- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

Thumbs and eyeballs

Sen. Mitch McConnell wants his fellow Republicans to boycott today's Senate Rules and Administration Committee meeting in protest of committee Democrats' refusal to send his election-reform bill to the floor along with the Democrats' version.

But it's a safe boycott to call.

The Democrats' bill, as currently written, is doomed because it won't get Republican support — something Mr. McConnell, of Kentucky, said several times during his news conference yesterday announcing the boycott — and the rules panel meeting comes at the same time as Republican senators are scheduled to attend a strategy meeting with Vice President Richard B. Cheney and House Republicans.

At issue is Mr. McConnell's election-reform proposal, which is competing for votes with a version backed by Democratic leaders and sponsored by committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat. Mr. Dodd's bill would require states to allow provisional voting and meet standards for voting technology, while Mr. McConnell's bill would set guidelines but not place mandates on the states. In that, he said, it tracks the commission report former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford delivered to President Bush this week.

Mr. McConnell said by pushing forward on a bill they know can't pass as is, Democrats want to "stick their thumb in the president's eye."

Purchasing votes

Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican and sponsor of a campaign-finance reform bill backed by many Republicans, says supporters of a rival bill are spinning a fairy tale when they accuse Republican House leaders of treating them unfairly.

"It was well-known and widely reported that Rep. Albert Wynn, Maryland Democrat, and I were rapidly gaining support for our reform measure, which served as a common-sense alternative to the Shays-Meehan bill. That is why Minority Leader Dick Gephardt joined Reps. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, and Marty Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat, to orchestrate a last-ditch effort to fundamentally change their bill," Mr. Ney writes in USA Today.

"In fact, they asked for 14 changes to their own bill at midnight the day of the vote. Most of these changes were designed to purchase votes, one or two at a time, by weakening their own bill," Mr. Ney said.

"These changes were substantive and deserved to be debated, not slipped in during midnight strategy session. If they want to implement special protections for members of Congress convicted of violating the law, weaken Federal Election Commission reporting requirements or increase their $30 million 'soft money' loophole, it should be done openly. These changes were made in a cynical attempt to gain votes for a floundering piece of legislation. They have the right to propose these changes, but the American public should know the type of changes they wanted to include.

"House Speaker Dennis Hastert and I were willing to give them a vote on every change they requested. Unfortunately, Shays-Meehan supporters were so embarrassed by their own amendments, they were afraid of allowing the full House to examine and debate them."

Smith says no

William Kennedy Smith, the nephew of Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy who was found not guilty of a rape charge in 1991, said yesterday he has decided not to run for Congress in 2002.

"I decided over the weekend I didn't want to proceed at this time with the race," Mr. Smith said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Mr. Smith, 40, had been considering a run for the seat being vacated by Rep. Rod R. Blagojevich, Illinois Democrat. He told the Chicago Sun-Times in yesterday's editions he might seek public office someday.

"I hope sometime in my life to have that honor and that experience," said Mr. Smith, a physician and international leader in opposing the use of land mines.

Mr. Smith said his decision not to run was prompted in part by a Sun-Times story that ran Sunday. The story said he was surveying voters on whether his rape trial, which was televised, would affect his ability to serve in the House.

Mr. Smith said he was "surprised at the level of attention" the newspaper article received.

In his 1991 trial, Mr. Smith testified that he had consensual sex with his accuser.

Mr. Blagojevich,whose district includes parts of Chicago and its northwestern suburbs, is leaving Congress to run for Illinois governor. Four other Democrats are vying for the seat.

Scandal in Sacramento

The Los Angeles Times yesterday called for the dismissal of Gov. Gray Davis' spokesman, Steve Maviglio, who on May 31 bought $12,000 worth of stock in an energy company publicly praised by Mr. Maviglio and financially boosted by the actions of his boss.

Mr. Maviglio's "ill-timed stock purchase is incomprehensible and unforgivable," the newspaper said in an editorial. "If he won't quit, the governor must fire him."

"Davis has no choice if he wants to retain a shred of credibility in this murky business of the state becoming the buyer of electric power for its utilities, to the tune of $50 billion. First, he hired two former Clinton administration fixers at $30,000 a month to develop energy communications strategies, even though they were working for Southern California Edison at the time.

"After the news media exposed the conflict, they quit and agreed not to charge for their services. Then the state had to fire five energy trading consultants for conflict or apparent conflict of interest in their ownership of energy stocks. A sixth quit. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating."

Critical Carter?

Former President Jimmy Carter, who harshly criticized President Bush in a recent interview with a Georgia newspaper, backed off those comments — somewhat.

In an interview Tuesday on the CNN show "Inside Politics," Mr. Carter said the article in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer had been distorted "just like the press often does."

"They just selected a few of the negative things that I said about President Bush, didn't put in the positive things," the former president said.

Mr. Carter told interviewer Judy Woodruff that he brought up the interview with Mr. Bush in an "effusive meeting" the two had the day of the CNN interview and that Mr. Bush "understands that."

This column last week reported Mr. Carter's comments from the Georgia paper, which berated Mr. Bush for not being tougher on Israel and for his "technologically ridiculous" plan to build a national missile defense.

"But I have to say that all the quotes in there were accurate," Mr. Carter said, referring to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

Hot Springs sales pitch

In an effort to promote the resort town of Hot Springs, Ark., as Bill Clinton's hometown, advertising executives have cooked up a plan to put the ex-president on a baseball card.

Steve Arrison, executive director of the city's Advertising and Promotion Commission, said he and his sales director came up with the idea after fielding endless questions about Mr. Clinton's connection to Hot Springs, where the former president spent much of his boyhood.

Not only will the Clinton card describe the president's relation to the town, but it will invariably lead to a sales pitch for Hot Springs, Mr. Arrison says.

One side of the card, which the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation has approved, will feature a portrait of the president playing golf. The back side of the card will display facts about his life in Hot Springs — as well as a subtle promotion for the city.

Mr. Arrison says the cards will be available all over town so locals traveling around the country and overseas can hand them out like business cards, the Associated Press reports.

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