- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Senate leaders won’t further investigate the origins of the memo of Republican talking points about Terri Schiavo distributed on the Senate floor. After losing the battle to save her life and identifying the Republican aide responsible for the memo, key members said nothing further should be done.

“I don’t think its going to continue. I think it’s over,” said Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican and chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. “We spent time on it, and we didn’t take it lightly. I was very concerned that it had been put on senators’ desks or was being circulated by senators beyond being exchanged by anyone other than the two senators, but I’m satisfied that it was not broadly distributed and was not officially distributed.”

Mrs. Schiavo was the brain-damaged Florida woman who died March 31 after her feeding tube was removed by order of her husband, Michael.

ABC News reported on March 18 that talking points were circulated among Republican senators containing two paragraphs discussing the political gains that could be made if Congress intervened to save Mrs. Schiavo’s life. The Washington Post two days later called the document “an unsigned one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators.”

Neither report cited its sources, but later articles in the Post and the New York Times said the memo was given to reporters by Democratic aides.

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg called for an investigation and asked that the rules of the Senate be changed if necessary to prevent any unsanctioned documents from being distributed on the floor. The New Jersey Democrat said yesterday that he has no plans to pursue the matter further.

“Right now, we’ve gotten a response, and Senator Lott said they saw no violation of the rules and, at this point, I think if they’ve satisfied themselves with their research, that is the determination,” Mr. Lautenberg said. “I have concerns, but I think the exercise we went through properly shed light on this thing, and I think there will be more care in the future.”

The Washington Times conducted a survey that appeared in its April 6 editions and found that all 55 Republican senators said the memo was not crafted or distributed by their offices. All 44 Democratic senators and the one independent senator also were polled. Two Democratic offices refused to respond. Only one senator,Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, said through a spokeswoman that he saw the memo being circulated by Republican members on the Senate floor on March 17.

The next day, Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida Republican, said his office was the source of the anonymous political talking points on the Schiavo situation and that he unwittingly passed it on to Mr. Harkin.

Mr. Martinez said his legal counsel, Brian Darling, 39, was responsible for producing the memo. Mr. Darling immediately offered his resignation and Mr. Martinez accepted it.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, and his party’s ranking member on the rules committee also said the matter was closed.

“I didn’t think the rules committee had jurisdiction anyway,” he said. “I think Mel Martinez handled the situation very well and handled it expeditiously.”

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