- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wake-up call

“Special elections to fill vacant House seats are usually fought over local concerns, but often they have national overtones. The stunning result of a Georgia race last week is a case in point,” John Fund writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“Because no Democrat finished among the top two candidates in last month’s primary, the runoff pitted two Republicans against each other to succeed Rep. Charlie Norwood, who died in February. Poorly funded physician Paul Broun Jr. scored a shocking 50.4 percent victory over former state Sen. Jim Whitehead, the establishment’s consensus favorite,” Mr. Fund noted.

“Columnist Robert Novak says Dr. Broun’s victory has ‘terrified those incumbent Republican House members who had thought themselves safe for re-election in 2008” primaries. …

“In last month’s primary, Mr. Whitehead won 44 percent of the vote to just 21 percent for Dr. Broun. But the front-runner made stumble after stumble, allowing the 61-year-old Dr. Broun to assemble a coalition that included not only conservative Republicans, but liberal Democrats from his hometown of Athens.

“Mr. Whitehead told a crowd in his own hometown of Augusta that he would focus mainly on that city’s concerns as congressman, and he refused to attend campaign events in Athens. Worse, he jokingly suggested that liberals at the University of Georgia ought to be bombed. …

“But Dr. Broun won for other reasons, too. Phil Kent, a former editorial-page editor of the Augusta Chronicle, told me that the upset victory by a candidate as conservative as Dr. Broun should be taken as ‘a wake-up call’ by the party’s establishment.”

Spitzer scandal

New York’s attorney general issued a report yesterday recommending disciplinary action be considered against Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s office for releasing information about a top legislator’s use of state aircraft.

“The governor’s office planned to obtain information concerning Sen. [Joseph] Bruno’s use of state aircraft for the purpose of giving this information to the media,” Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo wrote in his report on the scandal.

Mr. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, had accused Mr. Spitzer’s office of political espionage.

The simmering conflict between the Democratic governor and the Republican state Senate leader boiled over in early July after the Times Union of Albany reported that Mr. Bruno had been using state aircraft to attend fundraisers in Manhattan. Mr. Bruno blamed Mr. Spitzer for releasing the records and accused the governor of using state police to spy on him.

Mr. Cuomo’s investigation found that “under the pretext of responding to a Freedom of Information Law request, the governor’s liaison caused the acting superintendent of the state police to create documents detailing where the state police had driven Sen. Bruno, and report details of Sen. Bruno’s requests for ground transportation, upcoming schedules and changes to those schedules.”

“This conduct deviated from state police standard operating procedures and past practices, and was not required” by the law, the report said.

The report found that Mr. Bruno’s use of state aircraft had been appropriate under a policy that “is overly permissive and porous and allows for an abuse of taxpayer funds.”

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