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PAYMENTS TO STEVENS AIDE NOT REPORTED

WASHINGTON

A Senate aide who handled Sen. Ted Stevens' personal bills did not report any payments from his personal funds, raising questions about whether the two violated gift restrictions or federal law. Barbara Flanders, a financial clerk at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, is cooperating in a corruption investigation of the lawmaker's dealings with a wealthy Alaska contractor. In her financial disclosure form for 2006, Flanders checked "No" when asked whether she or her spouse had earned income of more than $200 beyond her Senate salary. Income received from Stevens, R-Alaska, would be reportable under Senate rules. If Flanders was not paid for the work, it could be considered a gift that Stevens would have to report on his disclosure forms, which he did not do.

Budget nominee faces opposition

President Bush's nominee to run the White House budget office, former GOP Rep. Jim Nussle, appears to be a long shot to win confirmation before the Senate's summer break. The Senate Budget Committee approved his nomination by a 22-1 vote Thursday, but one committee member, Sen. Bernard Sanders, said he would hold up the nomination. Sanders' threat of a filibuster is enough to delay action until September at the earliest. Sanders, a Vermont independent, said Bush "needs a budget director who will make him face the facts, not his fantasies."

NEW YORK

On Vibe cover, Obama talks rap

Barack Obama is now officially hot - he's on the cover of Vibe magazine. In a profile for the 14th anniversary issue of the music and lifestyle glossy, the Democratic presidential candidate clarifies his views on rap. Though he had a high-profile meeting with rap star Ludacris last fall, he was also quoted in April as saying that rappers were "degrading their sisters. That doesn't inspire me." Obama told Vibe that he was misquoted - he was talking about the culture as a whole, not rappers in particular.

LITTLE ROCK, ARK.

Huckabee says Brownback whines

Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign accused fellow Republican Sam Brownback of whining over a supporter's remark about his rival's Catholicism and in the process mistakenly referred to Democratic candidate Barack Obama as "Osama." Brownback has said Huckabee should apologize for a supporter's referring to himself as a "recovering Catholic." Brownback converted to Catholicism in 2002. Huckabee campaign manager Chip Saltsman said Brownback isn't tough enough to be president if he believes the former Arkansas governor owes him an apology. "The governor strongly disavowed the statement by the supporter, but that wasn't enough for Brownback," Saltsman said. Huckabee is a Southern Baptist minister.

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