- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2002

Race initiative

A proposed ballot initiative that would bar the state from classifying people by race is backed by nearly half of California voters, but most also say they don't know much about it, a new poll says.

Conservatives champion the "Racial Privacy Initiative" as a step toward a colorblind society. Liberals blast it as an attempt to undermine anti-discrimination laws.

The poll, released yesterday by the Field Institute, is the first independent poll on the initiative, which could be on the ballot as early as November.

Of the 546 likely voters who were polled, barely a quarter said they had heard of the initiative.

Still, 48 percent of those polled said they supported it and 34 percent said they opposed it, with 18 percent undecided. The poll had a 4.5 percent margin of error.

Reno's silence

Florida gubernatorial candidate Janet Reno doesn't change her message when she appears before foreign journalists she dodges the hard questions just as she does when she is before a troop of U.S. reporters.

In Whistler, British Columbia, for a two-day law-enforcement conference on terrorism and technology, President Clinton's attorney general refused to answer questions about September 11, according to a report in the Vancouver Province.

In an interview that was "tightly controlled," Miss Reno "would not talk about the political outcome of the September 11 attacks, including whether people arrested and held in detention are being treated fairly. She also wouldn't comment about issues that would lead her into criticism of the government of U.S. President George W. Bush."

She did say that she fears a "cyberspace Pearl Harbor unless action is taken quickly to protect vital technologies that are vulnerable to a growing threat of cyberterrorism."

Miss Reno was criticized during her March political trek through Florida for dodging questions about September 11 and other issues. Apparently, she is still "on message" when it comes to the press north of the border.

Wheels of justice

"There's a chance Peter Kirsanow will take his rightful seat at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights before its next meeting on May 17 but only if three federal-appeals-court judges hearing arguments [yesterday] in the case against civil-rights commissioner Victoria Wilson issue a speedy ruling," John J. Miller writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

"There's no reason they shouldn't. Wilson's term as a Clinton appointee to the commission ended last November. She didn't serve a full six-year term on the panel because she was chosen to complete the tenure of the late Leon Higginbotham. All of Wilson's official paperwork indicated that her term would expire; when it did, President Bush named Cleveland labor lawyer Peter Kirsanow to the post," Mr. Miller noted.

"But Wilson refused to budge. Her liberal allies on the commission, including chairwoman Mary Frances Berry, backed her up. They claimed that Wilson is entitled to a full six-year term, not merely the remainder of Higginbotham's. This is a bizarre interpretation of the law, but in February a federal judge actually bought it and said that Wilson could serve until 2006.

"That decision stands a very good chance of being overturned by the three judges considering the appeal [yesterday]. Yet Wilson, who is the defendant in the case, has excellent legal representation secured for her by taxpayer funds. The commission has intervened on her behalf and bought the services of Ted Wells, a high-priced criminal lawyer perhaps best known for defending former agriculture secretary Mike Espy. Because the federal government is suing Wilson to quit her post, it means tax dollars are paying for both the prosecution and the defense."

Adding up lobbyists

Businesses, unions and others spent more than $570 million on lobbyists at state capitals in 2000, a report found.

More than half the money was spent in three states California, New York and Massachusetts according to the Center for Public Integrity, which released the report yesterday.

The center found nearly 40,000 organizations businesses, associations and trade groups registered to lobby in the states, averaging roughly five lobbying principals for every state lawmaker, the Associated Press reports.

The tally came from financial disclosures of lobbyists and those who hired them in 34 states.

The other 16 states either don't total the financial information of lobbyists or don't require lobbyists to report their salaries and spending.

The insurance industry had the largest number of lobbying organizations nationally with 2,269, with health service organizations next with 1,870. There were 1,859 organizations lobbying on behalf of education.

Help for an underdog

Former CNN talk-show host Bobbie Battista has taken a job running the media campaign for Bob Irvin, a north Atlanta Republican running for Democratic Sen. Max Cleland's seat.

Miss Battista left her job as host of the afternoon "TalkBack Live" show last year and started a public relations firm, Atamira Communications. Another CNN veteran, former producer David Bernkopf, also runs the firm and will work on the Irvin campaign.

"We'll be doing his media strategy and media placement, but we're really involved in all aspects of the campaign," Miss Battista said Tuesday.

Mr. Irvin is battling Rep. Saxby Chambliss for the Republican nomination. He has served 14 years in the state House but is considered a long shot for the party nod.

"He's totally an underdog. We acknowledge that," Miss Battista said. "But we feel Saxby Chambliss is vulnerable on a number of points, and we're excited about getting this thing started."

Mineta's stand

"Arming pilots is an important security measure," the Wall Street Journal said yesterday in an editorial.

"Federal air marshals will never be able to protect more than a small fraction of flights. Reinforced cockpit doors, while an improvement, aren't impregnable and will still need to be opened periodically during flight. Stun guns, favored by [Transportation Secretary Norman Y.] Mineta, can be rendered ineffective by thick clothing, and they immobilize attackers for mere seconds," the newspaper said.

"In short, the same transportation secretary who's letting the phony issue of racial profiling stand in the way of effective airport screening is now refusing to authorize the best defense should terrorists get on board an airplane again. Maybe it's time for the White House to exert some policy supervision over Mr. Mineta and his bureaucracy. Failing that, we're all for Congress taking the law back into its own hands. It shouldn't take another disaster before we get serious about keeping hijackers out of the cockpit."

Snow's new contract

Fox News announced yesterday that it has signed Tony Snow to a new contract as network political analyst and host of "Fox News Sunday." In fact, Fox said it is changing the show's name to "Fox News Sunday With Tony Snow."

The news division, in a press release, did not offer any details on the length of the contract or Mr. Snow's salary.

It did, however, brag that "Fox News Sunday" has "the youngest median age among the Sunday morning political news programs."

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