John McCaslin
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Given the current economic crisis that President Obama warns will only get worse before it gets better, Inside the Beltway has inquired why Senate Democrats for a "retreat" Wednesday rented high-end conference space at the glitzy Newseum, just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, rather than huddling in any number of congressional meeting or hearing rooms.

"No public funds were used," replied Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. "It was paid for by members' re-elect funds. Otherwise, I'll say I have no other comment."

As for senators' re-election funds being spent on party retreats, he said: "You'll have to talk to a campaign lawyer. It is permissible."

He shrugged off utilizing virtually "free" meeting space on Capitol Hill, saying, "What, are you going to call every hearing room ... to find if their available?"

Pam Galloway-Tabb, the Newseum's vice president of general services, declined to say what the Democratic senators were charged for their day-long retreat, which Mr. Obama dropped into during the afternoon. She did confirm that rental rates run as high as $30,000 per day, depending on the size of the space needed.

"I don't give information about any events that are happening at the Newseum," she stressed. "But our rental rates are not hidden."

TWO LISTS

The U.S. Travel Association is applauding the House of Representatives for its overwhelming 413-3 vote in favor of the Fast Redress Act, which would establish a robust appeal and redress process for airline passengers who are wrongly identified as terrorist threats and are delayed or prohibited from boarding a flight.

"It's good to see Congress standing up for the traveler," says association president Roger Dow. "This reform is long overdue."

Under the bill, along with its existing terror suspect list, the Department of Homeland Security would develop a "comprehensive cleared list" shared by federal agencies of individuals who had been previously misidentified. First, the Senate has to approve the legislation.

GANG OF TEN

Not surprisingly, terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden continues at the top of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list with a $27 million bounty on his head.

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John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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