23 October 2009

She Voted For You: Financial Overhaul (Updated)

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, voted against advancing the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act of 2009 from the House Committee on Financial Services.

Endorsed 39-29 by the committee largely along party lines, the measure would create "a federal agency to regulate home loans, credit cards, savings accounts and other financial services," The Associated Press reports.

The proposed office "is a cornerstone to Obama's broader plan to clamp down on Wall Street and prevent much of the reckless lending that contributed to last year's near-collapse of the market," the article explains. "But the agency also has been the administration's toughest sell to lawmakers worried that the added regulation would strain neighborhood banks and small businesses."

The article adds that "business lobbyists pressed lawmakers to scale back the legislation and won several concessions." The changes "exempted general retailers, auto dealers, title insurers, accountants, lawyers and others," AP reports. "All but the biggest banks were spared from routine agency inspections and no businesses were required to offer standard, government-approved financial services, as Obama had wanted."

Capito earlier voted against a companion measure, the Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets Act of 2009, when the committee advanced it by 43-26.

That bill would "tighten rules on previously unregulated financial instruments," AP reported in a separate article, which called it "a long-awaited step toward governing the obscure and complex transactions at the heart of the troubles that befell some of Wall Street's most well-known financial houses."

"Republicans said derivative transactions should be disclosed and operate under great visibility but object to trading them in regulated exchanges," that article also said. "Federal regulators have argued for a tougher proposal."

AP also offers "the whys and hows of regulations on derivatives."

Update: The Charleston Daily Mail, The Journal of Martinsburg and The Intelligencer of Wheeling have articles (of 726, 366 and 326 and words, respectively) reporting that Capito's husband, Charles Capito, had been hired by United Bankshares Inc. as an executive vice president and director of business development.

He had been with what has become Morgan Stanley Smith Barney since 1976. The Daily Mail article said Capito had been working on a project for Smith Barney and Citigroup, merged under a previous deal, for the last two and a half years in New York.

22 October 2009

He Voted For You: Hate Crimes (Updated)

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., helped send a measure to President Obama that The Associated Press describes as expanding the definition of a federal hate crime "to include crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability."

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., did not vote on the legislation, which passed 68-29 (see update below).

"To assure its passage after years of frustrated efforts, Democratic supporters attached the measure to a must-pass $680 billion defense policy bill," the article said. "Many Republicans, normally staunch supporters of defense bills, voted against the bill because of the hate crimes provision. "

Updated: U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, and Nick Rahall, D-3rd, had earlier voted for the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 while Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, opposed that measure.

All three helped the House approve the defense policy measure with the hate crimes language in 281-146 roll call earlier this month.

A spokesman for Byrd told The Charleston Gazette that "the senator supported the hate-crimes provisions of the defense bill," and that "Byrd had earlier voted to invoke cloture, or end debate, on the measure so it could proceed to final passage."

Casey Pick Rankles Some in W.Va. GOP (Updated)

Some West Virginia Republican leaders are objecting after the head of the state's majority Democrats was recommended for a federal judgeship, The Associated Press and others report.

They cite the partisan position and comments of Nick Casey as well as his ties to Gov. Joe Manchin. Casey had been Manchin's campaign treasurer and became Democratic Party chairman in mid-2004 after Manchin won the gubernatorial primary.

The longtime Charleston lawyer has also been dinged for his status as a lobbyist, with critics citing an Obama campaign pledge. "Obama had promised not to appoint Washington lobbyists to executive branch posts overseeing regulations or contracts directly related to their former employers," the AP article said. Besides the seat at issue hailing from the judicial branch, "Casey has lobbied the state Legislature," the article said.

U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., jointly recommended Casey for a vacancy in the state's northern U.S. District Court (Charleston falls outside that district, another point of contention for critics). They stand by the pick.

"Through a spokesman, Byrd said Thursday said the negative comments by Republican partisans were unwarranted, and that he can attest to the content of Casey's character," AP reported.

The Charleston Gazette also has a story (updated: and reported that Rockefeller responded by calling Casey "a dedicated public servant and well-respected lawyer.")

MetroNews hears from Casey's GOP counterpart on the topic.

Update: A reader questions why Republicans have been criticizing a potential anti-abortion nominee to the federal judiciary, and also asks why that has not been part of the discussion.

Like Manchin, Casey is considered anti-abortion. As noted above, he also lobbies for the state's Roman Catholic diocese, a leading voice on that side of the abortion debate. He has helped the diocese participate in Pro-Life Day at the Legislature since at least 1993.

When Manchin won the 2004 nomination and Casey accepted the Democratic reins soon after, their stance on the issue prompted speculation that there would be "an effort to remove a pro-choice plank" from the party's platform, as The Charleston Gazette reported at the time.

That speculation returned during the crafting of the party's 2008 platform, as The Gazette and others reported.

While the 2004 platform says state Democrats "support decisions of the United States Supreme Court regarding the right of every woman to make choices regarding reproduction," the 2008 version does not appear to include that language. But it does say that "West Virginia Democrats believe that government, at every level, should not interfere with an individual's or family's right to make a personal or medical decision."

(Note: Some of the wording in the update has since been edited to conform to AP style.)

21 October 2009

Manchin Seeks Obama Sit-Down

Gov. Joe Manchin tells The Associated Press that he's lobbied the White House for an in-person meeting with President Obama "over his administration's stance on climate change and its pursuit of cap-and-trade legislation."

"Coal is going to be our primary provider of electricity for the next 30 years. That's the practical reality," Manchin is quoted as saying. "West Virginia is very much willing to be involved and play a responsible role."

"But the governor also said his desire to meet is unrelated to his recent frustrations with Obama's Environmental Protection Agency," the article said. "He instead wants to revisit the sort of talks the two had when Obama was in the U.S. Senate."

20 October 2009

Byrd, Rockefeller Tout Casey for Federal Bench

The head of West Virginia's Democratic Party has been recommended for a federal judgeship by the state's U.S. senators, The Associated Press reports.

Nick Casey "has distinguished himself as an attorney, as well as a tireless advocate for many social and civic causes," Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., said in a letter to President Obama quoted in a Tuesday release.

The senators want Obama to nominate Casey for a seat in the state's northern federal court district left vacant by the 2006 death of Judge Craig Broadwater.

Long a lawyer in the southern district, Casey helps head a Charleston law firm and has been Democratic chairman since June 2004, after Gov. Joe Manchin won the party's nomination for his current office. Casey had been the governor's personal attorney and campaign treasurer, the AP article said.

Byrd and Rockefeller had earlier recommended another Charleston lawyer and Democratic stalwart, Ned Rose, for the judgeship in January. But Rose withdrew from consideration without explanation in July.

Obama nominated the senators' other pick, Kanawha Circuit Judge Irene Berger. She appeared last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has since endorsed her nomination for a southern district seat.

19 October 2009

7 Arrests at Manchin's Office Cap Mining Protest Sit-In

Seven environmental activists were arrested Monday in the reception room for Gov. Joe Manchin after they staged a sit-in to urge his intervention in a pending mountaintop removal mining project, The Associated Press and others report.

Those arrested were among a group of several dozen protesters who "delivered a letter asking Manchin to act," AP reported. "He met briefly with the group, listening and taking questions. But he said they were wrong to believe he can unilaterally yank the permits in question."