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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Chicago politics

Joe Biden update: He's now charging the Secret Service rent for a cottage to protect him

Democrat vice president Joe Biden 6-13-11

He's not a Chicago politician by birth, but Vice President Joe Biden is sure learning their ways well.

Like all recent vice presidents, Biden and his wife have a rent-free government home at the Naval Observatory in Washington.

He also has his own home back in Delaware. You remember, the one he commuted on Amtrak from most days all those years he was a senator, which go back to, wow, when Barack Obama was a sixth-grader.

Biden likes his own home, as anyone would. He spends many weekends and some weekdays there. It's in a Wilmington suburb on the water.

He also owns another house next door, described as a cottage. For years Biden's mother lived there. When she passed away, he began renting it out.Democrat joe Biden incognito indoors 6-15-11

After the most recent tenant left, Biden generously offered the cottage to the Secret Service, which provides around-the-clock protection to Biden and Obama. And all their predecessors. And the folks who'd like to be their successors.

So the agents could be close at hand for his own safety's sake, Biden generously offered to charge his bodyguards only $2,200 a month. He said that's the same rent as the previous tenant.

The vice president's already been paid $13,200 so far this year and the contract looks to pay him $66,000 into 2013.

We are learning about this sweetheart arrangement now because eagle-eyed Jim McElhatton over at the Washington Times noticed a Joseph R. Biden listed as a vendor on a federal purchase order. And the reporter wondered if this was the same guy who's so vociferously denounced government waste and no-bid contracts over the years.

The same Democrat who in June helped launch an Obama administration anti-waste campaign by saying: "The President and I are committed to changing the way government works and we are stepping up the hunt for misspent dollars."

In addition to the free Washington house and Secret Service transportation everywhere, the vice president gets those free weekly lunches with Obama at the White House.

Biden's only paid $230,700 a year by taxpayers, plus $10G's in entertainment expenses. And last year the Bidens reported $130,000 or so in other income, including $11,000 from the rental.

When McElhatton asked the Secret Service if it normally pays rent to the people it protects, the agent didn't answer it this way: "It’s a rental property, so we pay rent there.”

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images; Alex Wong / Getty Images (Biden indoors incognito).

The Obama-Boehner debt talks: Where common sense ain't so common

John Boehner Obama and Harry Reid happily meet in Deficit Talks 7-23-11

In a local government cabinet meeting some years ago, the elected official asked his veteran budget expert what the public revenue and expense forecasts were for the next quarter.

The budget expert began rummaging in his notes and inquired, "What do you want them to be?"

There was dead silence around the shiny table until the savvy budget guy smiled. He'd captured the essence of many government numbers.

We're reminded of that revealing episode in recent days by the Howdy Doody Show playing out in our nation's capitol over the phony debt ceiling and the sham cuts and numerical maneuverings, as if they were the issues at hand instead of the genuine struggle for dominant political position come Nov. 6, 2012.

An American spectator these days need not be a tea sipper to conclude that most of....

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No debt deal necessary for Obama's reelection campaign; he reports raising $86 million last quarter

Democrat president barack Obama enjoys an Oval Office phone call

He may have been leading from behind all spring in those nettlesome national debt reduction talks with congressional Republicans.

Unemployment may be back up to 9.2%. But President Obama is doing great up front where it counts in the political fundraising business to keep his own job in next year's election.

In a video emailed to supporters early this morning, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said the Democrat's bid for four more years in the Oval Office would report raising more than $47 million for the old Organizing for America outfit. And another $38 million-plus for the Democratic National Committee. All from 552,462 donors, Messina said.

All campaigns' fundraising numbers for the April-June quarter are due into the Federal Election Commission on Friday, unless they get an exemption for starting late, as Jon Huntsman did.

Obama's campaign donation total is chump change compared to the trillions in budget cuts he claims to be negotiating with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The reported $86 million dwarfs the anticipated quarter totals of his Republican challengers such as former Govs. Mitt Romney at $18 million and Tim Pawlenty and Huntsman around $4 million each.

Not counting Michele Bachmann, who has been a top congressional fundraiser but not yet announced her haul, the Republican field combined has raised around $35 million. An independent committee supporting Romney has collected another $12 million.

Messina claims that the Democrat needs a whole lot more money to compete with what he said could be "as much as" $500 million from outside committees supporting Republicans.

Originally, Obama campaign aides talked of a $1 billion campaign on behalf of their boss. But they have since scaled that back closer to the $745 million he raised for the 2008 campaign, which he won, in case you hadn't noticed.


