- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Harkin over oil

We have to laugh at Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, for railing against "big oil" as the "most outrageous proof that the Republicans are rewarding their wealthiest contributors."

After all, Inside the Beltway can't help but recall when oil financier Roger Tamraz a few years ago gave $30,000 to the Iowa Democratic Party at the request, reporters discovered, of Mr. Harkin.

Worse yet, Mr. Tamraz at the time lobbied Mr. Harkin's wife, Ruth, who headed the Overseas Private Investment Corp., on behalf of a proposed oil-pipeline project between the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

Finally, after the oil baron's meeting with Mrs. Harkin, President Clinton, against the advice of his National Security Council, met privately with Mr. Tamraz in the White House.

In a letter dated March 15, Mr. Harkin blasts "big oil, including Vice President Dick Cheney's old outfit, the Haliburton oil services company, [which] stands to realize enormous profits" if drilling were to be allowed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

New season

King Juan Carlos of Spain did a double take when he glanced across the dining area of the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington and spotted former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.

The king rose to greet the former Clinton Cabinet member with whom he negotiated for several years, a far more pleasant encounter than he experienced during a visit to Washington last year, when President Clinton put politics before international relations.

This column had written that King Carlos and Queen Sophia were to have shared a private dinner at the White House with President and Mrs. Clinton, only supper was canceled at the last moment to let Mr. Clinton attend a fund-raiser for Rep. Maxine Waters of California at the Four Seasons.

Wouldn't you know, the Spanish Embassy scrambled to make dinner reservations elsewhere for the royal couple, and of hundreds of restaurants to choose from, picked the Four Seasons.

"He had no idea the fund-raiser was at the Four Seasons," said a confidant of the king. Even more embarrassing, because of the tight security surrounding Mr. Clinton, the king was denied access to the hotel's front entrance.

"The king finished his journey on foot the last 50 or 100 yards," said the confidant, his motorcade unable to proceed any further.

The king's meeting last week with President Bush went off without a hitch.

Full speed ahead

Former President Jimmy Carter has surfaced again to lecture President Bush on the Kyoto Protocol.

In an open letter published in the April 9 issue of Time Magazine, Mr. Carter warned the president that "no challenge we face is more momentous than the threat of global climate change," urging Mr. Bush "to develop a plan to reduce U.S. production of greenhouse gases."

Which he says can be accomplished effortlessly "without slowing economic growth."

Sound advice?

"This is the guy who ran the U.S. economy into the ground, who wore sweaters in the White House and lectured us about turning down our thermostats while Soviet-style queues formed outside gas stations," Paul Georgia, an environmental policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, tells Inside the Beltway.

"This is the guy whose … energy policies, such as price controls, were the cause, not the cure of one of this nation's worst energy crises. If anything, Carter's letter is proof positive that President George Bush is heading in the right direction."

Bullion bull

An old debate has resurfaced on Capitol Hill as to what is a collectible and what is not, including coins.

As far as Congress has been concerned, bullion coins and bars issued by the U.S. Mint "are the same as a rare wine, or a piece of art," says Mike DiRienzo, vice president of the Gold Institute.

But they're not collectibles, Mr. DiRienzo tells Inside the Beltway. "They are investment tools."

Agreeing is a prominent group of Republican congressmen, who have introduced a bill that would provide capital-gains treatment for gold, silver and platinum bullion investment products, in coin or bar form.

"As you know, for long-term capital gains attributable to collectibles, the tax rate remains at the maximum rate of 28 percent," says Mr. DiRienzo. "Unfortunately, gold, silver and platinum bullion has been classified as a collectible by Congress, thereby precluding it from the long-term capital gains tax relief preference."

Popular bullion coins include the American Eagle, the Australian Kangaroo Nugget, the Canadian Maple Leaf, the South African Krugerrand and the Austrian Philharmonic. American Eagle bullion coins have become one of the world's leading bullion investment coins.

"Basically, this is a technical correction bill, but it has a funny angle, given Congress' classification of these products as a collectible," says Mr. DiRienzo.

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