The Senate Republicans’ campaign committee yesterday unleashed the first in a planned series of attacks against Sen. Robert. G. Torricelli Jr., New Jersey Democrat, over a federal prosecutor’s probe into accusations of influence peddling from his last campaign.
“It has been 46 days since U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White decided to not pursue an indictment of Senator Bob Torricelli,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s press release states. “Her decision frees the senator to finally provide the public with answers to some very basic questions. We want to make this easy, so we will limit our questions to one each day. Once a question is publicly answered, we will thank Senator Torricelli and remove it from the list. But if Torricelli ducks, the list will grow.”
Yesterday’s question: Did officials of the FBI or the Department of Justice ever question Mr. Torricelli in an official setting? If so, will he release the transcript to the public to prove he is “not guilty of any illegal or unethical activities?”
The tactic comes as Whitewater independent counsel Robert W. Ray, a resident of Monmouth County, N.J., appears close to entering the Republican primary for the Senate seat. Mr. Ray recently consulted with NRSC officials.
Covering their bases
The Sierra Club yesterday endorsed Sen. Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat, in his bid for re-election one day after it began airing radio ads in Georgia pressuring him to oppose oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Mr. Cleland has not publicly stated a position on the issue.
The ad tells residents in Georgia to call his office and find out where he stands, and to urge him to vote against drilling a critical vote in the Sierra Club’s book.
Margaret Conway, the Sierra Club’s political director, said they are just covering their bases.
“These ads are both to hopefully secure certain votes and shore up other votes,” she said. “I believe Mr. Cleland will be with us, but it can’t hurt to get more calls into his office.”
Mr. Cleland earned the endorsement because “he is very strongly committed to the environment,” Miss Conway said.
“He has supported our national forests and monuments and clean air and water standards.”
The ads running in Georgia also urge residents to call the state’s other senator, Zell Miller, who is also a Democrat.
Ads also are being aired in the home states of Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican; Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat; Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican; Peter G. Fitzgerald, Illinois Republican; Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican; Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican; Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican; and Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican.
Sen. John Edwards, a former trial lawyer, “has landed in hot water with the nation’s leading anti-tobacco lawyer” because of the North Carolina Democrat’s harsh questioning of federal appeals court nominee Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr., Roll Call reports.
Mr. Edwards, in a recent confirmation hearing for Judge Pickering, refused to let the judge respond fully to his questions, insteading demanding “yes” and “no” answers about the sentencing of a man involved in a cross-burning on the lawn of an interracial couple. Although Mr. Edwards, in a speech last week before California Democrats, bragged about his treatment of Mr. Pickering, others have questioned Mr. Edwards’ behavior and what The Washington Post on Sunday described as that and other “ugly” and misleading attempts to defame the judge.
Trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs “has vowed to rally other trial lawyers to his anti-Edwards campaign,” reporter Paul Kane writes.
Mr. Edwards’ disrespectful behavior toward the judge “wasn’t the manly thing to do,” Mr. Scruggs said.
Northern Virginia’s Dulles chapter of the National Organization for Women says it “was recently contacted by groups tied to the Democratic Party and asked to join the current nasty efforts” to derail the nomination of federal Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr.’s nomination to a U.S. appeals court.
“We refused,” the group said in a prepared statement. “Instead, we are pleased to join the ranks of all those who support him.”
The group added: “The vicious anti-Pickering smears have even less to do with women’s rights, coming as they are from groups who unwaveringly supported sexual harassment and perjury in high office. They are but grotesque reminders of the discredited politics of personal destruction.”
To tell the truth
“How much longer will brazen lies save the NAACP’s tax-exempt status, when the once-august civil rights group keeps engaging in partisan politics?” New York Post columnist Michael Meyers asks.
“On Saturday, the group declared open war on President Bush’s choice for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Charles Pickering. It didn’t matter to the NAACP’s leaders, Chairman Julian Bond and CEO Kweisi Mfume, that they didn’t even have a written report to release documenting Pickering’s supposed hostility to civil rights,” Mr. Meyers said.
“Bond contented himself and his clan by citing Pickering’s past associations with and alleged sympathy for the ‘terrorist’ Sovereign Commission of Mississippi, which in its heyday fostered racial segregation. Bond updated that record by branding Pickering as a modern-day liar for having not owned up to that ancient association.
“But other lies don’t seem to bother Bond. He didn’t blanche at all when Mfume double talked his way around a direct question about his letters to NAACP donors taking credit for helping Democrats beat Republicans in a congressional election. All Kweisi Mfume would say was, ‘I don’t recall’ such a letter.
“Bond himself assured me on Saturday that his remarks accusing John Ashcroft of being in the ‘Taliban wing of the Republican Party’ were made prior to September 11, and taken out of context. But December press reports quote Bond saying that Ashcroft ‘knows something about the Taliban, coming, as he does, from that wing of American politics. Even before September 11, he had moved the [Justice] Department to the far right.’
“So, who’s prevaricating now?”
Face from the past
Democrat Carol Roberts, an outspoken member of Palm Beach County’s canvassing board during the 2000 presidential recount in Florida, announced yesterday that she is running for Congress.
The former West Palm Beach mayor wants to challenge Republican Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr.
Republicans accused Miss Roberts of being too partisan during the recount, but she said she expects to benefit from her role on the three-member board that manually counted punch cards from the infamous “butterfly ballot,” the Associated Press reports.
“Certainly, it’s not going to hurt me that people respect what I did for democracy,” she said.
Miss Roberts, 65, once offered on live television to go to jail after a court order halted the recount that she wanted to continue. She was assigned a sheriff’s deputy as a bodyguard after receiving threats.
Waiting in the wings
“If U.S. Rep. Bob Ehrlich, Maryland Republican, decides to run for governor this year, a powerhouse name is waiting in the wings to replace him in the House former GOP state House leader Ellen Sauerbrey,” United Press International reports in its “Capital Comment” column.
“In 1994, Sauerbrey lost the gubernatorial race to Democrat Parris Glendening by less than 6,000 votes in an election marked by allegations of fraudulent voting,” the wire service noted.
“A recent poll of voters in the new 2nd Congressional District shows Mrs. Sauerbrey has strong appeal among Democrats as well as Republicans. The survey also showed her running well against the likely Democratic candidate for the seat, Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger.”