Americans to Obama on his threatened government shutdown: OK

Obama on debt deal: 'I have bent over backwards to work with Republicans'

No recession for 454 Obama White House aides: They'll make $37,121,463 this year

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Pete Souza / White House

No recession for Obama's 454 White House aides: They'll make $37,121,463 this year

Democrat president Barack Obama addresses his staff in the Oval Office-file

In his numerous fund-raising and policy speeches around the country these days, President Obama often bemoans the difficult economic times and uncertainties afflicting millions of Americans, including the nearly 14 million still seeking work unsuccessfully.

The Democrat argues that his administration needs more time to straighten out the economic mess left by somebody else, who's been gone almost 900 days now.

But good news this morning: The challenging Obama era and 9.1% national unemployment rate do not include the 454 people now helping President Obama do presidential things.

This crowd is being paid a total of $37,121,463 this year. That's up seven staff members and nearly $4 million from 2008, the last year of George W. Bush's presidency.

Fully 141 Obama aides -- or nearly one-in-three -- earn more than $100,000 a year. That's also up from the 130 with that scale salary in Bush's last year.

Twenty-one Obama aides earn the top-dollar $172,200.

The staff names and salaries report, required annually by Congress, was released on Friday by the White House. The timing, however, was probably an accident because last Friday most Americans were not watching the news closely and were thinking of not working for a three-day holiday weekend.the Obamas wave to White House partygoers 7-4-11

Because Americans would no doubt be pleased to know of the Obama staff's economic success amid the bleak national scene for so many others, we saved the information for today, when most Americans who are still employed are back at their own jobs and can share the joy.

The 2011 White House salary report does not include mention of the 41 unidentified Obama staff members who owe the Internal Revenue Service $831,000 in back taxes. That report came out last fall (Scroll down for the link.)

The report comes as Republicans and Democrats, led from behind by Obama, appear stalemated in closed-door negotiations over a package deal to raise the national debt limit by Aug. 2 and begin spending cuts to tame the $14.2-trillion national debt, up 35% since Obama's inauguration. Obama maintains a deal must include new revenues to cover the rising costs of government.

Having Chicago connections appears to be useful for obtaining the maximum $172,200 salary from the Illinois ex-state senator Obama, who is paid $400,000 a year, almost twice the amount paid to Joe Biden for doing whatever he does. But he's only from Delaware.

The top paychecks include:

Chief of Staff William Daley, who is the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who just retired and left the top Democratic-machine job there to Rahm Emanuel, who was Obama's chief of staff and before that held the Chicago House seat of Rod Blagojevich, who had given it up to become governor of Illinois, which he no longer is due to impeachment and, now, conviction on 17 counts of fraud.

The Daleys' father, Richard J. Daley, was also a longtime Chicago mayor whose operatives provided Illinois' crucial electoral votes to elect John F. Kennedy president back in 1960 before Obama was born.

Valerie Jarrett has a White House title as long as Chicago's winters (senior advisor and assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement). Before this, she was a chief of staff for the most recent Mayor Daley and hired an assistant named Michelle Robinson, who went on, of course, to become Mrs. Barack Obama, whose chief of staff also earns the top $172G paycheck.

This year, the one before Obama's attempted reelection, he reduced his staff by 15 people and $1.7 million.

Some White House aides have already returned to Chicago as campaign employees, including political strategist David Axelrod, who helped elect the most recent Mayor Daley, as well as, briefly, Sen. Obama and then President Obama. Axelrod also made the top salary when he had to live in Washington.


41 Obama aides owe the IRS $831,000 in back taxes

Complete list of 2011 White House staff and their current salaries

861 days and $787 billion in, Obama pleads for more time on creating jobs

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Pete Souza / White House (Obama addresses his staff, file); Kevin Dietsch / EPA (the Obamas greet guests at another White House party, July 4) .

Sunday shows: Sinise, B. Clinton, Kasich, Walker

Gary Sinise 6-11

ABC's "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour: George Will, Mel Martinez, Michelle Heee, Jose Antonio Vargas, Richard Stengel, Jill Lepore and Michael E. Dyson.

Bloomberg's "Political Capital with Al Hunt:" Bill Clinton and Rahm Emanuel.

CBS' "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer: Govs. John Kasich (R-OH), Scott Walker (R-WI) and Deval Patrick (D-MA) and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D-LA).

CNN Fareed Zakaria "GPS":

CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley:

Fox News Channel "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace: Gary Sinise, Sens. John Cornyn (-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), with Chris Stirewalt, Bill Kristol, Nina Easton and Kirsten Powers.

