investment Commission to slow down plans to create the nation’s first state-run investment firm. And Budget and Control Board members asked the panel to seek their approval before moving forward with plans to create the investment company.
LANDING SCRIPT — Democratic U.S. Rep. John Spratt’s campaign released a new television ad Thursday, criticizing his challenger, Republican state Sen. Mick Mulvaney over a failed development deal in Lancaster County. The ad claims Mulvaney convinced local officials to spend $30 million in upgrades on more than 800 aces of property he owned. It says Mulvaney then sold the property at a $7 million profit, and the new owners of the land failed to develop it. The stranded development, the ad claims, is now polluting a local creek.
BLAME THE SCHEDULER — An Oct. 5 debate between the candidates for lieutenant governor has been canceled, debate sponsors announced Thursday. Both Florence Republican Ken Ard and Charleston Democrat Ashley Cooper were invited to a Newberry debate sponsored by AARP South Carolina, League of Women Voters of South Carolina, the South Carolina Area Agencies on Aging, and the South Carolina Councils on Aging. Ard, citing a scheduling conflict, told sponsors he would not be able to attend.
BASE JUMPING — South Carolina’s Charleston Air Force Base and Charleston Naval Weapons Station are becoming part of a joint command. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is on hand today as the Naval Weapons Station Charleston is decommissioned and then commissioned as part of Joint Base Charleston. Joint Base Charleston results from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission program started five years ago to consolidate support services at military bases located near each other.
NOT TURNING GREENE — U.S. Senate hopeful Alvin Greene has less than $5,000 of campaign contributions. He has been indicted on felony obscenity charges, and shunned by South Carolina’s Democratic Party. But the 33-year-old political neophyte insists he wants to show average people that they can make a difference in politics. His candidacy has virtually assured his popular Republican opponent, Sen. Jim DeMint, an easy victory. Mr. DeMint leads Mr. Greene by 64%-21%, according to a recent Rasmussen poll. Mr. DeMint sees himself as having several opponents, “most of them in Congress and the White House,” spokesman Ian Headley said.
DIALED UP — South Carolina’s prison director still wants a system to jam all cell phone signals in prison but said Thursday he is testing a less intrusive technology to block signals from phones illegally smuggled to inmates. Jon Ozmint, a leader in a push by prison directors to jam phones that can be used to orchestrate crimes from behind bars, spoke Thursday at a Washington workshop hosted by the Federal Communications Commission. “We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t admitting that we needed some help, because the phones are going to make it in anyway, and we can’t find them all,” Ozmint told the forum.
RED HUGH — Call it Hugh Leatherman’s revenge. Leatherman, the powerful Florence County Republican who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, had asked college presidents as recently as June not to raise tuition beyond 7.3 percent. On Wednesday, when Leatherman got the Budget and Control Board to impose a moratorium on some new building projects, colleges and universities learned that the request was actually a demand. On Thursday, school officials were still trying to assess the impact of the moratorium.
FIVE ANSWERS — As part of The Rock Hill Herald’s coverage of the 5th Congressional District election, they are asking the candidates for their positions on key issues. The election is Nov. 2. Q: Would you favor extending the Bush tax cuts? If so, please provide specifics on how you would pay for them to avoid adding to the national debt.
DARLINGTON — Darlington County farmer wins $2,500
CHESTERFIELD — Northeastern Technical College sets record enrollment
GEORGETOWN — Georgetown steel mill set to reopen
LEXINGTON — SC high school AD accused of taking $135,000
CHEROKEE — SCC’s Cherokee campus thanks Sen. Peeler
COLUMBIA — Columbia mosque to welcome visitors
JAMES ISLAND — James Islanders arming themselves
AUGUSTA — Morris mounts work of major colorist
SPARTANBURG — Firehouse Subs fun day to help first responders
VIEWPOINT — TRY IT ON — Morton Kondracke with CQ Politics ponders “the elections are still more than a month away, but all signs indicate that an angry electorate is going to follow the dictum of legendary screen siren Mae West: “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I have not tried before.” Actually, Americans have tried practically every permutation of government in recent years — all-Republican rule (2001-2007), all-Democratic rule (1993-95 and 2009-present) and divided government with different parties in charge of the White House and Congress. But the arrangement we haven’t tried lately — and which sort of worked when we did — had a Democrat in the White House and Republicans in control of Congress, from 1995 to 2001.”
VIEWPOINT II — OFF TARGET — The Foundry writes how “the Obama Administration has stated on numerous occasions that there is “no way, no how” the New START treaty, a nuclear arms control agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States, will limit U.S. ballistic missile defense options. However, ongoing exchanges of opinions on this question show that the issue is far from clear. Reporter Josh Rogin, in his recent critique of an amendment that Senator Jim DeMint (R–SC) offered to the resolution of ratification for New START in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) disparages the Senator’s effort.”
FINALLY THIS — YOU’VE BEEN WARNED — A utility company is warning their customers to beware of a telephone-based scam. Progress Energy is telling its South Carolina customers not to give out credit card information to callers posing as representatives from their company or any other utility company. Customers have reported receiving phone calls from persons claiming to represent Progress Energy saying they will disconnect power unless a payment is received. The caller will then request credit card information. Progress Energy says that only in very rare cases will they ask for such information.