- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2006

Lobbying reform

“Republican leaders in the Senate have had a plan in place for the last two months to ‘get ahead of’ the Jack Abramoff scandal by coming up with a new proposal for lobbying reform,” Byron York writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“The leadership ‘decided in November that lobby reform for the Senate was a priority for this session,’ and Majority Leader Bill Frist placed Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum in charge of it,” Mr. York said, citing anonymous Senate sources.

“Santorum’s efforts will be apart from the work of Sen. John McCain, who has already introduced a proposal for lobbying reform. That proposal, McCain said in mid-December, ‘provides for faster reporting and greater public access to reports filed by lobbyists and their employers under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. It requires greater disclosure of the activities of lobbyists, including for the first time, grass-roots lobbying firms. The bill also requires greater disclosure from both lobbyists, and members and employees of Congress, about travel that is arranged or financed by a lobbyist or his client.’

“Santorum’s proposal is expected to differ from McCain’s, but it is not yet clear what the differences will be.’”

A woman scorned

If you’re up to your eyeballs in corruption, beware the jilted fiancee. That’s one of the lessons from the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, according to JasonLeopold at RawStory.com:

Michael Scanlon found himself at the center of one of the biggest political scandals in Washington history as a result of cheating and lying — but not the type involving the numerous clients he was paid to lobby Congress for, former co-workers and friends of his ex-fiancee say.

“Scanlon was implicated in the Abramoff scandal by his former 30-something fiancee, Emily J. Miller, whom he met in the late 1990s while working as communications director for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. … Colleagues say Miller went to the FBI after Scanlon broke off their engagement and announced his intention to marry another woman. …

“Miller was DeLay’s young press secretary and as communications director, Scanlon was her boss. The two began a secretive office romance and Scanlon eventually proposed marriage, associates say.

“In 2003, Miller left DeLay’s office to work at the State Department. Scanlon departed too, partnering with … conservative lobbyist Jack Abramoff. …

“While still engaged to Miller, Scanlon had started an affair with a manicurist and broke up with Miller because he planned to marry the other woman, three of Scanlon’s former associates at DeLay’s office said. …

“But Miller had something on Scanlon. He confided in her all of his dealings with Abramoff, former colleagues said … After the breakup, Miller went to the FBI and told them everything about Scanlon’s dealings with Abramoff, her co-workers added.

Filling posts

President Bush yesterday bypassed the Senate to install former Navy Secretary Gordon R. England as deputy secretary of defense, and used a similar maneuver to name a new Pentagon spokesman, the Associated Press reports.

In an unusual arrangement, Mr. England had been serving as both Navy secretary and acting deputy defense secretary since Paul Wolfowitz left the No. 2 Pentagon post in May to become head of the World Bank.

The Constitution lets the president make appointments while the Senate is in recess. Such recess appointments usually expire at the end of the next congressional session. Since the Senate held a pro forma session Tuesday and then adjourned, the White House contends the second session of the 109th Congress has begun and that the appointments are valid until the end of 2007.

Mr. Bush also used this maneuver to name Dorrance Smith, a former ABC News producer, as assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. That job has gone unfilled since Victoria Clarke quit the post in June 2003. Lawrence Di Rita has been the interim spokesman.

Unlikely speaker

Former Vice President Al Gore turned up yesterday at the Wednesday Group meeting of conservative activists in Washington, hosted by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

Despite the obvious political differences, Mr. Gore impressed some of those in attendance at the off-the-record session.

Steve Hayward of National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com), while not quoting the Democrat directly, wrote that Mr. Gore apparently came at his own request to give a presentation on global warming.

“First, Gore was funny, relaxed and self-effacing, and he was received by the Group with the utmost politeness and courtesy, as it should be. [National Review writer] John Miller is right to praise the guy for seeking to meet with a group of people not one of whom likely voted for him. His [PowerPoint] presentation on global warming was superbly done — the best I have ever seen either on this or any topic,” Mr. Hayward said.

“Gore took on all comers for about 25 minutes after the speech, and I thought most of his responses were not strong. He graciously acknowledged the merits of good points and some challenges put to him (including two from me, if I can boast a bit). But most of his answers, I thought, sounded like canned bits of the rest of his speech that he left out, and he didn’t, with few exceptions, join the fundamental premises at the heart of the questions.”

Council chief

New York’s City Council yesterday elected its first female and first openly homosexual leader, a position widely regarded as the second-most powerful seat in city government.

Christine Quinn wept several times during a passionate speech to the 51-member council, thanking her father and her partner, Kim Catullo, who looked on from the audience.

“Let me say that I am incredibly proud that in the most diverse city in the world, diversity is seen as a strength, and not an impediment,” Miss Quinn said.

The post is powerful mostly because of its influence over budget matters. Term limits forced out her predecessor, Gifford Miller, whose run for mayor fell flat last year.

Laura’s assignment

First lady Laura Bush will travel to Liberia to attend the Jan. 16 inauguration of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president, White House spokesman ScottMcClellan announced yesterday.

Mrs. Bush will lead a U.S. delegation that also includes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Associated Press reports.

Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf, a former finance minister and veteran of Citibank and the United Nations, won a runoff election in November against soccer superstar George Weah. She said in her acceptance speech that she would end the period of corrupt rule in war-plagued Liberia.

Liberia is Africa’s oldest republic, founded in 1821 by freed American slaves and established as an independent republic in 1847. The country is still reeling from a brutal 1989-2003 civil war that left 200,000 people dead.

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

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