- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2006

In the red

The Republicans’ senatorial campaign arm, which trailed other national party committees in fundraising the past two years, emerged from the Nov. 7 election in debt and is soliciting donations to get out of the red.

In an urgent appeal to donors this week, Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, the chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), beseeched contributors to “help us retire our debt.”

“If we let this debt linger, it will cripple our efforts to recruit great candidates for the next election and begin our drive to win the one additional seat we need to regain the Senate majority,” Mrs. Dole wrote.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter, which was confirmed by NRSC spokesman Dan Ronayne. “We do have a debt, as Senator Dole noted,” he said.

Mr. Ronayne would not divulge the amount of the debt. Party committees are required to file postelection financial reports with the Federal Election Commission on Dec. 7.

In her letter, Mrs. Dole said she authorized the committee to go into debt to make a last-ditch effort to win close races.

Work in progress

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s admission this week that he needs to keep working on the risk-based formula for allocating federal first-responder grants is making waves, United Press International’s Shaun Waterman reports.

Mr. Chertoff said Tuesday that administration officials had reviewed the process used in the last grant round after the department’s formulas were ridiculed for not counting New York landmarks and for cutting funds to the city and other high-profile terrorist targets.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps there was a little too much bean counting and a little less standing back and applying common sense to look at the total picture,” Mr. Chertoff told a conference of state and local preparedness officials.

He pledged to work toward “definitions of risk that have fewer microscopic calculations and broader, more easily understandable rules of principle that explain why we are allocating risk the way we are” for the coming year’s grant round.

Mr. Chertoff’s remarks were labeled a U-turn by the New York Post, which reported them under the headline “Homeland Boss: We erred in $tiffing N.Y.”

The new process will give officials more flexibility to help avoid counterintuitive outcomes, Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Joanna Gonzales told United Press International. “Instead of being completely rigid,” officials would “use common sense” to ensure that high-risk areas get the funding they need from the federal government, she said.

Pelosi’s flub

“Asked by a reporter about how ‘President Bush today blamed the surge of violence in Iraq on al Qaeda,’ incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded with a disjointed answer about how ‘the 9/11 commission dismissed that notion a long time ago, and I feel sad that the president is resorting to it again,’ ” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker reports at www.mrc.org.

“Though al-Qaeda is clearly in Iraq and responsible for deadly bombings, and the 9/11 commission conclusion was about links before September 11, on Tuesday’s ‘NBC Nightly News’ reporter David Gregory treated Pelosi’s off-base retort as credible and relevant. Without suggesting any miscue by her, Gregory segued to Pelosi’s sound bite with a bewildering set up of his own about how incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi disagreed, warning that such rhetoric about al Qaeda will make it harder for Democrats to work with the White House.

“On [Fox News Channel’s] ‘Special Report with Brit Hume,’ after panelist Mara Liasson characterized Pelosi as ‘confused’ and Morton Kondrake suggested she was just ‘mixed up,’ Fred Barnes maintained that ‘she clearly screwed up here.’ …

“Barnes argued the media wouldn’t let a Republican get away with such a flub, telling Kondrake: ‘If some Republican had done this, if Bush had done this at a press conference, if Newt Gingrich had said it, if John Boehner had said it, if Roy Blunt had said it, you’d have been all over it. It would be inexcusable.’

“Neither ABC’s ‘World News Tonight’ or ‘The CBS Evening News’ played the Pelosi sound bite.”

Disputed date

Texas is asking the Justice Department to approve Dec. 12 for a congressional runoff election — a date opposed by a Hispanic civil rights group because it is a religious day for many.

The runoff between incumbent Republican Henry Bonilla and Democrat Ciro D. Rodriguez, a former congressman, is in Texas’ 23rd District, which includes portions of San Antonio. The district was redrawn after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled previous boundaries discriminated against Hispanic voters.

Dec. 12 is the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico and Latin America. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) wants the election held Dec. 19, arguing that the earlier date discriminates against Hispanic voters and benefits Mr. Bonilla, whose support among Hispanics has eroded.

States such as Texas that have had a history of voting discrimination against minority groups are required under federal law to get Justice Department approval, known as preclearance, of election changes or decisions.

Texas officials, who filed the date request Tuesday, said the state doesn’t need federal approval because a court ordered the runoff election set for the earliest time possible.

After the district was redrawn to restore Hispanic voting strength, the congressional race drew eight contenders. Mr. Bonilla led with 49 percent of the vote, just under the 50 percent required to win outright. That prompted the runoff with Mr. Rodriguez, the next highest vote-getter at 20 percent.

Big draw

The Virginia Conservative Action political action committee will be the beneficiary of a private fundraising reception tonight at the Alexandria home of Craig and Zorine Shirley.

The big draw for VCAP and Mr. Shirley, of the firm Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, will be former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Georgia Republican, who will talk about the state of the conservative movement.

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

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