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Getting old

"Getting old" Continued...

Issue: "Border bandits," Dec. 3, 2011

The high court is anything but predictable on this case, and the circuit courts haven't been politically predictable, either: In both the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and the D.C. Circuit, Republican-appointed judges were the deciding votes upholding the law. The Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals from the one circuit court that deemed the individual mandate unconstitutional, the 11th Circuit (where a Democratic appointee joined the decision). The justices could strike or uphold the entire law, strike or uphold the individual mandate, or they could simply rule that no one can contest the law until taxpayers have paid penalties, which will be due in 2015.

Personhood loss

More than 55 percent of Mississippi voters rejected a November ballot initiative that would have legally defined life as beginning at fertilization. Despite this defeat, Personhood USA, the pro-life group behind the ballot measure, vowed to continue pushing for similar personhood initiatives in other states. "We are prepared for a long journey," said the group's Keith Ashley. "Changing a culture-and changing a country-will not happen with one election." The group has mounted efforts to place similar initiatives on 2012 ballots in California, Florida, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, and Oregon. Colorado voters defeated similar proposals in 2008 and 2010. Ultimately, a successful personhood initiative would prompt a legal challenge that likely would reach the U.S. Supreme Court, forcing justices to reexamine the legality of abortion.

Energy and elections

Solyndra executives may have "pleaded the Fifth" before a House committee this fall, but Energy Secretary Steven Chu could not: Chu tried to answer a string of tough questions Nov. 17 about the $535 million loan to the bankrupt California solar company. The House Energy and Commerce Committee released more documents related to the loan, including emails in which Department of Energy officials asked Solyndra's chief executive to delay announcing layoffs until the day after the 2010 midterm elections. The executive had planned to announce layoffs on Oct. 28. DOE officials "did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3rd-oddly they didn't give a reason for that date," wrote a Solyndra investment adviser on Oct. 30, 2010. "I would not have been in favor of that decision," Chu told the committee. "I don't think it's a proper way to do business."

The fallout from the Solyndra loan is coming from various quarters: Hoover Institution scholar Peter Schweizer's newly released book, Throw Them All Out, is one. The book-which gained attention in November for its accusation that members of Congress engaged in insider trading-also alleges that 80 percent of alternative energy loans through the DOE went to companies either run or owned by financial backers of President Obama or the Democratic Party.

Shredded again

A potential political scandal in Kansas grew wider on Nov. 9 as prosecutors revealed that former state Attorney General Steve Six in 2009 destroyed copies of records important to the prosecution of abortion provider Planned Parenthood. Six is now under investigation in Kansas to determine whether his actions violated state law and the retention policy of the attorney general's office.

The documents were copies of abortion reports that Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe had sought as evidence for 23 felony counts of falsifying client records against Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. The Kansas Department of Health and the Environment had shredded the original records in 2005 during what it called a "routine" destruction of documents. Both instances of shredding happened while Democrat Kathleen Sebelius, a Planned Parenthood ally, was governor of Kansas, and Six's destruction of his copies came during the April 2009 Senate hearings on Sebelius' nomination to be U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, a post she now holds.

With neither the originals nor the copies, the "legal hurdles are insurmountable" to move forward with the case, Howe told Johnson County District Court Judge Stephen Tatum on Nov. 9. Tatum dismissed the 23 felony counts and 26 related misdemeanor counts against Planned Parenthood. The abortion provider faces 58 additional misdemeanor counts of failure to determine the viability of unborn children and unlawful late-term abortions. A Feb. 22, 2012, hearing in Johnson County will involve those charges.

After the Nov. 9 hearing, current Attorney General Derek Schmidt asked Shawnee County Sheriff Dick Barta to investigate Six's actions, a request Barta granted. (A representative from the firm where Six now practices law said he was not available for comment.) Mary Kay Culp of Kansans for Life has called on the Kansas Legislature to review the case in its entirety: "Guilty people destroy evidence," she said. "Really guilty people destroy evidence twice."

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