- The Washington Times - Friday, December 6, 2002

Gore's China trip

Former Vice President Al Gore recently visited China, where he is believed to have been paid to speak at a communist-government-linked think tank and attended a lunch hosted by former Enron director Ronnie Chan Chi-chung.

The trip was first reported by the South China Morning Post and picked up yesterday by Internet reporter Matt Drudge at his Web site (www.drudgereport.com).

Participants at the China Development Institute-sponsored forum in Shenzhen, at which Mr. Gore was a key speaker last month, were offered the chance to have their photo taken with Mr. Gore for a fee, the newspaper said.

Mr. Gore embarked on the China trek on the eve of his current book tour.

"You can't be the leading Democrat candidate for the upcoming elections and come to a communist country, take money from a communist think tank and declare it a private event," said Mark Simon, vice chairman in Hong Kong of Republicans Abroad.

Mr. Gore attended an informal Sunday lunch on Nov. 18 with about 30 members of the Asia Society, hosted by Mr. Chan at the offices of his property company, Hang Lung Development.

Mr. Chan was an independent director of bankrupt U.S. energy company Enron, which triggered a crisis of confidence in American corporate governance when it collapsed last December.

Asked whether Mr. Gore was aware of Mr. Chan's relationship with Enron, one source said: "He was because I told him before we went into it the lunch."

Wishful thinking?

"Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but the December buzz among Dems is starting to be that maybe, just maybe, Al Gore will bow out of the 2004 presidential race and deprive Republicans of their dream race a Bush-Gore rematch," the New York Post's Deborah Orin writes.

"'People who talk to Gore say that one day he implies he's very likely to run and then another day he all but says he's out of it,' recounts a senior Democratic strategist.

"Adds a 2000 Gore backer: 'If he's on a book tour and people aren't even buying his book, maybe it tells him something. But is he able to look himself in the mirror and admit that?'

"So is it a go? Says Gore spokesman Jano Cabrera: 'Only one man can answer that question' and he'll tell the world in January.'"

Miss Orin noted: "As Gore nears his go/no-go decision, new polling data shows he's now running weakly against Bush among Jews one of the core groups Democrats count on to win, and strong supporters of Clinton-Gore in two elections."

Granholm subpoenaed

Federal agents subpoenaed records from Michigan Gov.-elect Jennifer Granholm as part of a probe into a fellow Democrat, the outgoing Wayne County executive, her spokesman said.

The subpoena, delivered within the last week, gives the governor-elect until early January to hand over campaign documents and other information, Granholm spokesman Chris De Witt said.

The subpoena was part of a federal investigation of Wayne County Executive Edward H. McNamara's administration and potential breaches in campaign finance and contract awards, the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press reported.

"This is not about me," Mrs. Granholm said.

Part of the investigation focuses on whether Mr. McNamara used county employees and resources such as computers for fund raising and other political purposes, the newspapers said.

Mr. De Witt said the subpoena, apparently one of 18 made to other entities or individuals, is targeted at what county workers did in the Granholm campaign, not the governor-elect.

Mrs. Granholm was general counsel for Mr. McNamara until 1998, when at his urging she ran for state attorney general and won. She becomes governor Jan. 1.

No bright lines

The new campaign finance law will chill political speech by corporations, labor unions, and political parties, a three-judge federal panel was told yesterday.

According to the Associated Press, Jan Baran, an attorney for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and others, said the law prohibits corporations and labor unions from coordinating expenditures with candidates. And that, he argued, unconstitutionally hinders their ability to lobby Congress by subjecting their political activities to lengthy Federal Election Commission investigations.

"Where are the bright lines?" the attorney asked. "These risks are not hypothetical."

Charles Bell, an attorney for the California Democratic and Republican parties, said the coordination limits also would force national and state political parties to police dozens of local party committees.

That's because the law treats party committees at all levels as one entity when any makes a coordinated expenditure for a candidate, Mr. Bell argued. Once such an expenditure is made, the party can't spend independently on behalf of the same candidate.

The court is expected to rule next month, clearing the way for an immediate appeal to the Supreme Court by the losers.

Toy maker fined

The Federal Election Commission levied $477,000 in fines yesterday in connection with political donations involving toy maker Mattel Inc.

The civil agreement with the company covers political contributions to 23 candidates, two party committees and five political action committees from 1996 to 2000, the Associated Press reports.

Among the recipients: the Democratic National Committee, the Gore 2000 presidential campaign, California's Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and Republican Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.

The fine stems from an arrangement in which Mattel reimbursed individual donors for $120,714 in contributions.

Minnesota's woes

Minnesota's budget deficit will be even larger than expected, with the shortfall expected to hit $4.56 billion over the next 2½ years, state finance officials announced Wednesday.

Officials had warned for months that the projected deficit might top $3 billion, but the new number shocked lawmakers, the Associated Press reports.

The budget problem will be Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty's biggest challenge when he takes office on Jan. 6. The Republican, who campaigned on a promise not to raise taxes, must find a way to cover a $356 million deficit for the remaining seven months of the budget cycle and tackle a $4.2 billion problem for the following two years.

Despite the news, Mr. Pawlenty said he would not waver from his campaign promise.

"The situation does not call for tax increases. That is not on the table, but nearly everything else will be," he said.

Bill vs. Bill

A simmering feud between talk-show hosts Bill O'Reilly and Bill Moyers boiled over after Mr. Moyers bought an advertisement in the New York Daily News to respond to what he called a "vicious personal attack."

Mr. Moyers was referring to Mr. O'Reilly's syndicated column in which the Fox News host accused him of "profiting from taxpayer money" by keeping the sales proceeds of videotapes of some programs he does for the tax-subsidized Public Broadcasting Service.

"Public television rarely funds my work I raise the money myself, from independent sources but when it does PBS owns all the distribution rights, the proceeds remain with public television and my share is minuscule," Mr. Moyers wrote in the ad, which appeared in Wednesday's editions of the Daily News.

Mr. Moyers in a speech last year said the Fox host's passion is equaled "only by his stubborn, ignorant denial of complexity."

Mr. O'Reilly responded during his show, "The O'Reilly Factor," on Wednesday night.

"All I want from Moyers is some accountability," Mr. O'Reilly said. He said Mr. Moyers "is in bed with PBS, which is spending our money."

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