- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2003

Attacking Baucus

Some Senate Democrats are so angry at fellow Democrat Max Baucus that they want to strip the Montanan of his seniority on the Finance Committee, Wall Street Journal columnist Al Hunt writes.

Mr. Hunt, in a column yesterday that excoriated Mr. Baucus for supposedly giving way too easily to Republican demands on the Medicare prescription-drug bill, said the Montana Democrat’s support for the legislation “is generating buzz among his caucus colleagues that he be denied his senior position on the Finance Committee.”

Interestingly, Mr. Hunt made no mention of Louisiana Sen. John B. Breaux, the other Democrat who negotiated and signed off on the House-Senate conference committee compromise.

Even as Mr. Hunt lashed out from the left, his own newspaper attacked the legislation from the right, saying in an editorial yesterday that the Medicare bill is “too expensive a gamble for principled conservatives to support.”

Lieberman’s list

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman attacked several key figures in the Bush administration yesterday, accusing 17 regulators of protecting the corporate interests that once employed them.

“You know the old saying about foxes guarding the hen house,” Mr. Lieberman said in a speech to be delivered to the Commonwealth Club in Palo Alto, Calif. “But George Bush has the foxes guarding the foxes, leaving whole industries less accountable and less protected.”

Mr. Lieberman, the Connecticut senator who has cast himself as a centrist best positioned to challenge President Bush on the issue of integrity, singled out three Bush administration officials, the Associated Press reports.

They are J. Steven Griles, a former mining and oil industry lobbyist who is now deputy secretary of the Interior; John Graham, the director of a White House office overseeing environmental regulation who founded a Harvard think tank that produced studies questioning the need for many regulations; and former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt, who was forced to resign a year ago after the Enron collapse and other corporate scandals when Democrats highlighted his connections to major accounting firms regulated by the SEC.

Mr. Lieberman also named other officials, including Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and three appointees to the Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention. He said the list illustrated how Mr. Bush had undermined public trust in government.

“He has not just let them inside — he has often put them in charge of the very federal agencies created to protect the people,” Mr. Lieberman said.

Jostling in Michigan

The Michigan Democratic Party is looking to increase turnout in its presidential caucus through Internet voting, despite criticism that the plan could be a disadvantage to poor and minority voters who are less likely to own a computer.

The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee is set to vote tomorrow on whether to approve Michigan’s plan, which also allows voting in person or by mail. The decision could affect who will win the state’s Feb. 7 caucus, with polls showing that Internet voting is a boost to front-runner Howard Dean.

The Michigan plan has become an issue among the rival campaigns, the Associated Press reports. Seven of Mr. Dean’s opponents joined 20 Michigan voters in protesting it. The group is led by Joel Ferguson, a black DNC member from Lansing, who said Internet voting puts the party’s most reliable constituency — blacks and the poor — at a disadvantage.

“Until everybody has the Internet, nobody should have it” as an option in the caucus, he said.

The Michigan Democratic Party says its plan is fair because voters without Internet access have other ways to participate.

Although Mr. Dean’s rivals are not officially listed on the complaint, some of their aides have been contacting members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee to argue against the plan.

Wesley Clark is the only candidate besides Mr. Dean who did not object.

News blackout

“Most of the media are suppressing the revelation, in a Weekly Standard story by Stephen Hayes released over the weekend, of a lengthy list compiled by the Defense Department of information gathered by various intelligence agencies about 13 years of connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda,” the Media Research Center reported yesterday.

“ABC, CBS and NBC have yet to mention it while CNN and the New York Times have only cited it briefly in opinion columns or segments, not news stories, and though The Washington Post has reported on it, the paper has devoted nine times more words to a probe of the leak of the memo than to the powerful contents of it,” the MRC’s Brent Baker writes at www.mediaresearch.org. (The New York Times did run a story on the subject yesterday, on the bottom of page A14.)

“ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who has jumped on anti-Bush administration leaks from the Senate Intelligence Committee, kept the memo off Sunday’s ‘This Week’ and on ‘Imus in the Morning’ on MSNBC a few days later he was more upset by the leak than by the content.”

Liberal-radio sale

A group headed by a former adviser to the Democratic National Committee has taken over the effort to create a liberal-radio network to compete with conservative-talk radio.

Mark Walsh, who is also a former America Online executive, said his investors’ group bought the proposed network from the venture capitalists who started AnShell Media LLC in February. The purchase price was not announced.

At the time, Sheldon and Anita Drobny said they had lined up $10 million and hoped to be on the air by this fall. But the Drobnys never hired any talent, purchased any stations or signed any distribution contracts, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Walsh, who once served as the DNC’s chief technology adviser, said Tuesday that he expects to be broadcasting by early next year.

Complaint dismissed

Election officials have dismissed a complaint accusing Democratic fund-raiser Denise Rich of donating campaign money and furniture to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in exchange for President Clinton’s pardon of Mrs. Rich’s ex-husband.

The Federal Election Commission announced the decision Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.

Judicial Watch, a watchdog group, accused Mrs. Rich of making excessive donations to the New York Democrat’s 2000 campaign totaling at least $70,000 and of giving her furniture worth $7,375 in return for Mr. Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich.

Under the campaign law then in effect, individual donors could give only $1,000 per candidate for a specific election.

Commission lawyers said Mrs. Rich’s contributions seemed to be legal. They included $2,000 to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign — $1,000 for the primary and $1,000 for the general election — and $70,000 to the New York Senate 2000’s soft money account, which didn’t fall under the law’s donation limits.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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