- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2000

The horror

Trial lawyers are using tobacco money won in lawsuits to finance an all-out bid to defeat presidential candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush and other Republicans, the New York Times reports.

"It would be very, very horrifying to trial lawyers if Bush were elected," said John P. Coale, a Washington lawyer involved in the tobacco litigation, who has given more than $70,000 to the Democrats. "To combat that, we want to make sure we have a Democratic president, House and Senate. There is some serious tobacco money being spread around."

Reporter Leslie Wayne said Mr. Bush has become the trial lawyers' "worst nightmare" because of his record in Texas of curbing civil litigation, capping legal fees and limiting jury awards.

One of the biggest Democratic contributors has been Baltimore Orioles' owner Peter G. Angelos, who represented the state of Maryland in tobacco litigation. He has given $400,000 so far, and vows to do whatever is necessary to defeat Mr. Bush.

McCain's litmus test

Sen. John McCain says his now-suspended presidential campaign informed Common Cause and other liberal advocacy groups of his plans to start a political action committee.

The Arizona Republican had once tried to legislatively abolish PACs, calling them conduits for special-interest money.

Common Cause and the other, unnamed groups "didn't endorse what we are doing, but they certainly understand it," Mr. McCain told USA Today's Jill Lawrence in an interview Wednesday. "They don't find it particularly pleasant, but they don't find it unacceptable."

Mr. McCain also defended his plan to campaign even for Republican candidates who oppose his campaign-finance reform legislation.

"You can't be a litmus-tester," Mr. McCain said.

However, Mr. McCain apparently does have a litmus test for appointees to the Federal Election Commission. Syndicated columnist Robert Novak reported Thursday that Mr. McCain's apparent first act on returning to the Senate was to put a hold on the nomination of Bradley Smith to the FEC.

Mr. Smith, a law professor at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, has questioned the logic and constitutionality of current federal election law, including individual spending limits, but promises to uphold the statutes as written.

Mr. Smith is strongly supported by conservatives and the Republican leadership in the Senate and stoutly opposed by Common Cause, the Brennan Center and other liberal advocacy groups, as well as by Vice President Al Gore and the editorial pages of the New York Times and The Washington Post.

Bad streak

The candidate who began his campaign to unseat Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy by issuing an embarrassing report detailing his own personal failures has steered himself into a new mess.

Jack E. Robinson III was involved in a three-car accident Tuesday, and was accused of trying to leave the scene just hours after releasing an 11-page personal history that included allegations of drinking and driving, sexual misconduct, plagiarism and carrying an illegal weapon, the Associated Press reports.

The Republican businessman was talking on his cell phone at the time of the accident, giving an interview to WBUR-FM in Boston about Gov. Paul Cellucci's decision to withdraw support for his campaign because of the allegations.

A 17-year-old motorist lost control of his southbound car and crossed into the northbound lanes, hitting Mr. Robinson's rented Cadillac and a 1993 Nissan. The teen was cited by police for speeding.

One of the other drivers thought Mr. Robinson was trying to flee the scene of an accident and chased him in her car, the Boston Globe reported Thursday. The newspaper did not identify the motorist. Mr. Robinson confirmed another driver had followed him, but said he was only looking for a safe place to pull over when he drove about 100 yards past the accident scene.

The accident caused no injuries, but it left Mr. Robinson feeling like he was in the midst of a streak of very, very bad luck.

"Boy, everything is happening to me," Mr. Robinson told the radio station moments after the squeal of tires and several thuds were heard. "Cellucci is withdrawing his support, and people are sliding across the highway at me."

Andy get your gun

Unlike other New York politicians who favor gun control, Andrew M. Cuomo actually owns a weapon, the New York Post reports.

"I am a gun owner," said Mr. Cuomo, the U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who is considering a run for New York governor in 2002.

"Cuomo is unique among top New York gun-fighters: Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy and state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer don't own guns," reporter Brian Blomquist said.

Mr. Cuomo owns a 12-gauge Remington Premiere shotgun, "chosen because it was made in New York," the reporter said. And, yes, Mr. Cuomo's gun has a trigger lock.

Delayed decision

Texas House Speaker Pete Laney, the state's top-ranking Democrat, said on Wednesday that he hasn't decided whether to endorse his party's likely presidential nominee, Vice President Al Gore, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Speaking outside a meeting of the State Democratic Executive Committee, Mr. Laney said he will make a decision later about whether to endorse Mr. Gore, who probably will face Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the general election.

"I'm working right now on legislative races," Mr. Laney said. "We'll discuss that later." Pressed by reporters on the issue, he said: "I'll make that decision later on."

The refusal of the state's top Democrat to endorse the country's top Democratic candidate reflects both Mr. Laney's nonpartisan political style and the influence of the Republican governor, reporter R.A. Dyer said.

The Microsoft case

Voters fail to get worked up over the government's case against Microsoft, according to a survey by Zogby America.

The poll of 1,004 respondents was released Thursday and apparently was timed to coincide with the annual meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General here.

Of nine issues facing the state attorneys general, the Microsoft case was judged the least important. The survey also found that 67 percent of registered voters feel that money spent on the Microsoft antitrust suit is a bad use of tax dollars and that only 16 percent believe that Microsoft's business practices have harmed consumers.

The survey was sponsored by Americans for Technology Leadership, which has taken a dim view of the case against Microsoft.

Ringing their Bell

"Can it really be that the retirement of a powerful lawmaker can make so many people so merry? You Betcha," National Journal says.

"When Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley, Virginia Republican, made the surprise announcement earlier this month that he would not run again, the hired guns for the local telephone companies, also known as Baby Bells, knew that pushing their agenda in the House would be, oh, so much easier with Terrible Tom gone," the magazine said.

"Bliley has always been very friendly to the long-distance industry, the Bells' rivals. He's the last major roadblock the Bells face in achieving their agenda which is topped by the wish to see Internet service deregulated. Whoever wields the Commerce panel's gavel next year will be a 'Bell-head,' much to the chagrin of the long-distance carriers."

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