- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Rumsfeld’s consultant

Stephen Herbits, a homosexual rights activist who advises Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on personnel matters, gave $1,000 to the Gore-Lieberman Recount Fund in 2000, the conservative weekly Human Events reports.

Mr. Herbits also contributed $17,000 to other Democrats in 2000 and gave some assistance to former Attorney General Janet Reno during her bid last year to unseat Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president’s brother, the newspaper said. He made no contributions to Republicans.

Elaine Donnelly, president of the conservative Center for Military Readiness, expressed surprise and dismay.

“In the opinion of CMR, which supports the rights of military voters, anyone who contributed so generously to Al Gore’s Florida Recount Campaign, which worked very hard to throw out presidential ballots cast by military people serving overseas, should not be a Pentagon consultant, even on an ‘intermittent’ basis,” Mrs. Donnelly said in an e-mail memo.

“Nor should such an activist committed to the cause of homosexuals in the military be in a position to negatively review loyal Republican candidates for Pentagon policy-making positions, as well as promotions of officers and subordinates responsible for making policy on Herbits’ own favorite issue: homosexuals in the military.”

The Advocate, a publication that caters to homosexuals, last year described Mr. Herbits as “furious about the way in which a 5-to-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court decided the outcome of the Florida recount.” The Advocate also quoted Mr. Herbits as expressing disdain for Jeb Bush and describing then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, as “corrupt.”

Edwards’ contributor

The American Tort Reform Association has asked presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, to return a $75,000 contribution to his political action committee that was given by a fellow personal-injury lawyer indicted last week for bribery.

Mississippi lawyer Paul Minor was charged in Jackson with 16 counts of bribery. He is accused of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans and gifts to a state supreme court justice and two other judges who are now retired.

“John Edwards says he prides himself as being a former personal-injury lawyer,” ATRA President Sherman Joyce said. “If so, he should place himself above reproach and return these funds.”

Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie called on several Democratic campaign committees to return $189,500 in contributions since 1989 from Mr. Minor.

“It’s one thing for Democrats to obstruct quality judges and thwart much-needed litigation reform on behalf of wealthy trial-lawyer Democrats,” Mr. Gillespie said. “It’s another to take nearly $200,000 from a trial lawyer who’s been indicted for rigging the judicial system.”

The Alabama battle

Alabama’s new governor is trying to persuade voters to approve the biggest tax increase in state history in a Sept. 9 referendum by telling them it is their Christian duty. And for a state in the Bible Belt, that might seem like a winning strategy.

Instead, Republican Gov. Bob Riley’s $1.2 billion tax package is alienating even the Christian Coalition and other supporters, who see Mr. Riley as a Judas, the Associated Press reports. Mr. Riley had consistently opposed new taxes while in Congress.

Mr. Riley says the tax increase is needed to erase Alabama’s biggest deficit since the Depression and improve education. The plan also seeks to help the poor by raising the income level at which people have to begin paying state taxes.

“According to our Christian ethics, we’re supposed to love God, love each other and help take care of the poor,” he said. “It is immoral to charge somebody making $5,000 an income tax.”

Two of the governor’s Cabinet members resigned after Mr. Riley made the proposal. One of them, Labor Commissioner Charles Bishop, leads opposition to the tax plan, saying Alabama voters thought they were getting one kind of governor last year but instead have another.

Mr. Riley’s plan trailed by 10 points in a statewide poll of 500 registered voters last week.

Rocket men

A key to stopping terrorists on American soil is to crack down on hobby rocketeers, two Democratic senators say.

Sens. Charles E. Schumer of New York and Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey have moved to block a bill sponsored by Sen. Michael B. Enzi, Wyoming Republican, that would exempt high-powered model rocket users from undergoing background checks as mandated by the Homeland Security Act.

“Allowing anybody to walk into a store and buy huge amounts of rocket fuel is ludicrous,” Mr. Schumer said, raising the specter of the Unabomber, whom he said could have produced even more powerful bombs if this bill became law.

“Common sense says that in a post 9/11 world, we should be tightening these laws, not relaxing them,” Mr. Schumer said. “If this bill becomes law, terrorists could masquerade as rocket hobbyists.

“The terrorists have proven themselves smarter than your average criminals,” Mr. Schumer said. “They look for loopholes to crawl through, and this is a big one.”

Mr. Lautenberg said “inconvenience is a way of life” in the United States today, so those who like to launch rockets for fun will just have to get used to jumping through hoops, “just like we wait in line at the airport.”

“Some of the rockets people are building these days aren’t ‘models.’ They are missiles with tips that can be filled with explosives, or biological or chemical weapons,” Mr. Lautenberg said.

Mr. Enzi, who introduced his bill in March and has attracted 13 co-sponsors, thinks such concerns are unwarranted.

“People who build and launch model rockets for fun aren’t the bad guys,” Mr. Enzi said. “They shouldn’t have to go through a rigorous set of obstacles in order to enjoy their hobby.”

Mr. Enzi points out that his bill applies only to nondetonatable propellants and does not exempt “high-energy” fuel, which amateur rocketeers don’t use anyway.

NASCAR’s cutoff

NASCAR has cut off funding for Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, USA Today reports.

According to the newspaper, “A person familiar with NASCAR’s internal decisions confirmed that the racing organization has not paid Jackson’s group any money in 2003 and doesn’t plan to.”

The newspaper said NASCAR has given a total of $250,000 to the Rainbow/PUSH sports division, generating criticism from conservative groups and racing fans, who see the money as appeasement.

CNSNews.com reported earlier this year that Bill Shack, a board member of Mr. Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said auto-racing organizations such as NASCAR are the “last bastion of white supremacy.”

Music lobbyist

The recording industry named Republican political veteran Mitch Bainwol its head lobbyist, giving music companies a direct channel to Senate Republicans.

As chairman and chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America beginning Sept. 1, Mr. Bainwol will oversee an industry beleaguered by declining sales and rampant piracy through Internet file-swapping services, the Associated Press reports.

He replaces Hilary Rosen, who said she was leaving the organization where she had served as chief executive since 1998 for personal reasons.

Mr. Bainwol, who recently opened his own consulting firm, was briefly the chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and before that the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which raises money to get Republicans elected to the Senate. He was also chief of staff to then-Sen. Connie Mack, Florida Republican, for nearly a decade.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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