WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe hasn't officially announced whether he'll run for another term, but he has cranked up the fundraising activity for an expected 2014 campaign.
On March 13, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, and other GOP senators were the honorary hosts for a “campaign kickoff” and “season pass” dinner in Washington for Inhofe's campaign; a political action committee donating $5,000 or a person donating $2,500 would become season pass holders and receive invitations to all widely attended fundraisers this year.
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, is planning a two-day fishing tournament in April at Lake Texoma — where the entry fees will be $3,000 for a political action committee and $1,500 for an individual donor — and he has various other fundraising lunches and dinners on the schedule.
Inhofe, who has been in the Senate since late 1994, began 2013 with about $659,000 in his campaign account. He spent more than $6.4 million in his last campaign cycle, which culminated with a victory in 2008 over former Democratic state Sen. Andrew Rice, of Oklahoma City. Inhofe got 57 percent of the vote in that election.
Inhofe will turn 80 in November 2014 and would be 86 at the end of another six-year term.
Inhofe vows to block gun bill
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, has joined a group of Republican senators vowing to block consideration of gun control legislation.
Inhofe signed onto a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., opposing “any legislation that would infringe on the American people's constitutional right to bear arms, or on their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance.”
Also signing the letter were Republican Sens. Rand Paul, of Kentucky; Marco Rubio, of Florida; Mike Lee, of Utah; and Ted Cruz, of Texas.
Reid is expected to bring legislation to the floor in April that would crack down on illegal gun trafficking and expand background checks for gun purchases. A proposal to ban certain types of semi-automatic weapons and ammunition clips would not be included in the bill, Reid has said.
President Barack Obama gave a speech about gun violence Thursday and said, “Why wouldn't we want to make it more difficult for a dangerous person to get his or her hand on a gun? Why wouldn't we want to close the loophole that allows as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases to take place without a background check?”
The letter sent by Inhofe and other senators says they will oppose a move to proceed with any legislation that would impose additional gun restrictions. That tactic could block the Senate from hearing the bill.
Coburn wants data on idle government workers
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, says he has eliminated seven full-time positions in the past year in his Senate office and the federal government could do the same kind of top-to-bottom review at a time when agencies are threatening furloughs of critical workers.
“It makes little sense to furlough air traffic controllers and border patrol agents while retaining employees who are AWOL, on standby, not performing official duties, or sitting idle awaiting security clearances,'' Coburn said in a letter to the director of the federal Office of Personnel Management.
Coburn, who has for weeks been detailing ways the government could save money before it furloughs essential workers, wants the personnel management office to provide information about:
• The cost of payments to employees who are absent without leave (AWOL) or on standby status;
• The amount spent on employees performing union-related activities, known as “official time, during their normal work hours. According to the Office of Personnel Management, the government spent over $155 million on 3.4 million hours of official time in 2011. That's the equivalent of a full year's worth of work for 1,632 employees, Coburn said.
Coburn said employees of government contractors waiting on security clearances are also being “paid to do nothing.”
CHRIS CASTEEL, Washington Bureau