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Obama ‘bundlers’ have ties to lobbying

WASHINGTON — Despite a pledge not to take money from lobbyists, President Barack Obama has relied on prominent supporters who are active in the lobbying industry to raise millions of dollars for his re-election bid.

At least 15 of Obama’s “bundlers” — supporters who contribute their own money to his campaign and solicit it from others — are involved in lobbying for Washington consulting shops or private companies. They have raised more than $5 million so far for the campaign.

Because the bundlers are not registered as lobbyists with the Senate, the Obama campaign has managed to avoid running afoul of its self-imposed ban on taking money from lobbyists.

But the bundlers are in many ways indistinguishable from people who fit the technical definition of a lobbyist. They glide through the corridors of power in Washington, with a number of them hosting Obama at fundraisers while also visiting the White House on policy matters and official business.

—Eric Lichtblau, The New York Times

House passes two pieces 
of jobs bill

WASHINGTON — For the millions of Americans despondent over the inability of Democrats and Republicans to agree on a single piece of new jobs legislation: Fear not.

On Thursday, the House passed a very modest measure to end a tax withholding program, one that had yet to affect a single American but which President Barack Obama has agreed should go. The bill will likely clear the Senate, as well.

The withholding bill, which passed 405-16, did not carry quite the significance of potential measures to overhaul the tax code, make sweeping changes to entitlement programs or eliminate the waste, fraud, and abuse that lawmakers so often cite as their central legislative goals.

But it was politically viable.

That a bill repealing a never-implemented requirement on a fairly small number of businesses was celebrated like a hometown team just back from winning the World Series underscores just how big small accomplishments really are these days in Washington, where a protracted economic crisis and rampant voter disgust are no match for deep-seated partisan gridlock.

Outside of a few recent flashes of light — the passage of three trade bills this month and an agreement on patent reform — there have been no big bipartisan jobs initiatives in this Congress.

—Jennifer Steinhauer, The New York Times

Somali Islamist militants rally against Kenya

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Islamist militants rallied hundreds of supporters outside Somalia’s capital Thursday to call for attacks on Kenya, saying, “We want huge blasts,” while Kenyan authorities reported an assault inside Kenya, with at least four people killed in an ambush near the Somali border.

While it remained unclear who was responsible for the attack — in which a rocket-propelled grenade was shot at a car in northern Kenya — it comes just days after twin grenade attacks rocked Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Police say those attacks were linked to the Somali Islamist militants known as al-Shabab.

Kenya sent hundreds of troops, backed by tanks and gunships, into Somalia this month in a premeditated military campaign against al-Shabab, who have threatened terrorist attacks in Nairobi in retaliation.

The threats have left Kenyans and the United States jittery, with the U.S. Embassy in Kenya warning of credible terrorist threats, specifically to shopping malls and nightclubs.

—Josh Kron and Mohamed Ibrahim, The New York Times