- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2002

Bill who?

Senate candidate Erskine Bowles doesn't hesitate to remind voters in North Carolina that he was once White House chief of staff he would just rather not say for which president.

In a new campaign pamphlet, Mr. Bowles, who filed candidacy papers Wednesday, boasts of his work balancing the federal budget, but he doesn't mention his old boss Bill Clinton. His campaign speeches rarely mention Mr. Clinton more than once, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Clinton's name "definitely cuts both ways," said Mr. Bowles, who was the presidential chief of staff beginning in 1996 and during the sex-and-lies scandal that led to Mr. Clinton's impeachment.

"What he did was wrong," Mr. Bowles said in yesterday's editions of the Charlotte Observer. "At the same time, I'm very proud of what we accomplished. I make a distinction between his personal failings and the honor I had to serve my country."

Jeffords to the rescue

Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont, whose status in the U.S. Senate would plummet if the Republicans recapture the chamber in November, warns that a takeover by the GOP "would be very dangerous for the country."

Mr. Jeffords left the GOP last year to become a Democrat-supporting independent, saying he was restoring balance to the body by turning over control to the Democrats.

Mr. Jeffords, in remarks made Wednesday in Montpelier, Vt., said he will campaign this year for selected Democrats because a Republican takeover of the Senate could result in an "abuse of power," the Associated Press reports.

"If they have total power, then they will be very, very different from what my beliefs are what the government's function should be," Mr. Jeffords said. "I think it would be very dangerous for the country."

'Tainted' McCain

Sen. John McCain, the political poster boy for campaign-finance reform, says he was "tainted" by donations from the now-bankrupt Global Crossing.

The Arizona Republican received more money from the telecommunications firm than any other member of Congress, the Associated Press reports.

"I am tainted by this because I received money from them," Mr. McCain told reporters Tuesday after a speech in Los Angeles. "All politicians are under a cloud" because of contributions to their campaigns.

However, Mr. McCain said he did no favors for the firm.

Mr. McCain received $31,000 from Global Crossing employees in March 1999 for his presidential campaign. The company gave out about $3.5 million in political donations during its five years in existence.

Helms' lament

Sen. Jesse Helms said Wednesday he was ashamed he had not done more to fight the worldwide AIDS epidemic and promised to keep it on his agenda until he leaves office next year.

"I have been too lax too long in doing something really significant about AIDS," the senator told hundreds of Christian AIDS activists gathered for a conference in Washington. "I'm not going to lay it aside on my agenda for the remaining months I have" in office.

Mr. Helms, who will retire in 2003 after 30 years in the Senate, spoke at the Prescription for Hope conference, organized by Samaritan's Purse, a world relief charity led by the Rev. Franklin Graham.

In the past, Mr. Helms has clashed with homosexual activists over AIDS funding and statements he made blaming the spread of the disease on homosexuals.

The North Carolina Republican did not mention homosexuality in his speech Wednesday, but he said, "There is no substitute for the joy brought by strong and healthy marriages. We must not hesitate to share this truth" with people around the world.

He praised Janet Museveni, first lady of Uganda, for running a campaign based on "biblical values and sexual purity" to stop the spread of HIV-AIDS.

Traficant accused

A former staff member for Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. testified yesterday that most of the work he did while on the congressional payroll was at Mr. Traficant's horse farm.

Richard Rovnak said he was hired in 1990 to help constituents part time at the Ohio Democrat's Youngstown office. But Mr. Rovnak said he spent most of his time at the farm, at times working 16-hour days on plumbing and carpentry projects, the Associated Press reports.

Several staffers have testified at Mr. Traficant's corruption trial in Cleveland that the lawmaker made them do personal chores while on the congressional payroll.

Mr. Traficant, who is representing himself even though he is not a lawyer, denies charges of tax falsification, racketeering and accepting gifts and favors for his political influence. He could get up to 63 years in prison and be expelled from the House if convicted.

Mr. Rovnak said he was among several staffers who did repairs on Mr. Traficant's boat at the request of H. West Richards, Mr. Traficant's Washington chief of staff from 1990 to 1993.

Mr. Richards testified Wednesday that Mr. Traficant told him to round up staffers to do the repairs. While Mr. Traficant cross-examined him yesterday, Mr. Richards said he never forced staffers to work on the boat, but that they may have "perceived pressure from the congressman" to do the work.

Mr. Traficant said earlier this week that he will run as an independent in November, saying the trial "leaves him no time" to run in a Democratic primary.

Scarce commodity

"First look under all of the rocks in your garden. Then behind the washing machine. Then in the back corner of the bottom drawer of your bureau. Sooner or later, you're bound to find one. I'm talking about this year's scarcest commodity: vulnerable House incumbents," political analyst Stuart Rothenberg writes in Roll Call.

"When this week ends, the filing deadlines for more than 30 percent of the nation's congressional districts will have passed. Yet, unless the national mood changes significantly, fewer than half a dozen incumbents appear likely to be ousted by challengers this year," Mr. Rothenberg said.

"At least four incumbent House members will go down to defeat this November, since four general election races [in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Illinois] now appear certain to pit Republican and Democratic incumbents against each other. But no more than two dozen other House members who make it to the general election ballot seem highly vulnerable."

Probe the prober

Earlier this week, it was reported that independent counsel Robert Ray may run for the U.S. Senate seat from New Jersey now held by Democrat Robert G. Torricelli. Yesterday, the conservative public-interest law firm Judicial Watch announced that it has filed an ethics complaint against Mr. Ray, charging that his potential candidacy conflicts with his duty to wrap up investigations involving Bill and Hillary Clinton.

"The complaint was filed with appropriate agencies in the Justice Department, the Office of Government Ethics, and with the Special Division of the U.S. Court of Appeals, which is the three-judge panel that oversees the independent counsel's office," Judicial Watch said in a prepared statement.

"This complaint is based on a February 18 USA Today report in which New Jersey state Republican officials confirmed that independent counsel Ray had consulted with them to discuss his political campaign [and] … told a Monmouth County, N.J., Republican dinner earlier this month that voters 'deserve principled, ethical and trustworthy leadership for New Jersey in the United States Senate.'"

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