Your morning jolt: Here a czar, there a czar

The youthful head of the Obama administration’s auto task force has abandoned that post, only days after pushing General Motors through the rapids of bankruptcy court.

The White House said Steven Rattner decided to return to private life and his family in New York City. But his brief tenure came under a cloud with an investigation of an influence peddling scandal back in New York.

Rattner, an investment banker, was unlikely to face charges in the investigation — which involves a giant state pension fund that provides retirement benefits for more than 1 million government employees.

But the resignation has caused U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston to renew his call for more scrutiny of President Barack Obama’s policy “czars” — who have been tasked with everything from saving the auto industry to climate change.

The Savannah congressman dropped new legislation on Wednesday that would require Senate confirmation such appointments. The measure is unlikely to move, given Kingston’s minority status. But it could develop into a major GOP talking point.

Kingston has dedicated a web page to the cause, and in apparent homage to Stephen Colbert, has called it “Better Know a Czar.”

Kingston counts 34 czars appointed so far, with a salary of $172,000 plus staff and office. He’s got a chart going here. Spending is the main issue, he contends — pointing to the decision by Obama’s “stimulus accountability czar” to spend $9.5 million on the redesign of a tracking web site, which could grow to $18 million in the next five years.

“If Obama wants to hire an economic czar, fine. But they need to go through the advise-and-consent process,” said Kingston spokesman Chris Crawford.

Campaign disclosures for the army of candidates who want to replace Nathan Deal in Congress have begun to roll in. So far as we know, all are Republican.

Right now, former state DOT commission chairman Mike Evans leads the 9th District cash race with $150,882 in contributions. Of that, $3,600 comes from PACs. His cash on hand stands at $143,460, according to the Federal Elections Commission web site. Which has been acting persnickety, so expect some trouble when you look for yourself.

State Rep. Tom Graves reported contributions totaling $116,540, with $20,250 from PACs, and $115,898 in cash on hand.

Former Senate majority leader Bill Stephens says computer problems have kept him from posting his stats with the FEC, but his stats are as follows: $40,095 total raised; $39,953 cash on hand; number of contributors: 50.

Over at Atlanta Unfiltered, document-digger Jim Walls has this:

More than $90,000 improperly paid to U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal’s chief of staff has wound up in the hands of a Gainesville charity, campaign records show.

Georgia Public Broadcasting followed up on news (which first appeared here) that state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond had been offered a job within the U.S. Labor Department.

Thurmond, oft-mentioned as a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, confirmed the report, and called it “a happy conundrum.” But he would not describe the post, and he said he hadn’t been given a deadline for making a decision. He testifies this morning before a U.S. Senate committee on the topic of job training.

While you ponder the above, consider these items found while perusing this morning’s ajc.com:

  • New DOT proposal would permit tolls on regular lanes.
  • Free wi-fi coming to Hartsfield — but not yet.
  • Clayton County police claim Victor Hill made them lose pay, promotions.
  • City of East Point sees a surplus.
  • Hall County could still land auto factory.
  • Plan to build foot bridge irks East Cobb activists.
  • King a Republican at heart, group claims.
  • Civil Rights museum set to pay off loan for King papers.
  • Man jailed for child support, even though he was not the father, released.
  • Orders revoked on soldier who claims Obama not legally president.
  • Some opinion:

  • Your Luckovich fix.
  • Kyle Wingfield says F-22 still needed to secure skies.
  • Lee Raudonis thinks modesty is a long-gone virtue in politics.
  • And from beyond:

  • WP: Who’s this fellow destined to succeed Kim Jong Il?
  • NYT: New Obama policy permits asylum for battered, foreign women.
  • WSJ: Karl Rove says Obama is moving the economic goalposts.
  • For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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