- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2003

Targeting the FEC

Proponents of a plan to abolish the Federal Election Commission argued yesterday that a new panel would ensure better enforcement of election laws, but the Democratic chairman of the FEC rejected the proposal as unworkable.

Under the plan, the FEC would be eliminated and campaign finance laws would be enforced by a new agency called the Federal Election Administration, comprising three persons — a chairman and two members — to eliminate the possibility of deadlocked votes. The president would appoint the three, with the Senate’s consent; the two members would have to come from different political parties.

The FEC is made up of three Democratic and three Republican commissioners, and four votes are required to take action. FEC Chairman Ellen Weintraub, a former Democratic campaign lawyer, said that under the lawmakers’ proposal, whichever party controlled the White House would likely have a majority of the three-member panel.

“It creates the potential for one side to get rolled by the other,” she said. “I don’t know why anybody would want to have a system like that.”

The legislation is being promoted by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican; Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat; Rep. Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat; and Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican. The four legislators were the prime sponsors of a campaign finance reform law now under challenge at the Supreme Court.

The four lawmakers have complained about how the FEC wrote the rules to enforce the law.

Declaring independence

The editors of National Review think that “this is not a bad time for conservatives to declare their independence from the GOP establishment.”

One way to do that, they said, is to support conservative Rep. Patrick J. Toomey in his primary challenge to liberal Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican.

“The news this summer has been rather bleak for conservatives,” the magazine says in its July 23 issue.

“The Supreme Court first decided to write ‘diversity’ into the Constitution. A few days later, it issued a ruling on sodomy laws that called into question its willingness to tolerate any state laws based on traditional understandings of sexual morality. In neither case was there much pretense that the Court was merely following the law. At this point it takes real blindness to deny that the Court rules us and, on emotionally charged policy issues, rules us in accord with liberal sensibilities.

“And while the Court issued its edicts and the rest of the world adjusted, a huge prescription-drug bill made its way through Congress. That bill will add at least $400 billion to federal spending over the next 10 years, and it comes on top of already gargantuan spending increases over the last five years. The fact that a pro-growth tax cut is going into effect this summer hardly compensates for these developments — especially since expanding entitlements threaten to exert upward pressure on tax rates in the future.

“Republicans have been complicit in each of these debacles. Both the affirmative-action and sodomy decisions were written by Reagan appointees. President Bush actually cheered the affirmative-action decision for recognizing the value of ‘diversity.’ Bush has requested spending increases, and not just for defense and homeland security. He has failed to veto spending increases that went beyond his requests. But let it not be said that the president has led his party astray. Many congressional Republicans have strayed even more enthusiastically.”

A partisan probe

“Every American wants to know what went wrong in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks. So it would be nice to think that the people charged with finding that out were more interested in the task at hand than in politics as usual,” the Wall Street Journal says.

“That’s apparently too much to ask from the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States — better known as the 9/11 Commission. Its first notable business has been to orchestrate a campaign of media leaks and quotes (please dial Senator John McCain for on-the-record outrage) that the Bush Administration is impeding its investigation by, among other crimes, not delivering documents fast enough,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“A better question is why the Administration is cooperating at all with what looks more and more like a probe with a partisan edge. At last count, the commission has requested millions of pages of documents from 16 government agencies — all of which it apparently wants right now. …

“We’re prepared to believe that the Bush Administration made mistakes, but on 9/11 it had barely been in office long enough to rearrange the furniture. The commission’s passion for documents raises suspicions that it’s looking for some ‘gotcha’ memo — a ‘Dear Condi’ e-mail or a ‘Yours sincerely, Don’ letter that would purportedly ‘prove’ that someone was asleep at the switch before September 11, 2001.

“This suspicion is fueled by the commission’s makeup. The Republican chairman, Tom Kean, is an affable former governor who knows little about foreign policy and defense. His fellow GOP commissioners all have other full-time jobs.

“The Democrats, meanwhile, include partisans Jamie Gorelick and Richard Ben-Veniste, who’d love to be attorney general in the next Democratic administration, perhaps as early as 2005. A third Democrat, Max Cleland, was recently featured in The Washington Post as intensely bitter at the White House over his Senate defeat last year. None of this bodes well for high-minded, dispassionate statesmanship.”

Powell’s approach

Colin L. Powell says he doesn’t see himself as a black man in his role as secretary of state.

“I try to do my job to the best of my ability and I don’t see myself acting as a black man or a white man,” Mr. Powell tells conservative pundit Armstrong Williams in the August issue of Savoy magazine, which has a mostly black readership. “I say to many audiences, ‘I’m not the black secretary of state. I am the secretary of state who happens to be black.’ I talk about my history and I talk about my legacy as a black man. I am proud of being a black man and proud of what all those who came before me did, but I don’t rest on it, I don’t take advantage of it and I don’t use it.”

The man who was called a “house slave” by black activist and has-been actor Harry Belafonte dismissed any suggestion that he should be judged by anything less than his accomplishments.

“We’ve worked hard to reach that point in American life where people should be held accountable on the basis of performance and nothing else,” he said. “That is what Dr. King was talking about.”

Springer’s candidacy

Jerry Springer, the talk show host who put wife-swappers, strippers and skinheads on the air and then watched the punches fly, will file papers to run for the U.S. Senate from Ohio as early as today, advisers said.

Mr. Springer, 59, a former Cincinnati mayor, will not decide whether to actually run until later this month, said Mike Ford, his political adviser.

The early filing is necessary to avoid getting into legal trouble for raising money without officially declaring a candidacy, Mr. Ford said.

Mr. Springer is airing 30-minute infomercials across the nation to raise money and build support for his possible run for the Democratic nomination next year.

It was not immediately scheduled to air in Ohio because of concerns over equal access, meaning TV stations would have to offer equivalent time to other candidates, the Associated Press reports.

The infomercial focuses on a comment by National Review commentator Jonah Goldberg on a Sunday-morning talk show several months ago. Mr. Goldberg warned of new people brought to the polls by Mr. Springer, including “slack-jawed yokels, hicks, weirdos, pervs and whatnots.”

The infomercial offers that quote on a T-shirt and inserted into a signed photograph of Mr. Springer next to a sign for Hicksville, Ohio. Mr. Springer refers to the quote and talks about wanting to reach out to “regular folks … who weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth.”

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

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