- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

‘No’ in Illinois

Despite pleas from national Republican leaders, the Illinois state treasurer said she won’t run for the U.S. Senate seat that her fellow Republican, Peter G. Fitzgerald, is giving up after one term.

“I am not fond of Washington. I prefer to live in Illinois,” Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, also the state party’s chairman, said Monday. “I have no desire to run, and I will not do so.”

Republican leaders had met with her Monday to try to persuade her to run, the Associated Press reports. She is the only statewide Republican officeholder to survive an election debacle in November.

“I am the state’s only Republican constitutional officer, and if I won the election, a Democrat would be appointed to my job,” Mrs. Topinka said. “Not a good idea.”

Another prominent state Republican, former Gov. Jim Edgar, has already announced he won’t seek the seat in 2004.

Gephardt’s mistake

“Presidential candidate and former House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt has dug himself an early grave in his pursuit of the White House. Since the first of the year, he has missed 84 percent of the votes in the House of Representatives,” Dick Morris writes in the New York Post.

“Gephardt did not do the honest thing and resign since he wasn’t planning to show up for work. Instead, he let us continue to pay his $154,700 salary. At more than $5,000 per vote, the American people might find him a trifle expensive,” Mr. Morris said.

“Gephardt may have favored the Democratic alternative to the Bush tax cut, but he missed the chance to vote on it. He may support more adult education in worker retraining, but he missed that vote too. Doubtless he will campaign as an apostle of family values, but he missed the votes on the Exploitation of Children Act, the Child Abduction Prevention Act and the Human Cloning Prohibition Act.

“When the presidential campaign begins in earnest, he’ll eat every one these votes for breakfast, served up in negative ads.”

Lack of ‘sunshine’

A former president of the Florida Senate reported to jail yesterday for violating the state’s open-government “sunshine” law, one of the toughest in the nation.

W.D. Childers, who became chairman of the Escambia County Board of Commissioners after leaving the Senate, is the first elected official sent to jail for violating the 1967 law’s open-meeting section, records show. He was sentenced to 60 days.

Mr. Childers, a Republican, was also ordered Monday to pay a $500 fine and about $3,600 in court costs and prosecution expenses for discussing public business in private with other commissioners.

He discussed redistricting in a telephone call with the county election supervisor while another commissioner listened on a speaker phone. He pleaded no contest to talking with two of the commissioners about county building projects.

War of words

The Phoenix branch of cable provider Cox Communications reversed an earlier decision yesterday, and agreed to air a TV commercial critical of President Bush’s tax-cut plan that re-enacts a blood plasma drive held to help pay a teacher’s salary.

Andrea Katsenes, company spokeswoman, had said earlier that the spot was turned down because Cox officials in Phoenix found the commercial “in poor taste.”

But the company said in a statement yesterday afternoon that, after seeing the ad, it decided to begin running it.

The ad recreates an event in Eugene, Ore., last month in which 50 parents lined up outside a clinic to sell their plasma to help pay a teacher’s salary, the Associated Press reports.

“George Bush’s tax cuts for the rich” are to blame for shortfalls in education funding, the commercial contends, without mentioning that state and local governments provide more than 90 percent of public school funding.

The commercial was produced for MoveOn.org, an online political activist group formed originally to defend President Clinton from charges that he committed perjury.

War of words II

“Readers of the New York Times could not miss the full-page ad in yesterday’s edition, sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund, a liberal nonprofit organization,” United Press International reports in its Capital Comment column.

“The ad attempted to pull on the emotional heart strings of readers, saying the Bush administration’s proposed tax cut ‘leaves no millionaire behind … just millions of children.’

“According to the ad, the administration intends to ‘dismantle’ the early learning Head Start program along with block grant Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to the states, and ‘slash and freeze crucial services’ to find the money ‘to pay for massive new tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans hoping that it will spur the economy.’ The ad also includes an appeal for contributions, which the group points out are tax-deductible.”

Medicare debate

A poll released today may have implications for lawmakers as they grapple with how best to change the Medicare program.

The survey, conducted May 4-6 by Republican pollster Ayres, McHenry and Associates Inc., surveyed 800 Medicare beneficiaries, half of whom are in traditional fee-for-service Medicare and half of whom are in Medicare plus Choice, administered by a private-sector health plan. It found that four out of five Medicare beneficiaries believe it is important for seniors to have the choice of a health plan other than Medicare, such as Medicare plus Choice. Even among those in traditional fee-for-service Medicare, 72 percent agreed it is important for seniors to have a choice of plans.

“As Congress considers legislation to modernize Medicare and add prescription drug coverage, it should listen to seniors and offer more choices,” said Karen Ignagni, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Health Plans, the group that commissioned the poll.

No vouchers, y’all

Louisiana might seem the most likely of all the states to embrace school vouchers: It has several troubled public schools, a centuries-old Roman Catholic school tradition and the nation’s highest percentage of students in private or home schools.

But halfway through the state’s 2003 legislative session, voucher bills appear to be dead, the Associated Press reports. Not even last summer’s Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of taxpayer-subsidized private school tuition could provide the momentum voucher supporters needed.

State Rep. Carl Crane, Baton Rouge Republican, says the issue is dead for this session, noting that “this is an election year.”

In Louisiana, all 39 state Senate and 105 state House seats are up for grabs this fall and every candidate seeking one of those positions will face scrutiny from two teacher unions and associations representing school boards, school superintendents and school principals.

Bush on the stump

President Bush continued his campaign yesterday for a larger tax-cut package than the $350 billion one Congress is debating this week.

“For the sake of economic vitality, Congress has got to act and act boldly on this plan to get more of your own money back to you,” Mr. Bush told about 7,500 people at the State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.

Even though Mr. Bush’s original economic proposal called for $726 billion in taxes, he said he now endorses the $550 billion House version. The president also disputed Democratic claims that his tax-cut plan mostly benefits the rich.

“In Washington, they’ll say, ‘Well, this is only for a certain class of people,’” the Associated Press reports Mr. Bush as saying. “That’s the old, tired, stale class-warfare argument.”

The president also told balking members of Congress to get on board with the White House plan.

“I want there to be one thing on your mind when it comes to debating what’s right or wrong. It’s not politics. It’s helping people find a job in the United States of America,” Mr. Bush said he told lawmakers when he offered his tax-cut plan.

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