- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 9, 2002

Colorful debate

Former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander has hit back at ads that question his taste in fashion, the latest volley in a Republican primary battle that continues to center around a red-and-black plaid shirt.

Mr. Alexander yesterday began airing two television ads defending the trademark plaid shirt he wore when he walked across the state in 1978 during his campaign for governor.

His Republican challenger for the U.S. Senate nomination, U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant, began airing an ad last month criticizing Mr. Alexander's plaid shirt and urging Tennessee voters to vote for Mr. Bryant the true "solid" Republican candidate.

The new Alexander ads contain footage of Mr. Alexander in the questioned shirt and tout his accomplishments.

"The plaid shirt represents good times for Tennessee: Better schools, balanced budgets, new jobs, new roads, and the kind of leadership Tennesseans will be proud to have in the U.S. Senate," said Kevin Phillips, communications director for the Alexander campaign.

Meanwhile, a new independent poll shows Mr. Alexander leading 51 percent to 34 percent in the race for the Republican nomination.

However, the pollster says the race is tightening and is one to watch as the Aug. 1 primary approaches.

"The Republican primary is worth keeping an eye on," said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon, the independent, Washington-based company that released the numbers this week. "Alexander hasn't been on the ballot down there in 20 years. It'll be interesting to see."

This is the first poll Mason-Dixon conducted on this race, but Mr. Coker said "the race is closer now than it was two months ago" and could be Tennessee's "sleeper."

The poll, conducted June 27 through July 1 for four Tennessee newspapers, queried 305 likely Republican primary voters.

Coulter vs. Couric

Mickey Kaus, in his Kausfiles column in Slate (slate.msn.com), says conservative author Ann Coulter was closer to the truth in a disagreement recently with NBC's Katie Couric.

"This isn't an argument, it's mere refutation: Two weeks ago, 'Today' host Katie Couric got into a dispute with her guest Ann Coulter over how many times 'Today' had misleadingly said Reagan biographer Edmund Morris called his subject an 'airhead.' (What Morris really said was that Reagan had been an 'apparent airhead,' but that he'd learned this wasn't true.)," Mr. Kaus writes.

"Coulter: 'So for the "Today" show to be opening three days in a row, Ronald Reagan was an airhead, I'm sorry, that's dishonest.'

"Couric: 'It was one day. And also, just for your information, it was one day.'

"Coulter: 'No, you said it one day. Matt Lauer said it another day.'

"Couric: 'No, it was just one day, and we'll get the transcripts for you.'

"Let's go to NEXIS!" Mr. Kaus said. "Answer: Two days, three times (plus once on 'Later Today'). Couric said it on Sept. 27, 1999. The next day, as charged, Lauer opened the show by talking about 'the author's assertion that Reagan was a great president but an airhead.' NBC's Jamie Gangel repeated the 'airhead' charge without the 'apparent' later that day in a 'Today' interview with ex-President George H.W. Bush. The winner: Coulter on points. She was closer to the truth than Couric, who picked this particular fact fight and was wrong. The account in Coulter's book (which doesn't make the 'three days' charge) appears to be completely accurate though whether 'Today' was guilty of dishonest liberal bias or dishonest ratings-grubbing hype is a call you, the reader, can make."

Late, late show

New York Rep. Nita M. Lowey blames the anthrax scare for her failure to pay property taxes on time in the District.

Mrs. Lowey, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, recently learned her condo here was listed in a local newspaper as being up for auction for failure to pay $457.53 in property taxes, Roll Call reports.

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Lowey said she paid the tax on June 28, a day after the property, valued at $74,090, was listed in the newspaper as delinquent. The spokeswoman said condo management, as a result of the anthrax scare, had taken Mrs. Lowey's name off the mailbox in the lobby of the building thus, she did not receive her property-tax bill. Other bills went to her home in New York, the spokeswoman said.

"Lowey's office was unable to explain, however, why the House member did not respond to initial notices, sent in August, that the tax was overdue," Roll Call reporter Susan Crabtree writes, noting that the anthrax scare came later, after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The property was listed in arrears as of Oct. 1.

Rumsfeld's surgery

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was operated on to correct an arthritic problem in his left thumb yesterday and was released from the hospital after the three-hour surgical procedure, the Pentagon said.

The brief announcement said that Mr. Rumsfeld, who marks his 70th birthday today, was operated on by surgeons at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and did not require general anesthesia in the outpatient procedure.

"He will wear a cast on his left forearm for the next four to six weeks," the Defense Department said, adding that the surgery was conducted on the base of Mr. Rumsfeld's thumb.

A new tax

"The Greater Shepparton Council in the Australian state of Victoria is planning to levy a 'vandalism and vomit tax,'" James Taranto writes in his Best of the Web column at www.opinionjournal.com.

"The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reports that hotels that stay open after 3 a.m. would pay the tax, designed to offset the cost of cleaning up streets soiled by late-night revelers. Everyone knows there's no such thing as a free lunch, but apparently down under you can't even lose your lunch without the taxman taking a cut."

9/11 lobbyists

New York City businesses still recovering from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center are hiring Washington lobbyists to help tap into federal aid flowing from Capitol Hill.

Cantor Fitzgerald, Lehman Brothers, Consolidated Edison and the Trade Center's lead insurer, Swiss Re, are among those with lobbyists working on September 11 help, according to documents reviewed by the Associated Press.

Jim Albertine, president of the American League of Lobbyists, said September 11 has "provided for new business opportunities, speaking very frankly."

"The huge amount of appropriations coming from Capitol Hill have generated a lot of interest from a very diverse group of people," he said.

Cantor Fitzgerald lost 658 of its nearly 1,000 employees on September 11, more than any other company. The bond brokerage firm hired a pair of lobbying companies late last year to work on victims' relief issues. Among the assignments was to get language tucked into legislation shielding aid to victims' relatives from taxes, said lobbyist Nick Giordano.

New York has been promised $21.4 billion from Washington for recovery costs related to the terrorist attacks. Congress must still approve $5.5 billion of the amount.

Many of the companies had lobbyists on the payroll before September 11, but records show they stepped up activity after the attacks. Con Edison, for instance, spent $540,000 in the final six months of last year, 35 percent more than in the first half. The expense included hiring an outside lobbyist, the EOP Group, to complement the New York City utility's in-house lobbyists.

Gary Ruskin, head of the watchdog group Congressional Accountability Project, said he's not surprised by the lobbying activity. "But it points to a sad commentary on the way the federal government works these days: Those who have the money get the money."

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