- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

Shunning Sacajawea

"I tried to give one to a bum on K Street and he wouldn't take it," says Jason Granger of Washington, one of literally hundreds of Inside the Beltway readers weighing in on the much-hyped Sacajawea "golden dollar" 1.4 billion of which were minted in 2000, only to fall through the cracks.

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, says despite Uncle Sam's spending $62 million to promote the new golden dollar, he's not once received one in change, has never seen one in circulation and knows few people who have.

Well, counters Robert Reed of Sacramento, Calif., "I bought a [U.S. Postal Service] priority envelope for $3.50 the other day, and the postage machine returned the change for my [$20] bill in Sacajawea coins."

That was just the beginning.

"I needed the change for return fare on the local light rail, but the ticket dispenser didn't recognize the coins," he says. "I went to a nearby minimart, and the clerk refused to accept them as legal tender for my purchase, never mind change. His response was that 'Customers don't want them.' I'm not sure whether this policy was legal, but I had neither the time or inclination to press matters."

The main objection Roger K. Layman has to Sacajawea, named in honor of the 15-year-old Shoshone Indian mother who served as a guide for the Lewis and Clark expedition, is that it's too close in size to a quarter.

"As do most men since the demise of the coin purse, I pull change from my trouser pocket based mostly on feel," says the Bowie resident. "Although The Washington Times vendor might have been happy with a dollar for the morning paper, I was not happy at the end of the day to find unspent quarters in my pocket and several dollar coins gone."

Ramon J. Fernandez, also of Maryland, wishes to inform the senator that dollar coins will always fail as long as this country continues printing the dollar bill.

"Canada had it right by ridding themselves of the paper dollar when they issued their dollar coin," he says. "Every summer, I spend three months in Canada and I find no particular inconvenience in carrying the $1 coin (the 'loony') and the $2 coin (the 'toony.')"

Finally, Douglas Morgan of Havelock, N.C., challenges the assertion of a fellow reader that "the Treasury could put a Hooters Girl on the next dollar, and it would still fail."

"Let's try it and see," suggests Mr. Morgan. "On second thought, the possibility of Bill Clinton desperately angling for the job of Treasury secretary is just too nauseating a notion. Skip it."


Free vodka

There was a "Free Stoli" party on Capitol Hill last night, coinciding with President Bush's trip to Russia and the fact that the Russian government, with "Soviet-style tactics," is refusing to allow thousands of cases of popular Stolichnaya vodka to be shipped from Russian ports, claiming them as state property.

In a letter we obtained to U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, recalls that prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian vodka products were state-owned. Then, beginning in 1991, numerous Russian industries, vodka among them, were privatized, with many enlisting the financial backing of U.S. corporations, which in effect became legal owners.

"Now, Russia is attempting to re-nationalize the vodka industry," says Mr. Rohrabacher, casting doubt on Russia's ability to be a reliable member of the international economic community, while leaving U.S. owners of Russian vodka and stateside drinkers high and dry.


Welch-aid

Aiming to win back the Senate stolen out from under them, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has brought aboard veteran fund-raiser Ted Welch as its new national finance chairman.

"His fund-raising abilities are legendary and he understands how important it is for Republicans to regain the Senate majority," says Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican and NRSC chairman. One-time Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour calls Mr. Welch "a real catch."

Along with fellow Tennessean and former Sen. Howard Baker, Mr. Welch in 1981 founded the Republican Majority Fund, which soon became the second-largest political action committee in the country. Most recently, he served on the executive committee of the Bush for President Finance Committee.

The New York Times Magazine has called Mr. Welch "perhaps the best political fund-raiser ever."


Banister for Shirley

Craig Shirley & Associates, the Washington-area public relations firm whose client list includes the Manhattan Institute and National Rifle Association, is henceforth "Shirley & Banister Public Affairs."

"Our growth over the past few years has been nothing less than phenomenal," says Mr. Shirley, crediting much of the development to Diana Banister, vice president and partner of the 10-year-old firm.


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