- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Joe’s wife

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, says liberals upset with his opposition to key provisions of Democratic health care plans are unfairly targeting his wife, Hadassah, and her job with a foundation that raises money for breast cancer research.

But the liberal blogger leading a campaign to have Mrs. Lieberman dismissed from her post as a paid “global ambassador” for Susan G. Komen for the Cure dismisses Mr. Lieberman’s anger as his “theatrical brand of outrage.”

Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake.com started the fracas last week by sending an open letter to Komen founder Nancy Brinker calling for Mrs. Lieberman’s termination, claiming “that as Hadassah travels the globe under the banner of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, decrying the inadequacies of our health care system and the desperate need to reform it, her husband is at home to kill the reform efforts we so desperately need.”

On Monday night, after Mr. Lieberman emerged from a Democratic caucus meeting on Capitol Hill, he told Kerry Pickett, an online producer for The Washington Times, that the campaign against his wife was “just deeply offensive to me.”

“This is an age in which people stop debating you on the merits and go after you or your family for personal reasons,” he said. “I can take anything people want to throw at me, and I can take it with equanimity and trade it and give it back and deal with the merits, but I’m deeply offended by anyone who would draw my wife into it, particularly when they’re not telling the truth.”

The senator said his wife “is a private citizen in a movement that is looking for a cure for breast cancer and educating women about what they should do to protect themselves from breast cancer.”

When asked for a response, Ms. Hamsher questioned Mrs. Lieberman’s qualification to work for the foundation in the first place and wondered whether Komen was employing Mrs. Lieberman to gain favor with her husband.

“Money paid to spouses is one of the primary ways that campaign finance laws are skirted, and the natural question should be, ‘Is this money being paid because of someone’s special abilities, or is it just a pass-through to avoid detection by the Federal Elections Commission?’” Ms. Hamsher said in an e-mail to The Times.

“It’s a question that has legitimately been asked about members of both parties, including John Doolittle, Evan Bayh, Tom DeLay, Chris Dodd, and Tom Daschle. If Sen. Lieberman would like to talk about the ‘merits,’ he should explain what his wife has done to merit $328,000 in speaking fees in one year rather than trying to obscure the issue with his theatrical brand of ‘outrage.’”

An objection

The Woodstock Film Festival wasn’t very happy that Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, used an earmark to help fund its operations as an example of government waste in a speech on the Senate floor.

After Senate Democrats broke a Republican filibuster last Saturday over an omnibus spending bill with $446.8 billion in discretionary money, Mr. McCain blasted the thousands of earmarks contained in it. One of them was the money for the Woodstock Film Festival.

“In order to really do a lot more research on that great cultural moment, we’re going to spend $30,000 for the Woodstock Film Festival youth initiative,” he said sarcastically.

Woodstock Film Festival Co-Founder and Director Laurent Reito objected to Mr. McCain’s critique, saying his organization “promotes artists, culture, inspired learning and diversity.” He also mentioned that it presents film workshops to disadvantaged communities that have included composer Elmer Bernstein and documentary filmmaker Leon Gist — both Academy Award winners.

“The Woodstock Film Festival is a small, fiscally responsible non-profit organization that provides an enormous amount of economic development through tourism, the film commission and many of our other efforts,” Mr. Rejto said in an e-mail to The Times. “We’re saddened and demoralized by the fact that Sen. McCain did not have the wherewithal to do a little research before misleading the public about our worthy program.”

Weatherization

President Obama announced his intention to increase spending for home weatherization projects Tuesday, but the White House should pay attention to a recent Department Energy audit about these sorts of projects in the president’s home state of Illinois.

The Energy Department’s Inspector General released an audit on Dec. 3 finding there has been poor oversight of weatherization projects in Illinois funded with stimulus cash. Among the things auditors found was a gas leak in a newly installed furnace that could have resulted in “serious injury to the occupants and material damages to the structure.” This project was inspected, but the leak wasn’t caught.

Worse, the state didn’t even bother inspecting weatherized units completed by seven of the 35 agencies given stimulus money to do weatherization projects. Also, the state has no system for tracking the work and evaluating agency and contractor performance, the IG said.

Illinois has received $242 million to weatherize nearly 27,000 homes to date. Other audits are being conducted now in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter @washingtontimes.com.

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