Obama warns mayors on spending

President Obama warned the nation’s mayors Friday that he will hold officials at all levels of government accountable for how they spend federal stimulus money, pledging to “call them out” if the funding is wasted on projects that do not generate jobs for the struggling economy.

“If a federal agency proposes a project that will waste that money, I will not hesitate to call them out on it and put a stop to it,” Obama told a gathering of 80 mayors at the White House.

The sharp language was a first salvo aimed at reassuring the public that the historic $787 billion devoted to the spending and tax cut plan will not be squandered. Aides said the president intends to send the same message to governors when they gather for a White House dinner this weekend.

It is also an effort to respond to Republican critics who contend that there are too few controls – and too many opportunities for fraud and abuse – associated with the biggest single outlay of federal money in government history.

“If you’re seeking to simply fund a personal agenda at the expense of creating jobs and using taxpayer money to do it, the president will call that out and stop it,” press secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday.


Ex-aide charged in Abramoff scandal

A longtime former aide to Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran has been charged in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal, accused of accepting gifts and granting favors for the imprisoned former lobbyist.

Court documents filed Thursday say Ann Copland took thousands of dollars worth of event tickets and meals out in Washington from Abramoff and associates at his firm. Prosecutors say the gifts were in exchange for her favors benefiting one of their top clients, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Charges against Copland were outlined in a legal document called a criminal information, which only can be filed with the defendant’s consent and typically signals a plea deal.

“It was a purpose of the conspiracy for defendant Copland to be unjustly enriched by her receipt of things of value, and to conceal these gifts from the U.S. Senate and the people of the United States,” the document said.

Copland worked for Cochran for 29 years, then abruptly left his office last spring after Abramoff prosecutors had netted a dozen convictions in the scandal.

Cochran’s office refused to comment on the case Friday.

From wire reports

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