- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

Cuomo's boycott

Andrew Cuomo's campaign to win the Democratic nomination for governor of New York hit another pothole Wednesday when the former federal housing secretary announced he was boycotting the state party convention.

Mr. Cuomo's rival, state Comptroller Carl McCall, had locked up the convention's endorsement. And political insiders said Mr. Cuomo would have had difficulty in winning the 25 percent convention vote needed to place his name on the Sept. 10 primary ballot. Instead, Mr. Cuomo plans to get on the ballot by collecting about 15,000 signatures on a petition.

Mr. Cuomo, trying to put the best face on things, said: "I want to be the candidate who was placed on the ballot by the people, not the party."

Mr. McCall, from inside the convention at the Sheraton New York hotel, taunted Mr. Cuomo, saying, "Let me tell you the difference between me and him. I've never run from a fight."

Wrong tunes

"You wonder what the Cuomo people are smoking," New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser writes.

"Minutes before Andy Cuomo hit the stage at his press conference [Wednesday], with his Kennedy wife and Kennedy in-laws in tow, Peter Cecconi rolled his eyes to the ceiling and back.

"'Can you believe they're playing that?' the Cuomo delegate said, amazed.

"The disc jockey working Cuomo's shindig had just put the Rolling Stones' 'Sympathy for the Devil' on the turntable.

"Everyone sing along with Mick: 'I shouted out, "Who killed the Kennedys?" When after all, it was you and me '

"An innocent blunder? Or a foreshadowing of Stupid Candidate Tricks to come? You had to wonder, because just as soon as the Stones faded out, Pink Floyd stepped in with 'The Wall.'

"Everyone: 'We don't need no education '

"Then Cuomo, flanked by wife Kerry Kennedy Cuomo and brother-in-law Bobby Kennedy Jr., leaped on the stage like a Dalmatian on steroids, and lectured, loudly and obviously, about the need for better education for the poor.

Lieberman's economics

"Sen. Joe Lieberman has long been one of our favorite pro-growth Democrats, and we can even remember when he bucked his own party to support capital-gains [tax] cuts," the Wall Street Journal said yesterday in an editorial.

"But now that Mr. Lieberman is running for president, he's apparently converting to high-tax Rubinomics," the newspaper said.

"Speaking Monday to the Economic Club of Detroit, Mr. Lieberman outlined delays he'd like to see in the already too-drawn-out tax cut package passed last year. He'd especially like to postpone, if not kill altogether, the remaining reductions in the highest marginal income-tax rates.

"It's by now an axiom of modern economic thinking that the main engine of growth is the private sector, not government. The more money individuals get to keep, the greater the opportunities for growth. But Mr. Lieberman is still trying to fire up the bond-market liberalism that dominated the Clinton Treasury rhetoric of Robert Rubin (though not its policies, which were modified by Congress).

"As Mr. Lieberman explained in Detroit, his new tax plan for growth is that government takes more money from the private sector, and we all try to squeeze a higher return out of every dollar spent by government. Sounds like a proposal to raise taxes just as our too-tepid economic recovery is getting under way. Strange things happen to Democrats when they know they have to run the liberal gantlet to win the party nomination, but say it ain't so, Joe."

18-month sentence

New Jersey businessman David Chang, a key figure in a now-concluded campaign-finance investigation of Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, was sentenced yesterday to 18 months in federal prison.

Chang made $53,700 in illegal contributions to Mr. Torricelli's 1996 campaign, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York said.

Mr. Torricelli, a New Jersey Democrat, was the subject of a three-year criminal probe related to the financing of his 1996 campaign. In January, U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White abruptly ended the investigation without any charges and the matter was referred to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

Chang, of Cresskill, N.J., pleaded guilty in 1999 to making the contributions, conspiracy and tampering with a grand jury witness. He then became a cooperating government witness.

Chang told prosecutors the senator accepted cash and numerous expensive gifts from him, including a Rolex watch, suits and Tiffany cufflinks in exchange for helping Chang with business deals in North and South Korea. He said Mr. Torricelli urged him to lie about the gifts and contributions.

Another critic

Former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott yesterday criticized members of the Bush administration, saying they were "antagonizing" valuable allies.

But Mr. Talbott also praised President Bush for adopting a nonconfrontational approach to Russia that he advocates, Reuters reports.

"I am concerned that some repeat, some in the Bush administration are antagonizing important allies of the U.S. in their go-it-alone concept of American leadership," he said in an online chat on The Washington Post's Web site.

Mr. Talbott's criticisms mirrored recent similar, if harsher, remarks by his ex-boss, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. Last weekend, Mrs. Albright accused the Bush foreign-policy team of suffering from "untreated bipolar disorder," saying it was sometimes difficult for her to see coherence in their positions.

Suit goes forward

A judge yesterday rebuffed a Bush administration effort to kill lawsuits aimed at revealing the inner workings of Vice President Richard B. Cheney's energy task force.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he will allow the private groups Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club to take the first steps in delving into the operations of the task force, the Associated Press reports.

Run by Cabinet heads, the Cheney panel directed federal agencies in writing a plan last year that focused on expanding energy production. Judge Sullivan said he may require that any material from the Cheney panel be turned over to him instead of to the private groups until he decides whether a legal basis exists for the case to proceed.

The administration maintained that only government employees were members of the task force, which disbanded last year. But the conservative group Judicial Watch said former Enron Chairman Kenneth L. Lay and lobbyists Mark Racicot, Haley Barbour and Thomas Kuhn were members.

Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch said the administration's strategy is to "run out the clock" and to fight disclosing the names of those who have met with the task force until the public moves on to other issues.

Honorary Republican

Thomas F. Palmeri was surprised in March when he was named a California Republican of the Year. The Covina, Calif., City Council member is, after all, a Democrat.

"I think it's just fabulous that they bypassed [Republican gubernatorial candidate] Bill Simon," Mr. Palmeri said. "I haven't been a Republican since [President] Reagan's first term."

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which raises money for Republican congressional candidates, gave Mr. Palmeri the honor. They also sent him a certificate and listed his name along with 161 other honorees in a Wall Street Journal advertisement.

Mr. Palmeri also learned that his awards did not come free, the Associated Press reports.

"All I keep getting is this bill for $150," he said. "And they'd like me to use my credit card."

Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, had no explanation for what happened.

"Any time he wants to join us on this side of the aisle, he's welcome," she said.

•Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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