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News Briefs

Businesses, Politics Cozy in Russia


In America the relationship between big business and politics may be cozy; in Russia it is fast becoming intimate.

The nation’s largest businesses -- from oil giants to banks to manufacturers -- have not only poured money into the parliamentary elections to be held on Sunday, but have also filled party tickets with dozens of their own executives.

Yukos Oil, whose former chairman, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, is in prison on charges widely viewed as politically motivated, has executives running as candidates not only for the liberal Yabloko party, but also for the Communists and for United Russia, the party loyal to President Vladimir V. Putin.

The prosecutorial assault on Khodorkovsky -- one of a cadre of wealthy businessmen known derisively as oligarchs -- has been seen as a broader assault on big business in Russia. But in fact big business has become more closely intertwined with politics than ever.

While the popularity of Putin and United Russia appear to have been strengthened by the investigation of Khodorkovsky, the party has its own candidates from prominent companies controlled by other oligarchs as well.

Two oil companies, TNK and Lukoil, have executives running on the party’s ticket, as do Russian Aluminum and the steel giant Severstal. An analysis of United Russia’s federal and regional party lists by The Moscow Times showed that more than a quarter of United Russia’s parliamentary candidates represented big businesses.

Colorado Supreme Court Rejects Republican Redistricting Attempt


The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday rejected a Republican effort to redraw the state’s congressional map to the party’s advantage, handing Democrats a victory in the first of a series of legal fights that could help determine political control of the House.

The court, in a 5-2 decision, ruled that Colorado’s constitution allowed only one round of congressional redistricting following the decennial census. The judges found that the Republican-controlled Legislature exceeded its authority last May when it tried to replace a map imposed by a federal court in 2002 after the House and Senate deadlocked.

“Having failed to redistrict when it should have, the General Assembly has lost its chance to redistrict until after the 2010 federal census,” said the decision.

The Colorado redistricting preceded a high-profile fight this year in Texas, where the Republican Legislature forced through a new map intended to give Republicans six or more new U.S. House seats in that state and cement its majority. That map is also being challenged by Democrats. The implications of the Colorado decision on the Texas case were uncertain given the ruling’s heavy reliance on state law.

But Democrats said the decision should be seen as a sharp rebuke to Republicans who have used new power in state legislatures to engage in aggressive efforts to draw new congressional maps when in the past such redistricting typically occurred just once a decade.

“The Republican Party’s shameless attempts to re-redistrict Texas and Colorado were unprecedented efforts to subvert the will of voters and undermine the results of elections that the GOP couldn’t win fair and square,” said Rep. Robert T. Matsui, D-Calif., head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

In Texas, a three-judge panel is scheduled to begin a trial next week consolidating several challenges to the Texas map. The judges on Monday heard arguments over whether Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the House majority leader who supported the remapping, should be forced along with another Texas congressman to give a deposition about his role. Also this month, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a Democratic challenge to Pennsylvania’s map.