- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Pennsylvania battle
Former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell and Pennsylvania Auditor General Bob Casey Jr. are pinning their hopes on turnout as Democrats decide today on their nominee for governor.
It appears to be a battle of East vs. West as Mr. Rendell pleaded with Philadelphia Democrats to get to the polls, while Mr. Casey concentrated his efforts on Pittsburgh and other parts of western Pennsylvania.
The winner will face state Attorney General Mike Fisher, who is unopposed in the Republican primary.
"Rendell has been running ads in Philadelphia community newspapers telling readers to 'vote as if the future of Philadelphia depends on it, which it does,'" the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
"A political action committee co-chaired by top Casey backers has paid to reproduce the Rendell ads in a dozen newspapers in western Pennsylvania. These ads ask the question, 'What about the rest of Pennsylvania's future, Ed?'"
Mr. Rendell led 48 percent to 41 percent, with 11 percent of Democrats undecided in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette poll released Sunday.
The Rendell campaign sent out a tape-recorded phone message from former President Bill Clinton on Saturday but only in the Philadelphia area. The Casey campaign said it was trying to get Mr. Clinton to record a message for Mr. Casey, too.

Gotcha journalism
"We learned a lot about Washington politics" the last few days, Wlady Pleszczynski writes at www.americanprowler.org.
"Out west, one bolt of lightning or a even a single carelessly tossed match is all it takes to spark a forest fire. In Washington, a well-timed leak can serve the same purpose. As out west, the potential for fire has to build over time. Drought and vast reserves of dried brush and timber make firestorms possible. In Washington, it's the pent-up resentment certain parties feel about a third party, Mr. Pleszczynski said.
"Mark Shields was one of those who explained it. Since September 11, he said on [PBS' 'The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer'], 'the president and the administration have been cast in almost a heroic mold.' But with last week's leak about Bush's Aug. 6 briefing, 'it's the first time that the White House, really, and the president have been on the defensive politically' since 9/11. 'The taboo against criticizing the commander in chief has been broken,' R.W. Apple wrote in the Sunday New York Times unless, of course, 'there are further terrorist attacks, or American troops are once again heavily engaged.'
"Apple also noted apropos the Aug. 6 item, 'Democrats and reporters sensed an opportunity the first of Mr. Bush's administration to polish up their gotcha politics and their gotcha journalism.' (Notice how those 'crats and hacks appear to work in tandem.)
"Each of the above observations has its fatuous side one need only mention the effort made by the gotcha crowd to use Enron against Bush though their general point is revealing enough. The real powers that be in D.C. simply cannot stand a popular Republican president. It happens every time. Perhaps it's a sign of progress that Apple gave only 'one cheer' to this 'politics as usual,' or that Shields expressed disapproval of Democrats who repeated the cheap Watergate line, 'What did President Bush know, and when did he know it?'"

A 'bogus' story
"The media hullabaloo over how the Aug. 6, 2001, presidential intelligence briefing contained a hijacking warning President Bush failed to heed, was 'phony' and 'bogus,' Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas contended on 'Inside Washington,'" the Media Research Center reports.
"He suggested: 'The media beast was so happy to have a scandal here, that we jumped up and down and waved our arms and got all excited about it." [National Public Radios] Nina Totenberg conceded journalists were ahead of Democrats in trying to create an aura of scandal: 'Nobody in the political establishment said, "What did they know and when did they know it?" That was us in the media.'
"The remarkable admissions, which indict the integrity of the Washington press corps, occurred on 'Inside Washington,' a panel show produced by the Gannett-owned CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C., WUSA-TV, and which is syndicated nationally so it runs on many PBS stations," the MRC's Brent Baker noted at www.mediaresearch.org.

Protecting clergy
The president signed into law yesterday a bill that protects a long-standing tax break for clergy.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Jim Ramstad, Minnesota Republican, clarifies and preserves a tax provision in place since 1921 that exempts ministers and other clergy from paying taxes on housing allowances they receive from their churches.
Supporters say the measure is necessary because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is questioning the constitutionality of this tax break.
"Without this bill, America's clergy would face a devastating $2.3 billion tax increase on their housing," said Mr. Ramstad. "My legislation will preserve the housing allowance and end this misguided court case."
The issue emerged after the Rev. Richard D. Warren, a Baptist minister in California, challenged an Internal Revenue Service rule that limits the housing-allowance exemption to the fair-market rental value of the clergy's home. The U.S. Tax Court sided with the minister, and the IRS appealed the case to the 9th Circuit Court.
But instead of simply addressing the question of whether the IRS has the authority to limit the housing-allowance exemption, the notoriously liberal 9th Circuit which spans nine Western states questioned the overall constitutionality of the tax benefit for clergy.
Mr. Ramstad's bill, in essence, settles the court case by codifying the IRS rule that limits the clergy housing-allowance exemption to the fair-market rental value of the clergy's home.
The House passed the bill 408-0 on April 16 and the Senate followed suit in early May, passing it by unanimous consent.

A new scandal
"Once memos came to light alleging that Enron officials may have tried to take advantage of last year's California power crisis, it looked like Democrat Gov. Gray Davis was going to get a much-needed respite from campaign problems. Unfortunately for Davis, a new potential scandal has come to light in the past few days that may reinforce the image of questionable ethics his campaign has tried to shake in recent weeks," United Press International reports in its Capital Comment column.
"Currently, there are several investigations under way looking into the close to $100 billion no-bid contract given to the computer company Oracle by the Davis administration. Within days of the deal being signed, a hefty campaign check from the company was handed to a Davis representative in a Sacramento bar. Now, questions are also being raised about a $450 million contract given to Accenture, formerly known as Andersen Consulting, after the firm made a $50,000 campaign contribution to the governor's re-election effort in March 2000. The Davis folks deny any wrongdoing, but his erratic poll numbers suggest the questions may be resonating," the wire service said.

By the numbers
A majority of Americans are "satisfied" with the actions the Bush administration took before the September 11 attacks, according to a poll published yesterday.
The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 58 percent of those questioned were "satisfied" with measures the Bush administration took based on the information it had before the attacks.
Thirty-one percent were dissatisfied, and 11 percent were "not sure."


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