- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2002

Chastising Corzine
The head of the Social Security Administration has admonished the Democrats again for making what she says are false and inflammatory attacks against President Bush's proposed Social Security reforms.
In a letter to New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine, who has become the chief Democratic critic of the president's plan to keep the system solvent, Jo Anne Barnhart said, "Incendiary comments and highly charged rhetoric do not provide a service to anyone, especially the people who depend on Social Security."
In an interview last month with Donald Lambro of The Washington Times, Mrs. Barnhart said the Democrats' charges that Mr. Bush's plan would cut benefits for retirees were false and an attempt to stir up fears among retirees for political purposes.
Responding to Mr. Lambro's story on the Senate floor, Mr. Corzine said he hoped Mrs. Barnhart "was misquoted in The Washington Times."
But in her June 13 letter to Mr. Corzine, which the Times obtained Tuesday, Mrs. Barnhart said that she had been quoted accurately and that, contrary to the senator's charges, "no proposal that has been put forth affects benefits for current and near retirees."
"Scare tactics and misinformation are not constructive. They diminish the tone and quality of public discussion and debate," she wrote the senator.

Judicial misconduct?
The head of the House Judiciary Committee is questioning the method used to select the nine federal appellate judges who decided the University of Michigan Law School affirmative-action admissions case.
Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. suggested in a letter to the chief judge of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that the selection method "may have improperly influenced the outcome."
Mr. Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican, said in his letter that if two judges appointed by Republican presidents had been part of the nine-judge panel, they could have reversed the case's outcome, the Associated Press reports.
The June 26 letter was obtained by the Detroit Free Press.
The appeals court ruled 5-4 on May 14 that the school admissions policy, which considers race as a factor, is legal. The ruling reversed a March 2001 decision by a federal district judge in Detroit. The court also found that the law school had a compelling state interest in achieving a diverse student body.
Citing his constitutional jurisdiction over the courts, Mr. Sensenbrenner wrote that he was "compelled to review credible evidence of judicial misconduct."
Judge Danny Boggs, one of four dissenting judges in the case, said in his opinion that Boyce Martin, the chief judge of the 6th Circuit, effectively delayed the request for a review for four months until two judges had gone on senior status. Judges on senior status usually do not hear cases.

Martha and Hillary
"Now that Martha Stewart is becoming the poster child for corporate greed, it's suddenly all the rage in political circles to give back campaign cash but so far, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is one of those resisting the trend," the New York Post's Deborah Orin writes.
"As of now, Clinton is holding on to the $1,000 she got from WorldCom and the $1,000 she got from Stewart," Miss Orin said.
"She's also keeping the $7,000 she and her political-action committee got from Stewart's pal, ImClone chief Sam Waksal who's charged with insider trading plus the $2,000 she got from Waksal's daughter, Aliza, and $1,000 from his brother, Harlan.
"Clinton is keeping the money, said spokeswoman Karen Dunn, because the Waksals haven't 'been convicted of any wrongdoing' and the WorldCom cash wasn't given this year."
WorldCom split its donations almost evenly between the parties, the columnist said. But Mr. Waksal gave exclusively to Democrats, as did Miss Stewart, who lavished $157,000 on her party favorites.

Conflict of interest?
"Sen. John McCain [Arizona Republican], appears to be going ahead with his threat to stop all of President Bush's nominees from being confirmed on the Senate floor until the administration moves ahead with the nomination of Ellen Weintraub to the Federal Election Commission," United Press International reports in its Capital Comment column.
"Weintraub, an election-law attorney, is a former staffer on the House ethics committee who now practices law in the Washington office of the firm of Perkins-Coie. What has not received much attention is that Weintraub is also the wife of Bill Dauster, the legislative director for Sen. Russ Feingold [Wisconsin Democrat]," the wire service said.
Mr. Feingold and Mr. McCain pushed through the Senate the campaign-finance restriction for which the FEC is now writing the regulations.
"The two senators, along with Reps. Chris Shays [Connecticut Republican], and Marty Meehan [Massachusetts Democrat], have been mau-mauing the commission of late, telling them that the only thing that matters as far as writing the regs goes is that the commissioners do what McCain and company say."

Michigan ups tax
After a marathon session, the Michigan House voted to raise the state cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack and use most of the rainy-day fund to resolve the budget deficit.
The tax increase would make Michigan's $1.25 cigarette tax the third-highest in the nation, behind New York's $1.50 tax and Washington state's $1.42, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Wednesday's agreement must be approved by the state Senate before moving on to Republican Gov. John Engler for his signature. The Republicans control both legislative chambers.
Mr. Engler said early Wednesday that increasing the cigarette tax from 75 cents to $1.25 would prevent cuts to state funding for arts programs and local governments, the Associated Press reports.
The cigarette-tax increase is expected to generate $107 million a year for the school-aid fund and about $150 million for the general fund in the budget year that begins Oct. 1.
The House also approved a bill to use $355 million from the state's rainy-day fund to help resolve a $492 million shortfall for the current fiscal year and another $207 million for the 2002-2003 general fund.
It would allow the state budget director to withdraw even more money from the rainy-day fund if needed to balance the budget, which is required by the Michigan Constitution.

Jeb's wallet shrinks
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's net worth dropped about 20 percent to $1.6 million last year, mainly because of stock market losses, according to his latest financial disclosure.
Mr. Bush's 401(k) retirement fund started when he worked for a Miami development company dropped from $257,000 to $198,000 in value last year, the disclosure stated.
Most of the losses were attributed to declining stocks.
Mr. Bush's investments are managed by a Miami Beach accounting firm without the governor's input to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
According to the disclosure form, Mr. Bush has $4,000 in cash in the bank; mutual funds and partnerships worth $1.1 million; and a condo in Coral Gables worth $148,000.
In addition to the 401(k), he has another $68,000 in an individual retirement account. The governor's cars are valued at $42,000 and his household goods and personal effects at $140,000.
Among Mr. Bush's liabilities are $133,000 in estimated taxes on unrealized net worth. As governor, Mr. Bush's annual salary is $120,000.

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