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TOP OF THE TICKET

After a vigorous thumping of executives, Congress needs to unwind

Each party embarks on its annual resort retreat. Watchdogs look askance.

February 08, 2009|Andrew Malcolm and Johanna Neuman

LOS ANGELES AND WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress left town Thursday for their annual retreat at Kingsmill Resort & Spa in Williamsburg, Va., which says it offers "unforgettable golf, luxurious accommodations . . . and an abundance of recreational opportunities."

The three-day retreat is part of an annual tradition enjoyed by both parties in Congress.

In fact, last weekend the Republicans took off for their retreat at the Homestead, a historic luxury resort in Hot Springs, Va.

But with the economy in meltdown, and with President Obama blasting Wall Street executives for their excesses, some watchdog groups are questioning the venture.

As Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told Politico.com: "Having a retreat can be a reasonable good thing, and members aren't going to stay at the Motel 6. Nevertheless, under these economic circumstances, they shouldn't be at overly expensive resorts."

Retreats have their defenders. "I believe in them," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who as chairman of the House Republican Conference helped organized this year's sessions. His case: They leave members of Congress "better informed, better acquainted and inspired to do the work."

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Ayers takes on white supremacy

Now that the United States has freely elected an African American as president, two of his friends, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, have come out against white supremacy.

In a new book, "Race Course: Against White Supremacy," the two South Side Chicago neighbors of Obama argue that despite the November election, "the edifice of white supremacy is firm."

The two were notorious radicals in the 1960s.

"I was on the 10 Most Wanted List," Dohrn says, "and I didn't get shot. If I was black, things might have been different."

During the presidential campaign, Republican candidate John McCain tried to associate the couple with Obama, for whom they hosted a fundraiser years ago.

With the campaign over, Third World Press is publishing the tome. "Part of the problem," Ayers explains in an interview in N'digo magazine, "is that in this country and culture, we tend to remember only the good things and want to push the ugly stuff of our past under the rug. But if you don't come to terms with it, then the legacy lengthens and comes with you. . . .

"What we wanted to do in this book is restir that legacy and talk about history."

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All the news fit to suppress

A quick White House pool report to update the world on Washington's irony factor:

At 1:38 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday, President Obama's motorcade headed for the Newseum, a brand-new D.C. edifice paying tribute to this democracy's recently contracting news industry, once deemed so important it got its own constitutional protection.

It seems Harry Reid and his Senate Democratic gang were meeting there. No doubt plotting some nefarious scheme to work with Republicans. So the president joined them.

And, according to Ken Herman, the sharp-eyed pool reporter from Cox Newspapers, the accompanying press was promptly barred from the meeting.

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andrew.malcolm@latimes.com

Read Top of The Ticket, the Times' blog on national politics, at latimes.com/ticket.

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