NBC's "Meet the Press" with David Gregory: Tennis instead.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Karen Bleier / AFP Getty Images (Sinise, R-Hollywood).

Rod Blagojevich found guilty on 17 charges, Twitter says goodbye

Rod Blagojevich found guilty of 17 counts, could see 20 years in jail

Rod Blagojevich, the bushy haired former governor of Illinois, was found guilty Monday on 17 of 20 federal corruption counts, including attempting to sell Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat.

After the verdicts were announced Monday, Blagojevich said he and his wife, Patti, were shocked.

"I frankly am stunned," he said. "There's not much left to say other than we want to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them and then try to sort things out."

Blagojevich, who could be sentenced to 20 years in prison, will be the fourth Illinois governor thrown in the pokey. Democrats Otto Kerner, Dan Walker and Republican George Ryan all found their way behind bars. Ryan is still serving time in federal prison.

This is the second time the Democrat has been in court for the Senate seat corruption charges. Last August Blagojevich, 54, dodged a bullet when the jury deadlocked on 23 of 24 counts, convicting the boisterous politician on only a single charge of lying to federal agents.

The 2011 trial lasted only three weeks because prosecutors decided not to charge Blagojevich with racketeering, instead focusing primarily on the allegation that the former governor was serious when he said on a tapped phone line that Obama's seat was a "valuable thing" and that "If I don't get what I want ... I'll just take the Senate seat myself."

Although the governor may have been shocked, those on Twitter were not very stunned at all. Nor were they sad to see him go. A selection of the mostly jovial reactions after the jump.

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New Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel testifies, briefly, in new trial of old pal, ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich

Blagojevich and Emanuel in sunnier times

This being Chicago, there's usually a political corruption trial underway, usually involving federal prosecutors and Democratic politicians.

And, oh, look, here's the retrial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and there's his old buddy, the brand-spanking new mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, taking the stand.

First, some background: In the 1980s, Emanuel and Blago were both aspiring young Chicago pols in that inbred political machine when they became friends, the way young athletes come across each other in high school competitions and then in college and then maybe later in the bigs.

Both men made the bigs, by Chicago standards, which means running things in Illinois after some tutorial time in Washington. Emanuel became national finance chair for Bill Clinton and then a White House aide and then a millionaire and then a member of the House.

And Blago, who married the daughter of one of the City Council's most powerful aldermen, somehow found a job as an assistant county prosecutor and somehow got elected to the state Legislature. Then he ran successfully for the House from the North Side of Chicago.

The men were familiar with the main money people in the city's politics and, of course, they knew this state Sen. Barack Obama from the South Side. Then Blago decided to run for governor in 2002; more opportunities there and greater clout. And both Emanuel and Obama offered advice and endorsements.Blagojevich and Obama in happier times

Blago won the Springfield job and, by golly, Rahm then took over the new governor's old House seat.

He immediately made a name for himself on Capitol Hill as a $%&*#@ tough operator and savvy, successful recruiter of candidates (see 2006 Democratic takeover of the House).

Seeing the possibilities, both Rahm and Blago helped Obama win an Illinois U.S. Senate seat in 2004 and offered advice for his long-obvious run at the White House in 2008. A lot of Chicago politicians have reputations, but Blago's was focused on fundraising. He was obsessed with it.

Not that anyone in Chicago Democratic circles would tell anyone else how to behave or what to do unless they had the leverage to ensure success. But smart people usually watched what they said in any phone conversations with the governor or his people.

So, Obama wins the 2008 election, names the little North Side rep Emanuel as his chief of staff, Blago gets in trouble with some incriminating federal wire taps over possibly maybe who knows seeming to perhaps put his replacement pick for Obama's Senate spot up for bids. Which he, of course, has denied on pretty much every conceivable TV and radio talk show.

The first trial produced a hung jury on all but one of dozens of counts. So, here we are again with the big-mouthed Blago threatening to testify and name big names, etc. Today, the defense called Emanuel, freshly sworn into office.

You might not be surprised to learn that under very precisely worded questioning, Emanuel swore today that no one had ever asked him in the calendar year 2006 to ask his Hollywood brother to set up a fundraiser for Blagojevich in exchange for releasing a $2-million grant to a school in Emanuel's House district.

The new mayor was also asked if anyone had ever requested that he set up a nonprofit organization to hire Blagojevich in exchange for naming to Obama's vacant seat former Mayor Richard Daley aide Valerie Jarrett, who hired Obama's wife, Michelle, to work in City Hall and is now a top aide to President Obama, traveling in Europe with the president's second chief of staff, William Daley, who succeeded Emanuel in the White House and is the brother of Richard Daley, who just retired as mayor and was succeeded by Emanuel.

