Big business steps up political giving

Big business is shoveling more money than ever into U.S. political campaigns, with Wall Street donations way up, a watchdog group said on Tuesday.

The securities and investment industry — which includes brokerages, hedge funds and private equity firms — registered the sharpest increase in giving since 2004 among all industry sectors studied by the Center for Responsive Politics.

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Hillary haters take center stage

Prowling the Internet, spilling venom on blogs and dominating the airwaves on conservative talk radio, “Hillary haters” are back and out in force as 2008 presidential nominating contests loom.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is sparking the same waves of vitriol in the conservative echo chamber that burst forth during her husband Bill Clinton’s eight years in the White House.

Just 37 days before the leadoff Iowa caucuses, Clinton remains a lightning rod, targeted again by enemies who hounded her as first lady but adored by supporters backing her potentially historic campaign.

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Can Oprah save Obama?

Call it the “O Factor.” Oprah Winfrey picks a “favorite book” or a “favorite thing,” and poof, it’s a best seller.

And now Winfrey’s “favorite senator,” Barack Obama, hopes the O Factor will work for him, too, as the talk-show host and media icon prepares to campaign for the presidential candidate in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

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Fact-checking Mitt Romney

As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney issued no pardons, limited lobbying by would-be judges and sought to create a judicial nominating process based solely on merit.

Despite his best efforts, the Republican presidential hopeful finds himself enmeshed in just the kind of “law and order” controversy he had hoped to avoid. A judge he appointed in 2006 freed a convicted killer who is now charged with murdering a newlywed couple last week.

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Witnesses describe Blackwater horrors

A federal grand jury investigating Blackwater Worldwide heard witnesses Tuesday as a private lawsuit accused the government contractor’s bodyguards of ignoring orders and abandoning their posts shortly before taking part in a Baghdad shooting that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

Filed this week in U.S. District Court in Washington, the civil complaint also accuses North Carolina-based Blackwater of failing to give drug tests to its guards in Baghdad — even though an estimated one in four of them was using steroids or other “judgment altering substances.”

A Blackwater spokeswoman said Tuesday its employees are banned from using steroids or other enhancement drugs but declined to comment on the other charges detailed in the 18-page lawsuit.

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Huckabee’s glossed-over record

Mike Huckabee’s presidential rivals are pointing to chinks in his record as Arkansas’ governor — from ethics complaints to tax increases to illegal immigration and his support for releasing a rapist who was later convicted of killing a Missouri woman.

The Republican presidential candidate has plenty to champion from his 10 1/2 years as governor — including school improvements and health insurance for the children of the working poor. But his record has rough edges, and Huckabee has a habit of playing fast and loose with it.

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Just say we won and leave Iraq

The Democratic presidential pack is desperate. Five senators, a governor and a representative are seeking one surefire way to capture hearts, minds and votes whenever they are asked what should be done about Iraq now that post-surge statistics show violence there has at least temporarily declined.

Their quandary is based on a false perception that many think and no one speaks: The misguided notion that good news for the U.S. military is bad news for Democratic presidential prospects.

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In Iraq for the long term

How long will the U.S. be in Iraq? A very long time, according to Bush administration plans, on the order of the 60-plus years we’ve been in Germany and Japan and the 50-plus years in South Korea. In other words, more or less permanently.

President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki have signed a “Declaration of Principles” for a long-term relationship. Although it is nonbinding, it lays the groundwork for a formal, binding treaty to be signed next summer that would include a status of forces agreement laying out the conditions under which U.S. troops would remain in Iraq.

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America’s worst Congressman

America’s worst congressman, Tom Tancredo, caused quite a stir recently when he aired a television ad for his presidential campaign. The ad features a man in a hooded sweatshirt detonating a backpack bomb in a shopping mall, then cuts to scenes of carnage from terrorist attacks in Europe.

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