Ethics Rules May Be Getting Stricter on Capitol Hill, But Not in Atlanta

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Published May 18, 2006

| FoxNews.com

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Detail Dispute

USA Today now says it will take a close look at its story on a National Security Agency database of domestic phone records after two phone companies issued categorical denials of two central points.

The paper had reported that BellSouth, Verizon, and AT&T voluntarily turned over massive amounts of information to the NSA and did so under terms of contracts they signed with the agency. But BellSouth and Verizon have since categorically denied both of those claims.

USA Today now speculates that the agency may have obtained the companies' records from other carriers and notes that Verizon's denial doesn't include its long distance carrier MCI, purchased in January.

Taking Troops to Court?

The Mexican government is threatening to file suit in U.S. courts if National Guard troops sent to the border detain illegal immigrants crossing into this country. Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez told a Mexico City radio station: "If we see the National Guard starting to directly participate in detaining people... we would immediately start filing lawsuits through our consulates."

President Bush has said the troops will merely provide intelligence and surveillance to support Border Patrol agents, but at least one Mexican lawmaker decried the move, calling it a "militarization" of the border.

Pay-Raise Politics

Pennsylvanians have voted out two Republican State Senate leaders who were behind a controversial legislative pay raise along with 15 incumbents in the House, the most defeats since 1980.

President Pro Tem Robert Jubelirer and Majority Leader David Brightbill became the first major Senate leaders to lose a primary in the state in 42 years after their opponents attacked them for orchestrating the pay raise last July. Taxpayer outrage over the bill — passed at 2 a.m. with no debate — forced its repeal just 4 months later.

Jubelirer, a 32-year legislator, called the electoral shake-up a "dramatic earthquake in Pennsylvania."

Bring on the Free Food

A series of scandals on Capitol Hill have national lawmakers pushing for stricter ethics rules, but not the Atlanta City Council. Council members voted 11-2 to relax ethics standards, allowing any city employee to accept unlimited meals and tickets to local events from lobbyists.

What's more, Atlanta's ethics officer points out that measure doesn't require the person buying the meals to be present at the time and notes that staffers are not required to disclose the gifts.

One council member tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the measure simply "made sense," adding that meals and tickets wouldn't influence his decisions.

—FOX News Channel's Aaron Bruns contributed to this report.

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http://www.foxnews.com/story/2006/05/18/ethics-rules-may-be-getting-stricter-on-capitol-hill-but-not-in-atlanta