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It’s Official

The two newest members of the Federal Election Commission can finally breathe easy after the Senate unanimously approved them by voice vote Tuesday night. [IMGCAP(1)]

Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic pick and current FEC chairwoman, and GOP appointee Michel Toner have both been hard at work at the commission for several months, since President Bush recess-appointed them to vacant seats at the watchdog agency.

Formal Senate approval ensures that they will be able to fulfill their terms, which began in April 2001 and run through April 30, 2007. Neither Weintraub nor Toner may be reappointed under a term-limit rule enacted by Congress several years ago.

Second Hispanic Coalition. Five Republican House Members — Reps. Henry Bonilla (Texas), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Devin Nunes (Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) — launched the Congressional Hispanic Conference on Wednesday.

The organization, comprising Hispanic and Portuguese Members, was formed in reaction to stances taken by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which the new group believes does not adequately address the diversity of political thought among the Hispanic community.

The conference’s policy priorities include supporting the war against terrorism, the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas and tax relief.

Homeland Security Staffing. Homeland Security Chairman Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) and ranking member Jim Turner (D-Texas) recently announced the appointment of two intelligence experts to helm the House panel’s staff.

Former National Intelligence Council Chairman John Gannon is the new majority staff director. Gannon, who has also served as deputy director and assistant director of the Central Intelligence Agency, recently headed the White House transition team for the newly formed Department of Homeland Security.

The recipient of numerous awards for his intelligence work, he is a retired Navy captain who served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

Gannon holds a bachelor’s from Holy Cross University and a master’s and a doctorate from Washington University.

New Minority Staff Director Steven Cash arrives at the committee after two years as counsel and terrorism expert on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Cash, who spent seven years at the CIA, has also worked as an assistant district attorney for the New York County District Attorney’s Office. He is a graduate of Yale Law School.

— Amy Keller and Bree Hocking