Political Landscape:

Local representatives were optimistic about President Obama's new strategy for war operations in Afghanistan, although they had some reservations about his approach.

The president announced Tuesday plans to deploy an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan for increased security and security forces training in preparation for a transfer of military responsibility there.

Obama also set a date to begin troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, aiming for mid-2011, depending on the progress of U.S. operations, he said.

Obama's timeline for withdrawal concerned Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas).

“I would have rather seen more focus on success in diminishing the threat of insecurity in the country,” Dreier said.

At the same time, the decision to add a large number of troops was troubling for Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who said he would have preferred a “lesser-longer approach.”

Sherman was skeptical about whether a temporary inflation of troop numbers would have a lasting impact on the nation.

“Certainly, without this surge we're never going to have an Afghan government that can take care of things without us,” Sherman said. “But I'm not sure that with this surge you're going to have an Afghan government that could take care of things without us.”

Regardless of their concerns, area representatives agreed that the decision to add troops would be better than maintaining the status quo in Afghanistan.

“The president's speech recognized the deeply interconnected security threats we face in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the need to build up the capacity of the Afghan forces to take over the fight, as well as the imperative of tackling corruption in the Afghan government,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) said in a statement.

Dreier, who spent 10 days in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Lebanon last month, said he thought the additional troops were necessary.

He spoke during his tour with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who had hoped for up to 80,000 additional troops, but noted that a minimum of 40,000 more servicemen and women would be necessary to secure Afghanistan, Dreier said.

Although he was concerned about Obama's decision to send less troops than McChrystal had requested, Dreier was noted that members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization could commit new forces and boost the total number of reinforcements.

“I hope that there will be enough of our NATO allies who step up to the plate to get to that 40,000 level,” he said.

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Fund association slams plan

A plan to strengthen limitations on the federal government's ability to issue bailout money drew criticism Tuesday from an association of hedge funds upset over an amendment that would leave them vulnerable to a new tax.

The amendment from Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) was related to the proposed creation of a fund meant to contribute to government resources for bailouts and to be supported by a tax on businesses.

Sherman's amendment would have allowed all financial institutions worth less than $50 billion to avoid the tax, because they would not be large enough to qualify for bailout funds anyway. But hedge funds valued below $50 billion would still be subject to the tax.

In a letter to the House Financial Services Committee, the Managed Funds Assn., which refers to itself as “the voice of the global investment industry,” called the amendment unfair.

“Far from recognizing that hedge funds had no adverse impact on the financial crisis, the bill now perversely singles out hedge funds for more onerous treatment without any articulated policy rationale, thereby compelling them to unfairly shoulder a disproportionate share of the proposed assessment,” Richard Baker, president and chief executive of the association, wrote.

Although Sherman, a member of the committee, initially proposed an amendment exempting all firms with less than $50 billion in assets from the tax, his colleagues did not support it, he said.

“They think these hedge funds may be doing some risky things, so they should be subject to this,” he said.

Sherman also succeeded in gaining support for a series of other amendments to the bill, including one that would place a limit on the ability of the federal government's executive branch to allocate taxpayer money for bailouts.

Currently, no limits or oversight model exists, Sherman said.

He succeeded in gaining support for a $4-trillion limit — far more than the nearly $1 trillion in bailouts that have been allocated during the fiscal crisis, but still a substantial advance in regulatory language, he said.

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Recall Huff efforts fail

An effort to recall state Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) failed Tuesday after organizers of the campaigned did not submit petition signatures to the three counties within his district.

All signatures were to be collected by counties and turned in to the California Secretary of State's office by 5 p.m. Tuesday. But after receiving no signatures, state officials announced that the recall petition had failed.

Organizers did not turn in any petition signatures to registrars of voters in Los Angeles, San Bernardino or Orange counties in advance of Tuesday's deadline.

A combined total of at least 65,000 signatures were needed to initiate a recall election.

Chino resident Paul Griffin, who initiated the recall effort, said he and a handful of colleagues managed to collect “maybe 100” signatures.

Griffin had hoped to receive support from “The John and Ken Show” on KFI AM 640, but realized after failing to secure air time for his cause that promotions for the recall petition would be difficult, he said.

The effort was launched by conservatives who blasted Huff for supporting Proposition 1A, a measure on the May special election ballot. They claimed the vote violated his earlier pledge to not raise taxes.

Proposition 1A had called for a spending cap and creation of a “rainy day fund” for California, but would have also extended temporary sales tax and vehicle license fee increases.

Huff, in a triumphant statement, criticized the attempted recall and argued that he never voted to raise taxes.

“The voters of the 29th [Senate District] recognized that holding a recall election was a bad idea,” Huff said. “Recall elections are costly, and recalling a legislator for a vote they did not cast makes no sense.”

The recall campaign's website, recallsenatorbobhuff.com, cited Huff's no new taxes pledge and argued that legislators should be held accountable for breaking promises.

“We need effective leadership in our state Legislature devoted to fiscal responsibility, not simple-minded politicians who do what they want in the full belief that they hold us hostage,” the website read.

Although the effort failed and cost Griffin about $800 — of about $200 was made up in donations — he said he felt the campaign had made a difference.

“It was a bit of a waste of money, a bit of a waste of time, but very educational as well,” he said. “And at least the statement goes on record that we didn't really appreciate what Bob Huff did.”


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