Illegal Pay Raises for Senior Government Workers?

And now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Raises Revoked

Some senior government workers have to give up their raises because they're against the law.

In December, several hundred members of the Senior Executive Service received raises just before President Obama's proposed federal pay freeze was supposed to go into effect. But those same execs already received pay hikes in January last year, which violates the one-raise-per-year rule.

The president of the Senior Executives Association (SEA), one level below political appointee, said -- quote -- "I don't think there was anything nefarious about it." She said the employees would give up their raises for the rest of the year, but will not be required to repay the money they have already received.

The SEA is considering legal action to prevent the raises from being revoked.

Awkward Award

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez received a journalism award from an Argentinean university for people without a voice getting access to the media.

Chavez accepted the award from the University of La Plata while in Argentina for a meeting with that country's President.

But the president of the Inter American Press Association said Chavez is a -- quote -- "clear enemy of freedom of the press. It would take a long time to enumerate the long chain of actions that Chavez has taken against the right of the Venezuelan people to receive information."

Chavez has been criticized for shutting down dozens of radio stations as well as a popular anti-government television station.

Chavez says Venezuela has quote -- "absolute freedom to criticize, absolute freedom of thought, absolute freedom of expression."

Help from Hollywood

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants a Hollywood contact to help at his upcoming trial on charges of sex with an under-age prostitute.

Actor George Clooney is one of 78 witnesses suggested by the Italian premier.

Clooney and his girlfriend were said to have been at one of Berlusconi's parties which was also attended by the teenage prostitute.

Clooney says -- quote -- "It seems odd since I've only met Berlusconi once and that was in an attempt to get aid into Darfur."