The Agriculture Department sent $1.1 billion in farm payments to more than 170,000 dead people over a seven-year period, congressional investigators...

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WASHINGTON — The Agriculture Department sent $1.1 billion in farm payments to more than 170,000 dead people over a seven-year period, congressional investigators say.

The findings by the Government Accountability Office were released Monday as the House prepared to debate and pass farm legislation this week that would govern subsidies and the department’s programs for the next five years.

GAO auditors reviewed payments from 1999 through 2005 and found that the department has not been conducting the necessary checks to ensure that subsidy payments are proper.

Of the identified payments to deceased farmers’ estates or businesses, 40 percent went to those who had been dead more than three years, and 19 percent went to those who had been dead for seven or more years.

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The report was requested by Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. “It’s unconscionable that the Department of Agriculture would think that a dead person was actively engaged in the business of farming,” Grassley said.

Cindy Sheehan arrested for disorderly conduct

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested Monday at the Capitol for disorderly conduct, shortly after saying she would run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the California Democrat’s refusal to try to impeach President Bush.

Sheehan was taken into custody inside Rep. John Conyers’ office, where she had spent an hour imploring him to launch impeachment proceedings against Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Conyers, D-Mich., chairs the House Judiciary Committee, where any impeachment effort would have to begin.

“The Democrats will not hold this administration accountable, so we have to hold the Democrats accountable,” Sheehan said outside of Conyers’ office after the meeting. “And I for one am going to step up to the plate and run against Nancy Pelosi.”

She said Conyers told her there weren’t enough votes for impeachment to move forward on the issue.

Sheehan and about 200 other protesters had walked to Conyers’ office from Arlington National Cemetery. Forty-five of Sheehan’s fellow protesters also were arrested.

No cancer in growths removed from president

Doctors found no cancer in the five small growths removed from President Bush’s colon, the White House said Monday.

The growths, called polyps, were found during a routine cancer scan that Bush underwent Saturday at the Camp David presidential retreat. Examinations showed the growths were benign, in line with the White House’s expectation that none of the five polyps appeared “worrisome.”

Bush’s next cancer scan will be in three years, Snow added, saying that is the typical interval between exams, given the amount of growths found.

Federal minimum wage rises to $5.85 an hour

The nation’s lowest-paid workers will soon find extra money in their pockets as the minimum wage rises 70 cents to $5.85 an hour today, the first increase in a decade.

It ends the longest span without a federal-minimum-wage increase since the pay floor was enacted in 1938. The last previous increase came in September 1997.

Legislation signed by President Bush in May increases the wage 70 cents each summer until 2009, when all minimum-wage jobs will pay no less than $7.25 an hour.

More than two dozen states, including Washington, already have minimum wages higher than the federal level.

Bill would bar spouse from campaign payroll

Spouses don’t belong on campaign payrolls, the House says, voting to end a practice that has benefited some members of Congress for years.

Monday’s action follows controversies in which lawmakers added many thousands of dollars to their family incomes by hiring relatives for campaign tasks, even if their qualifications were not always apparent. The practice “has shown the potential to foster corruption,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chief sponsor of the measure, which was approved by voice vote.

The bill would bar a federal candidate’s spouse from being paid by the candidate’s campaign or leadership political action committee. The ban also would apply to companies in which the spouse is an officer or director.

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