- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2002

Phantom invitations

Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, the Democratic candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from Texas, addressed the national NAACP convention in Houston yesterday. But his Republican rival, state Attorney General John Cornyn, didn't get a chance to speak to the noon luncheon crowd of about 1,500.

"Our invitation must have gotten lost," said Dave Beckwith, a spokesman for the Cornyn campaign. "We never received one."

Mr. Cornyn, along with a host of other nonjudicial state officials, received courtesy invitations to attend the convention, but not for a formal speaking engagement.

"I can't really consider that a real invitation," Mr. Beckwith said.

Similarly, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, received an invitation to attend via a phone call in March, said spokeswoman Kathy Walt. But there was never a confirmed request for the governor to speak.

He didn't appear for a spot that was somehow scheduled for Monday, and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Kweisi Mfume wondered why, in front of reporters.

When the governor's office cried foul, the NAACP produced a copy of the invitation acknowledgment from the governor's office, including the envelope addressed to Mr. Mfume, dated March 7.

Miss Walt said the NAACP's response was disingenuous. "We send anyone who contacts our office a note of thanks," she said.

However, the NAACP is satisfied that it treated officials from both parties fairly.

"I think that is kind of splitting hairs," an NAACP spokeswoman said of the courtesy invitation vs. a formal speaking invitation. "We have the governors of the host state speak at each convention. They know they are invited."

Jeb's appointee

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush yesterday named a grandson of Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban president overthrown by Fidel Castro, as the first Hispanic on the Florida Supreme Court.

Raoul Cantero III, a Miami lawyer and Harvard Law School graduate, replaces Justice Major Harding, who is retiring after 11 years.

"I have named a person who is one of the finest appellate lawyers in the state," Mr. Bush said. "Above all else, Raoul is a man of exceptional character."

Mr. Cantero, 41, was born in Spain to parents who had fled Cuba after Mr. Castro's communist takeover in 1959.

In his application, Mr. Cantero wrote that his heritage would benefit the court.

"As an American whose family escaped a totalitarian [Castro] regime, I have learned to appreciate and defend democratic values and the rule of law," Mr. Cantero wrote. "I know the price a society pays when it lacks freedom to speak, freedom to worship, freedom to dissent."

Mr. Cantero's candidacy attracted some opposition because he helped defend Orlando Bosch, an anti-Castro extremist whom the U.S. government labeled a terrorist for his purported ties to bombing raids on Cuba, Reuters reports.

"Everybody has a right to an attorney and I have no problems that he was on the team," the governor said.

It was Mr. Bush's first solo appointment to the seven-member court. In late 1998, after his election but before he took office, Mr. Bush and then-Gov. Lawton Chiles jointly appointed Justice Peggy Quince to the court.

The appointment, which takes effect in September, does not require approval of the Legislature.

On the attack

President Bush's nomination for a federal appeals court came under fire from opponents in Texas who labeled her an "ultraconservative activist" with flawed views on abortion and consumer rights.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen was nominated by Mr. Bush for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which decides appeals from federal courts in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

A coalition of labor, liberal and feminist groups in her home state said Tuesday they hoped to muster the same kind of opposition that led to the party-line rejection in March of U.S. District Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. of Mississippi for a federal appeals court post, the Associated Press reports.

At the request of the White House, Justice Owen's office referred calls to the U.S. Justice Department, where spokesman Mark Corallo called the criticism "politically motivated."

No Senate confirmation hearing date has been set for Justice Owen, but opponents expect her nomination could come before the Senate Judiciary Committee later this month.

Ever vigilant

"The White House press corps, ever vigilant, tore after President Bush on Monday with a barrage of questions about his 1990 sale of stock in Texas-based Harken Energy Corp.," the Wall Street Journal notes in an editorial.

"Our only question is: Where were they when we needed them?" the newspaper said.

"We took our own look at the Harken story back in 1999, scrutiny that made us none too popular with the Bush campaign. What we found is some interesting Saudi connections on the finance side, but on the corporate ethics side absolutely zero. The same goes for every other reporter who's looked at this over the years, and there have been many.

"It's especially amusing now to see Democrats whooping it up about Harken. Two words: Bill Clinton. Or for that matter: Al Gore. A look at Mr. Gore's tax returns under 'supplemental income' will show a $20,000 annual royalty payment from the Union Zinc company, which has earned Mr. Gore more than $450,000 over 25 years. The man responsible for that payment was Armand Hammer, the late chairman of Occidental Petroleum and an influence peddler of the highest magnitude.

"All of this was disclosed back during the presidential campaign, in particular on these pages. Having watched the various Clinton improprieties emerge post-election, we took pains to explore the background of each candidate. While a putative scandal is always open to fresh disclosures, what excited the press pack this week was already known when voters cast their ballots. An informed election, it seems to us, wipes the slate clean."

Governor cleared

Removing a cloud that had hung over Alabama Gov. Donald Siegelman's re-election bid, the Alabama Ethics Commission cleared him yesterday of charges he illegally profited from the state's participation in the national tobacco settlement.

The commission decided in a 3-1 vote that there was no evidence that the governor violated state ethics law.

The complaint had been brought against the Democrat by Mobile lawyer and political activist Jim Zeigler.

The dispute had to do with two lawsuits against the tobacco industry that Mr. Siegelman filed when he was a lawyer in private practice. The year after Mr. Siegelman's 1998 election victory, Alabama agreed to settle those lawsuits and join in the national tobacco settlement.

Later, Mr. Siegelman's former law firm paid him about $800,000 in what he said was compensation for his past work on various cases.

But Mr. Zeigler charged that the money was in part a payoff to Mr. Siegelman for using his influence as governor to settle the lawsuits.

Divorce settlement

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and his estranged wife, TV personality Donna Hanover, have reached a tentative divorce settlement after long, contentious negotiations, their attorneys said yesterday.

"I hope the very, very best for Donna, for her future," Mr. Giuliani said on the steps of Manhattan Supreme Court. "We have two children, and I want everything to work the best for her and the children."

Mrs. Hanover's attorney, Helene Brezinsky, told Reuters news agency that Mr. Giuliani agreed to pay his ex-wife more than $6.8 million and all legal fees. No other financial details on the deal to end the 16-year marriage were announced.

"It was a spectacular win for Donna and the children," said Miss Brezinsky, referring to 16-year-old Andrew and Caroline, 12.

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