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Democrats Settle Racketeering Suit Against Majority Whip

THE WASHINGTON POST

House Democrats settled their racketeering suit against House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and three affiliated political groups on Thursday, reaching an agreement that left both sides declaring victory.

Last spring Democrats charged that DeLay had engaged in extortion and money laundering, pressuring donors into giving to the GOP and subsequently funneling some of that money to outside groups that disclosed neither their donors nor how they spent their money. DeLay denied the allegations.

Robert Bauer, the lawyer who filed the suit on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, argued Thursday that by filing the suit his side had succeeded in curtailing the whip’s efforts to establish a campaign operation that operated outside federal election law.

“We shut it down,” Bauer said. “There is no DeLay shadow network. We didn’t have to worry about it in 2000, and we don’t have to worry about it in 2002.”

But DeLay’s lawyers and chief of staff argued Thursday that he was free to continue working on behalf of the groups named in the suit: Americans for Economic Growth, the Republican Majority Issues Committee, and the U.S. Family Network.

Norton Oversees Condor Release

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Interior Secretary Gale Norton stood on a cliff 3,900 feet above the Pacific Ocean, a cell phone pressed to her ear, and issued an order that she said brought back memories of her early years as an Interior attorney.

“I think it’s time for freedom,” she said, and the condor-keepers in the canyons below opened the gate that separated five captive-bred birds from life in the wilderness. As dozens of officials watched on video screens on the cliff above, the birds emerged one by one from their pen to take flight over the Big Sur region, one of America’s most spectacular panoramas of sea and sky.

Norton watched from above, peering through a telescope lens, surrounded by state and federal officials and bird biologists.

This was the first official visit Norton has paid to California since her confirmation as Interior secretary, and she hiked for more than a mile up a mountain trail amid a bevy of media and representatives of various wildlife organizations.

Relaxed, Norton was in jeans and a blue-and-yellow parka, binoculars around her neck, her image belying that envoked by environmentalists of a rigidly pro-business bureaucrat intent on disassembling the Endangered Species Act.

One of the nation’s most powerful conservation laws, the act has come under intense attack from conservative politicians and landowners who say it can cripple growth and curb property rights.