Monday, December 8, 2003

Dean’s abortion ties

As the front-runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and the only physician in the field of candidates, has been clear about his support for abortion rights, but adamant that he hasn’t performed any abortions, Marc Morano reports at

“I did not perform abortions. I’m a medical doctor. Nor did my wife,” Mr. Dean told a Boston television station in July. Mr. Dean’s wife, Judith, also is a physician.

Yet, Mr. Dean’s extensive ties to the Northern New England chapter of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., including an internship and work as a contract obstetrician/gynecologist at one of the group’s Vermont clinics in the late 1970s and early 1980s, are producing more questions about the nature of that involvement at a time when Planned Parenthood was cementing its role as America’s largest abortion provider, the reporter said.

While Mr. Dean may not find his Planned Parenthood connections too politically damaging in Iowa and New Hampshire, site of the nation’s first two major political contests, there could be some fallout in the crucial Feb. 3 Democratic primary in South Carolina, where voters are more culturally conservative.

Mr. Dean has been one of the Democratic field’s most vocal supporters of legalized abortion, including partial-birth abortion, which Congress and President Bush moved to ban this year.

Sharpton and Nader

Steve Miller of The Washington Times, in a story yesterday about whether Ralph Nader will run for president again (wait and see), reported the odd fact that just a few months ago Democratic presidential contender the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network had sent a $1,000 political contribution to the former Green Party presidential candidate.

However, a spokeswoman for Mr. Nader yesterday cleared up the mystery of why Mr. Sharpton would be sending cash to the man whom some Democrats blame for Vice President Al Gore’s defeat in 2000.

Theresa Amato, director of the Nader 2004 Presidential Exploratory Committee, said the check to the now-terminated Nader 2000 General Committee, dated Sept. 22, 2003, stems from an event at the National Action Network in 2000.

“It was just some bookkeeping,” Miss Amato said.

Newspaper accounts of the Nov. 6, 2000, event reported that Mr. Nader was a guest of Mr. Sharpton.

The New York Times reported at the time that “Mr. Sharpton, who said he might seek the city’s Democratic nomination for mayor next year, has endorsed Mr. Gore. But he said it was appropriate to invite Mr. Nader so that blacks could hear him and so that he could respond to their concerns.”

The Hartford Courant quoted Mr. Sharpton as saying: “People should not insult us by saying that there should not be debate. I do not believe in plantation politics — I don’t care who doesn’t like it. We are not going to be boys, we will stand up like men and women.”

The Sharpton-Nader connection extends to Sharpton pals as well. Academic and activist Cornel West supported Mr. Nader in 2000 and is an unofficial adviser to Mr. Sharpton.

Dean’s big lead

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean holds a 25-point lead in New Hampshire over Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts seven weeks before the state’s Democratic presidential primary, according to a poll released yesterday.

Mr. Dean was at 39 percent and Mr. Kerry at 14 percent in the poll by Franklin Pierce College.

More than one in four likely primary voters, or 27 percent, were undecided. All other candidates garnered single digits, including Wesley Clark and Sen. John Edwards, who were at 5 percent each. Sen. Joe Lieberman was at 4 percent and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri at 3 percent. At 1 percent each were Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, the Rev. Al Sharpton and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois.

Two-thirds in the poll, including more than half of Mr. Kerry’s supporters, said they expect Mr. Dean to win the primary, the Associated Press reports.

The poll of 600 likely primary voters was taken Dec. 1 through Thursday and had a margin of error of four percentage points.

Clark’s promises

Democrat Wesley Clark, looking to convince voters that he has the domestic-policy credentials to be president, plans to roll out a series of goals this week so voters can hold him accountable if he becomes president, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

The retired Army general said in a conference call with reporters that he would announce five domestic targets for a potential Clark presidency:

• To raise family income by $3,000.

• To create environmental protections that will save 100,000 people from premature death by 2020.

• To increase college enrollment by 1 million students.

• To lift 2 million children out of poverty.

• To extend health care to 30 million Americans without coverage.

Campaign aides said he would release details of the plans in stops in New Hampshire, New York City and Tennessee.

Probe sought

A top Democrat yesterday urged the House ethics committee to probe a Republican congressman’s contention, which was retracted, that bribes were offered to win passage of the Medicare prescription drug bill.

“I think the ethics committee ought to investigate,” said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat.

He did not formally request a probe but told reporters that the panel has “a responsibility when manifestly there has been raised an issue of this House’s reputation and conduct.”

Rep. Nick Smith, a Michigan Republican who plans to retire in January 2005, said in a statement shortly after the House narrowly passed the Medicare bill on Nov. 22 that “bribes and special deals were offered to convince members to vote yes.”

Mr. Smith, who voted no, cited offers of “extensive financial campaign support and endorsements” for his son, Brad Smith, who is running to replace him in Congress.

Mr. Smith last week backed off the bribery assertion as calls were made for a Justice Department investigation.

“I want to make clear that no member of Congress made an offer of financial assistance for my son’s campaign in exchange for my vote on the Medicare bill,” he said in another statement.

“I see no need for an ethics investigation, let alone a criminal investigation.”

South Carolina poll

A poll shows former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean leading a tight pack of Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination in South Carolina.

The Zogby International survey has Mr. Dean atop the field at 11 percent, followed closely by Wesley Clark and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, each at 9 percent.

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who is banking on a strong finish in South Carolina to keep his flagging campaign alive, came in fourth at 7 percent, United Press International reports.

The survey, conducted last Tuesday through Thursday, has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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