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Inside Politics

- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bid to hush Rush

House Republican lawmakers are preparing to fight anticipated Democratic efforts to regulate talk radio by reviving rules requiring stations to balance conservative hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh, with liberals, the Hill newspaper reports.

Conservatives fear that forcing stations to make equal time for liberal talk radio would cut into profits so drastically that radio executives would opt to scale back on conservative radio programming to avoid escalating costs and interference from the Federal Communications Commission, reporter Alexander Bolton writes.

They say radio stations would take a financial hit if forced to air balanced programming because liberal talk radio has not proved itself to be as profitable as conservative radio. Air America, the liberal counterpunch to conservative talk radio, filed for bankruptcy in October.

But Democratic leaders say that government has a compelling interest to ensure that listeners are properly informed.

"It's time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine," saidSenate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois. "I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they're in a better position to make a decision."

The Fairness Doctrine, which the FCC discarded in 1985, required broadcasters to present opposing viewpoints on controversial political issues. Before 1985, government regulations called for broadcasters to "make reasonable judgments in good faith" on how to present multiple viewpoints on controversial issues.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and Senate Rules Committee chairman, said she planned to "look at the legal and constitutional aspects of" reviving the Fairness Doctrine. Democrats on the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee have also begun to focus on what they regard as a lack of diversity in talk radio, and may hold hearings later this year.

DeLay's victory

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused yesterday to reinstate a dropped conspiracy charge against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle had charged Mr. DeLay and two associates with conspiracy to violate the state's election code in connection with corporate funds used in 2002 state legislative elections.

A state district judge threw out that charge after defense lawyers argued that conspiracy couldn't be applied because the law he is accused of violating didn't take effect until 2003. A regional appeals court upheld the judge's decision.

Prosecutors then went to the state's highest criminal appeals court, leading to yesterday's ruling.

Mr. DeLay, who resigned from office last year, still faces a money-laundering charge and a charge of conspiring to launder money. Lawyers are arguing about those charges before an appeals court, and no trial date has been set.

Mr. DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said he was pleased with yesterday's ruling but sorry that it took so long and resulted in Mr. DeLay's resignation from Congress, where he represented Houston's southwest suburbs for more than 20 years.

Rudy Magallanes, a spokesman for Mr. Earle, said the prosecutor's office was still reviewing the appeals court opinion and he had no immediate comment, the Associated Press reports.

At home in Carolina

Fred Thompson focused on conservative themes as he courted Republican loyalists in Columbia, S.C., yesterday. It was his initial visit to the first-in-the-South primary state since becoming a prospective presidential candidate.

"I don't feel like I've left home," Mr. Thompson said in his slow drawl, a day after raising money in Nashville.

Mr. Thompson, 64, an actor and former Tennessee senator, has no serious political organization in South Carolina. Yet, he was greeted enthusiastically by about 400 people at a lunchtime fundraiser for the state Republican Party, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Thompson is expected to declare his candidacy next month.

Hillary's pal

Guests at a high-dollar fundraiser for Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday were treated to cocktails, dinner and an hourlong business tutorial from billionaire Warren Buffett.

Mr. Buffett, the founder of the Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and one of the world's richest men, co-hosted the New York City fundraiser, which brought in at least $1 million for Mrs. Clinton's presidential effort.

Mr. Buffett, a Democrat, has not formally endorsed Mrs. Clinton, but guests at the dinner said he called the New York senator "the person to run the country."

He is also expected to host an event for rival Democrat Sen. Barack Obama later this summer and has spoken favorably about the presidential prospects of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently left the Republican Party to become an independent.

Mr. Buffett joined Mrs. Clinton onstage after the fundraiser to field questions from attendees about his views on American competitiveness, smart investing, education and even the global nuclear threat, the Associated Press reports.

Party crasher

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul will add party crashing to his campaign tactics this weekend.

The Texas congressman, who has struggled to top 1 percent in national polls, wasn't invited to a forum of presidential candidates Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa. The gathering is sponsored by the Iowa Christian Alliance and the watchdog group Iowans for Tax Relief.

Instead of grumbling, Mr. Paul's campaign decided to hold its own party — in the same hall as the forum. They're calling it a celebration of life and liberty, the Associated Press reports.

Campaign spokesman Jesse Benton said it has been frustrating to be excluded, especially since Mr. Paul has consistently opposed abortion and is known nationally for his advocacy of lowering taxes.

"It's just a little head-scratching," Mr. Benton said.

Ed Failor Jr., executive vice president of Iowans for Tax Relief, said some candidates weren't invited in order to keep the event from stretching on too long.

Birthday boy

"All together now, let's sing 'Happy Birthday to You' to Congress's newest 40-year-old, Rep. Patrick Kennedy," Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column at www.usnews.com.

"There's a party and, naturally for a congressman and a Kennedy, it's being turned into a political fundraiser for his re-election. We just intercepted the invite, and it looks to be a doozy. It's [tonight] in New York City and hosted by dad Sen. Edward Kennedy, brother and sister-in-law Edward Jr. and Katherine, and cousin Caroline Kennedy and her hubby, Ed Schlossberg. This isn't some BYOB fete. Tickets are $1,000 to $5,000."

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