Emanuel said, "No."

Three minutes and Emanuel was out of there.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Associated Press (Blagojevich and Emanuel in sunnier times); Associated Press (Blagojevich and Obama in happier times).

Rahm Emanuel takes over as Da Mare of Chicago

Mayor rahm Emanuel's inauguration guests david Axelrod timothy Geithner and jesse Jackson 5-16-11

Since the economy has pretty much roared back to life, the federal deficit is under control and we haven't yet borrowed every single yuan in China, Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner devoted Monday to watching Rahm Emanuel be sworn in as Chicago's new mayor.

Yes, yes, there's a $500 million municipal budget shortfall. But today was an exciting time in the inbred world of Chicago Democratic politics as one Democratic don, Richard M. Daley, who ruled for 22 years after eventually inheriting the job held for a generation by his father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, turned over the urban patronage post to the former chief of staff of another Chicagoan, ex-state Sen. Barack Obama, who hired Daley's former chief of staff, Valerie Jarrett, who had hired Obama's wife, Michelle, to work in City Hall.

Even Vice President Joe Biden, who's from Scranton via Delaware, was allowed in for the day to wave to the exuberant crowd witnessing the lakefront ascension and opening gavel swing of Chicago's first Jewish mayor and 46th overall.the scene of Mayor rahm Emanuel's inauguration as chicago mayor 5-16-11

In fact, it was such a big political day in the Windy City that as part of the new regime's innovative ways, Emanuel's organization was getting $50G's for the best seats at the inauguration.

This is a job Emanuel has coveted since he was a machine go-fer back in the 1980s.

That's before he became Bill Clinton's national campaign finance chairman and then a senior White House aide and then a millionaire, thanks to a few months at a local investment firm and then a member of the House of Representatives, inheriting Rod Blagoevich's North Side seat that we can't talk about anymore because Rod's on trial again, and then White House chief of staff for Obama to help create the Republican House landslide last fall.

If the recent historical pattern holds -- and barring any more federal indictments, of course -- Chicago should have another new mayor about this time in 2033. You read it here first.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photos: Frank Polich / Getty Images (top, Geithner chats with Obama political strategist David Axelrod and the Rev. Jesse Jackson).

Ron Paul: Why his silly campaign launch today really matters for 2012

Texas Republican Representative Ron Paul opens his Iowa campaign office 5-10-11

Ron Paul.

Today is the big day. Well, a big day anyway.

Ron Paul, the 12-term Republican representative from Texas, appeared on one of those morning news shows that mixes the weather, singers, weather, authors, weather, actors, weather, the scary kidnapped child story and the occasional animal tale.

Paul conversed with that little guy with the precisely-tousled hair who used to work for Bill Clinton. And 48 hours after Paul opened his Iowa caucus campaign headquarters -- News Bulletin -- he "revealed" to "Good Morning America" his candidacy for president of the United States.

Here's why Paul and ABC did this together: It seems like news. Real news is hard to come by on Fridays. Especially "exclusive" access. Less competition for a bigger headline. It also saved Paul ballroom rent money and got....

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At last, a Barack Obama action figure (large gun included)

obama Rambama Action Figure

It didn't work when they tried it a couple of years ago. Barack Obama in a suit.

Think about it: A Community Organizer action figure. Doing what? Talking? Knocking on a door? Handing out protest leaflets at the mall?Obama and staff in action watching the Osama bin laden raid 5-1-11

Even after two-plus years as president, a Barack Obama action figure would be doing what? Holding a meeting? Handing out money? Talking windmills? Playing golf?

But now, finally, thanks to a band of courageous Navy SEALs and their recent assassination of the world's most wanted man, a Connecticut toymaker can depict a fictional Barack Obama action figure -- with a gun. For shooting people dead. Just like real soldiers.

But now that the nation's commander-in-chief has done some military commanding (withdrawing from Iraq and two Afghan troop surges don't count), Herobuilders can finally add an Obama doll to its now bipartisan Sarah Palin, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney doll collection.

The company says its products are all USA made.

Warning: Just like the real thing, the Obama doll requires a large amount of money -- $34.95. Or if you're among wealthy Americans and you'd like to practice paying more, there's also an Obama Joker doll for $49.95.


The Nobama keychain: Ticking off the seconds left in his last term

Yes, SEALs were in on the raid, but aides hail Obama's office bravery

Osama bin Laden's son says U.S. broke international law 'if' his father is dead

-- Andrew Malcolm

Follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo:; Pete Souza / White House (Obama and staff in action).


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
President Obama
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