- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

Dream deal

"There's a $30 million dream deal waiting for the builder who gets to erect the Democratic National Committee's new high-tech headquarters," the New York Post's Deborah Orin writes.

"It's a dream because Dem Chairman Terry McAuliffe is planning to let the contractor pocket all that moola up front way before the building at 501 Fourth St. SW in D.C. is anywhere near done," Miss Orin said.

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"Crazy? Like a fox. Democrats are edging around a provision in the new campaign-finance law that if President Bush signs it would ban soft money and bar them from using the building as their new headquarters.

"The law would take effect next Nov. 6, so Dems plan to slide around the cutoff date by prepaying the building's full cost by Nov. 5 even though it's not due to be finished until more than a year later, in December 2003."

Reno's record

"In Florida, the attorney general who kept Justice's investigators out of the White House for eight long years is riding in her brother's red pickup truck down the state," New York Times columnist William Safire writes.

"Janet Reno's Chiles-like stunt is to show that neither fainting spells nor Parkinson's disease should disqualify her from ousting Jeb Bush from the governor's mansion," Mr. Safire said.

"If she gets the chance to challenge the president's brother, she will be pressed to explain why the full resources of Justice were concentrated on breaking into the Florida home of Elian Gonzalez when unbeknown to the FBI terrorists training for 9/11 were attending a flight school 10 miles away. Her appeasement of Castro, with Clinton's approval, cost Al Gore 30,000 Cuban-American Florida votes and the national election."

Spanish vs. English

On the eve of their historic Spanish-language debate, the two Democratic candidates for governor of Texas continued to bicker about the format yesterday.

Dan Morales and Tony Sanchez have agreed to take part in a one-hour English debate in Dallas tonight, and a one-hour Spanish debate later in the evening. Both will be televised.

It will be the first time candidates for governor of any state have debated in Spanish, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

The primary is March 12. The winner faces Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

Mr. Morales, who tried unsuccessfully to get at least five debates in English, vowed to spend time during tonight's telecast translating his answers into English, the Associated Press reports.

"The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the citizens of our state speak English," he said. "That also applies to a significant number of Hispanic Texans."

The candidates, who are both Mexican-Americans, had bickered for weeks about the format. Both had supported the idea of one debate in Spanish, but differed on how many English debates were needed.

"Mr. Sanchez' insistence that we basically elevate Spanish, the Spanish language, to an equal status with the English language in this race for governor of Texas is ill-advised," Mr. Morales said yesterday.

Victory lap

At the Democrats' $10,000-a-plate Senate fund-raiser, it was independent James M. Jeffords who stole the spotlight and most of the applause, promising to help party leaders keep the majority he handed them last spring, the Associated Press reports.

The Vermont senator made the equivalent of a victory lap Wednesday night, reaping again Democratic laurels over his decision to leave the Republican Party and singlehandedly change the course of the Senate.

Gone was the reluctant party-switcher, reporter Christopher Newton writes.

"One day, as I listened to Senator [Phil] Gramm go on and on about how the most important legislative work we needed to do was cut the tax rate on the higher tax brackets," Mr. Jeffords said. "It struck me again, 'What am I doing here? What are these people thinking?'"

The dinner, held among the marble pillars and candlelight of a secluded area of Union Station, was the primary fund-raiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. It drew about 500 people, including 47 senators, and was expected to raise at least $6 million.

To say Mr. Jeffords was treated as a hero would not be overstatement, Mr. Newton reports.

After a gourmet meal, Washington Sen. Patty Murray called Mr. Jeffords' decision the most courageous "this town has seen in a long time."

The standing ovation: 36 seconds.

When people finally took their seats, Mrs. Murray continued, "Jim Jeffords is the best friend we have in the U.S. Senate."

Another standing ovation: 22 seconds.

Mr. Jeffords, in turn, criticized President Bush.

"It became increasingly clear that my optimism about our new president truly being a compassionate conservative and committing to issues of particular concern to me, such as education, was misplaced," he said.

Ventura overridden

A plan to shave nearly $2 billion from Minnesota's state deficit by slashing spending and dipping into reserves went into law yesterday after the Senate, with little fanfare, overrode Gov. Jesse Ventura's veto, 60-7.

The House overrode the bill Wednesday with a 99-33 vote, easily surpassing the 90 votes two-thirds of all House members required for an override.

"In my time here … there has never been an issue as significant on a veto override as this issue," Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe said.

Mr. Ventura had vetoed the bill Monday, saying it puts too much of the burden on spending cuts. His plan would instead raise gas taxes and cigarette taxes and cut state payments to local governments, along with some program cuts and the use of some reserves.

The House had fallen three votes short of a veto override on its first attempt Tuesday. Several Democrats said they switched their votes after getting promises from Mr. Moe that education spending won't be cut any further.

Before the House vote, Mr. Ventura pledged consequences for an override. He said he would no longer support a bill he proposed earlier to issue $845 million in bonds for government projects. The bill is likely to lead to a lower bond rating and increase the cost of borrowing, Mr. Ventura said.

Mr. Ventura, the state's first third-party governor, is the state's most overridden governor, with seven.

No previous governor had more than two vetoes overridden.

Gore visits Florida

Al Gore stepped up fund-raising efforts for his political action committee Wednesday, returning to the state that helped decide the 2000 presidential election.

Mr. Gore met Democratic activists in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and attended a fund-raiser at a private Miami Beach home. The events were expected to raise more than $75,000 for his committee, which supports Democratic candidates nationwide.

Reporters were barred from Mr. Gore's appearances, the Associated Press reports.

"He's very enthusiastic about the prospects of returning to his position on the front stage to be able to contrast the monologue that's coming from the White House, as he put it," said Elaine Bloom, a former state representative from Miami Beach.

It was Mr. Gore's third trip to the state since the 2000 election. Mr. Gore visited Florida in December to raise money for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

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