- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2000

Moving swiftly

The Justice Department is moving swiftly to cover up wrongdoing at the White House, New York Times columnist William Safire writes, referring to 100,000 e-mails that were withheld from prosecutors and Congress.

The cover-up technique was pioneered by Lee Radek, he said, describing the official as Janet Reno's "chief protector of higher-ups." In 1996, Mr. Radek ordered the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles to call off his investigation of illegal campaign contributions to the Clinton-Gore campaign, supposedly because an independent counsel might be needed. Mr. Radek then successfully opposed appointment of such a counsel while witnesses in the case fled the country.

"The same crew at Justice that kept the Asian fund-raising scandal away from the White House is now throwing its protective blanket over the White House aides who intimidated whistle-blowers in the e-mail concealment. Justice's criminal division will 'investigate' its civil division, and insiders will have a good laugh at chairman Dan Burton's call for outside counsel," Mr. Safire said.

Stonewall Gore

"Just call him Stonewall Gore. Al Gore has found it pays to stiff the press. Depending on how you count, he's had just two (maybe three) news conferences since Jan. 1," the New York Post's Deborah Orin writes.

"By contrast, GOP rival George W. Bush [on Wednesday] held his 49th in 2000 even though a number of them have given fodder to critics," Miss Orin said.

"But you have to hand it to Gore stonewalling sure seems to work.

"It keeps the veep out of the news except on his own terms, helps make embarrassing stories vanish and has him rising in the polls."

The abortion issue

Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg's bid for a U.S. Senate seat is getting a boost from the fact that he will go before the Supreme Court next month to defend his state's ban on partial-birth abortions, the Wall Street Journal reports.

"It shocks the conscience that in the United States of America a human child can be literally pulled from the womb and then cruelly killed by having his or her skull punctured and brains suctioned out," Mr. Stenberg said in asking the high court to review the case.

There are six Republican contenders for the Senate nomination, "and Mr. Stenberg is able to use the coming Supreme Court case to distinguish himself from the rest of the field," reporter Robert S. Greenberger writes. "His record as attorney general is helping to shore up support among staunch conservatives in the state's Republican Party. And there is local pride that a Nebraskan is making the ban against partial-birth abortion a national issue."

There is not much division in Nebraska on the issue. The ban passed the state legislature with just one dissenting vote.

Unpaid taxes

Members of Congress and their staffs owe about $10.5 million in unpaid taxes, one of the highest rates of tax nonpayment of any part of the federal government, according to IRS data released Thursday.

The nonpayment rate as of October 1999 for the House of Representatives was 8.4 percent, while that of the Senate was 7.5 percent. This same Congress, as part of the 1998 Internal Revenue Service reform law, made nonpayment of taxes an immediate firing offense for the agency's workers, the Associated Press reports.

The agency did not release the names of those who owe, said AP reporter Curt Anderson.

The total for most civilian agencies of the executive branch was 6.2 percent, but some Cabinet agencies were much higher. The Education Department, for example, had a 9.2 percent nonpayment rate. Housing and Urban Development's was 8.5 percent and the Labor Department was 7.7 percent.

Other high nonpayment rates: 8.2 percent for the FBI and 7.9 percent for the Coast Guard. The CIA's nonpayment rate was nearly 4 percent, while the Federal Reserve system rate was 8.2 percent. The Defense Department's nonpayment rate came to 7.3 percent.

Confusing appeal

At the same time New York Gov. George E. Pataki is backing New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's Republican Senate bid against Hillary Rodham Clinton, he is helping raise money for the Conservative Party even though it might support a vote-splitting alternative candidate.

In a fund-raising letter obtained Thursday by the Associated Press, the Republican governor asks for donations to the Conservatives "so they can fight [first lady] Hillary Clinton's $25 million campaign machine."

But Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long also is courting potential alternatives to the New York City mayor. Most political experts believe a separate Conservative Party candidate could drain votes from Mr. Giuliani.

Unlike other states, New York allows major party candidates to also collect votes on third-party ballot lines. No Republican running for statewide office has won in New York since 1974 without the support of the small Conservative Party including Mr. Pataki.

Engler's PAC

Michigan Gov. John Engler has a new political action committee and has given thousands of dollars to candidates for federal office, an indication that the Republican is trying to boost his national profile and influence, the Associated Press reports.

Without fanfare, the Governor Engler Leadership Fund was established in July. It collected $77,450 from 61 donors in its first six months, with 46 contributions coming from people living outside Michigan.

The PAC allows Mr. Engler to give up to $5,000 to a candidate rather than the $1,000 per election he is limited to as an individual and pay for his travel for appearances for various candidates.

So far, Mr. Engler has donated only $4,000 from his PAC $1,000 each to Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush; former Virginia Gov. George F. Allen, who is running for the Senate; Sen. Spencer Abraham, Michigan Republican; and Michigan state Sen. Mike Rogers, who is seeking a House seat.

Engler spokesman John Truscott said the governor is looking for other Republican candidates to help.

"We are going to very carefully scrutinize where we give the money," Mr. Truscott said. "It will be in targeted races. It will be in close races."

Help for Democrats

Top Democrats are urging the rank and file to reach for their checkbooks in the next few days, so top candidates can have as much money in the bank as possible when they file campaign fund-raising reports Friday.

"Maximize your early support. Please remember to help them as much as you can," Rhode Island Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy wrote fellow Democrats recently, adding that Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt was in full support of his appeal.

Mr. Kennedy's letter went on to name several candidates who should be helped, the Associated Press reports. The incumbents included Reps. Shelley Berkley of Nevada; Michael P. Forbes of New York; Joseph M. Hoeffel of Pennsylvania; Rush D. Holt of New Jersey; Jay Inslee of Washington state; Dennis Moore of Kansas; and David Wu of Oregon. All are freshmen except Mr. Forbes, a former Republican who jumped to the Democratic Party last summer.

Also making Mr. Kennedy's list were several challengers, including Jim Matheson, bidding for a seat in Utah; and Mike Taylor, in a rematch for a seat in North Carolina.

One challenger left off the list was Adam Schiff, challenging Republican Rep. James E. Rogan in California. Officials said they believed Mr. Schiff's fund raising had been excellent, and no special attention was needed.

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