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Outside Help

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairwoman Elizabeth Dole (N.C.) has tapped Cleta Mitchell to serve as outside counsel to the NRSC for the 2006 campaign cycle. [IMGCAP(1)]

A partner with the firm Foley & Lardner, Mitchell is an expert in political law who has provided legal advice to 10 Republican Senators and candidates over the past three election cycles.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye. House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) has vowed to hold hearings early this year on election-related issues, but nine House Democrats want to go further, asking the Judiciary Committee to weigh in on the topic as well.

Citing “significant voter irregularities in Ohio” and elsewhere in 2004, Reps. John Conyers (Mich.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Bobby Scott (Va.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Marty Meehan (Mass.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Robert Wexler (Fla.) and Adam Schiff (Calif.) wrote a letter to Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) on Jan. 19, asking him to hold hearings to “investigate the vital issue of protecting our citizens’ right to vote.”

EAC Audit? Members of the Election Assistance Commission will meet Thursday to discuss several issues, including whether to initiate an audit of how the state of California has spent its federal election funds.

EAC Chairwoman Gracia Hillman told The Sacramento Bee that she was troubled by a Golden State audit that concluded that California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley had exercised “poor oversight” and “disregard of proper controls” in his handling of the funds the state received from the Help America Vote Act.

The act is designed to provide federal money to states to help them modernize their voting systems. The current controversy revolves around whether Shelley’s office inappropriately used any of the $81 million in HAVA funds for partisan purposes.

Questions first arose after Knight Ridder reported last summer that Shelley’s office — which oversees elections in the state — had funneled about $500,000 in voting funds to Democratic allies of the secretary.

“We are very, very sensitive that, certainly, the California (Legislature) felt it important enough to take a look at it and so we’re taking a look as well,” Hillman told the newspaper.

Hillman, like Shelley, is a Democrat, as are a majority of members in both chambers of the California Legislature.

— Amy Keller

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