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Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Robert Lenhard, a Democrat, will host an audio conference this month on campaign finance laws and new bundling guidelines. [IMGCAP(1)]

The April 21 teleconference, hosted by Washington Representatives, is the latest temporary stop-off for Lenhard, who is working the speaking circuit since he went off the federal payroll in January. Along with two other former agency colleagues, the former labor lawyer continues to bide his time while Senate leaders and the White House struggle to break a stalemate involving controversial GOP nominee Hans von Spakovsky.

It remains unclear whether Lenhard, von Spakovsky or Steven Walther, a friend of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), have been advised against — or have chosen not to — take permanent full-time employment while their nominations are pending.

Let the Games Begin. Minnesota Democrats are asking the shuttered Federal Election Commission to look into an allegedly shadowy pro-Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) group that began airing television spots in his state two weeks ago.

In an FEC complaint filed late last week, the Minnesota Democrat Farmer-Labor Party claims the American Future Fund, a nonprofit group that does not file paperwork with the agency, spent more

than $32,000 to run two weeks’ worth of ads in the Minneapolis and Mankato markets.

“Coleman has worked with Republicans and Democrats to make college more affordable, expand opportunities for our soldiers and National Guard returning home, and crack down on predatory lenders,” the ad’s narrator claims. “Call Norm Coleman and thank him for his agenda.”

Democrats argue that the ad’s overall tenor constitutes “express advocacy,” requiring the group to file with the FEC and adhere to financing restrictions. As a “social welfare organization,” the American Future Fund’s activities are overseen by the Internal Revenue Service, and the group may take unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations — donors that such groups are not required to disclose.

“The ad is plainly an independent expenditure,” the complaint alleges. “It can only be interpreted to advocate re-election of Sen. North Coleman — a clearly identified candidate.”

Coleman likely will face comedian Al Franken (D) in November.

Cert Granted. The Supreme Court will decide whether Idaho may bar unions from automatically deducting dues from the paychecks of Gem State public-sector employees.

The nation’s high court on Monday agreed to consider a 2007 lower court ruling in a case brought by organized labor groups, which in 2003 challenged a state law related to Idaho’s “Right to Work” statutes.

According to Idaho’s five-year old Voluntary Contributions Act, “deductions for political activities … shall not be deducted from wages, earnings or compensation of an employee.” Unions quickly sued over the new law, arguing that it violated free-speech rights, and a three-judge panel last October agreed.

“Idaho’s code burdens speech by diminishing plaintiff’s ability to conduct any of the activities defined by the Idaho code as ‘political,’” according to the appellate court ruling. “The law does not prohibit plaintiffs from participating in political activities, but it hampers their ability to do so by making the collection of funds for that purpose more difficult.”

The administration of Gov. Butch Otter (R) appealed the ruling on Dec. 28, arguing that the First Amendment does not apply “to the payroll systems of government entities … for purposes of employee-authorized deductions.”

State officials argue: “The federal government, states and state political subdivisions have no affirmative obligation to provide a means for the exercise of speech or associated rights by facilitating employee contributions through access to their payroll systems.”

The case, Ben Ysursa et al v. Pocatello Education Association et al, has not been assigned an oral argument date before the high court.

Lame-Duck Price Tag. Lawyer Pete Olson (R), who continues to scrap with ex-Rep. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R) ahead of the April 8 runoff in Texas’ 22nd district, is criticizing his opponent for spending more than $180,000 out of Congressional coffers during the three weeks she spent in office in late 2006.

The charges: more than $75,000 in franked mail, $30,000-plus in salaries for her district director and chief of staff and nearly $10,500 in travel expenses.

That’s O-Z-I-N-G-A. Martin Ozinga, the likely GOP replacement candidate in retiring Rep. Jerry Weller’s (R-Ill.) district, is running ads on Chicago-area radio for his environmentally friendly concrete products.

According to a transcript provided to Roll Call, Ozinga’s contracting company is asking radio listeners to “go green with Ozinga.”

“Do you know that storm water runoff is a major cause of pollution in our lakes and rivers? As stewards of the world today, it’s our responsibility to protect our national resources,” the ad transcript reads. “Ozinga, the red and white striped concrete trucks are the new green in Chicago.

“Ozinga, one of the largest family-owned and operated ready-mixed concrete companies in the nation has been delivering high quality products and services in Chicagoland for 80 years,” the ad continues. “The next time you see the red and white striped trucks remember Ozinga, your resource for a greener tomorrow.”

It closes: “Learn more about Ozinga green building by visiting their website at Ozinga, a solid name in concrete. That’s”

Local Republican Party leaders are expected on April 30 to name the concrete contractor as New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann’s (R) replacement on the November ballot.

Baldermann dropped out unexpectedly soon after winning the Land of Lincoln’s Feb. 5 GOP primary to replace Weller. Assuming he is the nominee, Ozinga is expected to be the underdog in the general election

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