- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog who annually predicts how long winter will last, came to Capitol Hill yesterday to defend a $100,000 federal grant for the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center. The grant, which was added to a huge spending bill that Congress recently passed, has come under attack by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and lawmakers, such as Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, as a prime example of pork-barrel spending.

Rep. John E. Peterson, the Pennsylvania Republican who inserted the provision into the spending bill, disagrees, so he brought the famous forecaster to town to “demonstrate the difference between ‘pork-barrel’ spending and legitimate federal earmarks.”

Mr. Peterson said the “one-of-a-kind” weather museum “will help promote tourism in a beautiful, historic region” that has suffered from economic problems.

But CAGW and Mr. Flake weren’t buying it.

“If they are trying to make a silk purse out of a groundhog’s ear, it isn’t working,” Mr. Flake said. “I’m sure this weather museum does some great things, but why is the federal government paying for it? The earmarking process has gotten out of control in Congress.”

CAGW responded by naming Mr. Peterson and Phil the groundhog as co-porkers of the month.

Fertility factor

What explains the divide between Republican-voting “red” states and Democratic-voting “blue” states? It’s the “baby gap,” Steve Sailer explains in the American Conservative.

“The white people in Republican-voting regions consistently have more children than the white people in Democratic-voting regions. The more kids whites have, the more pro-Bush they get,” Mr. Sailer writes, adding, “Whites remain the 800-pound gorilla of ethnic electoral groups, accounting for over three out of every four votes.”

Focusing on total fertility rates — average lifetime births per woman — Mr. Sailer observes: “The most fecund whites are in heavily Mormon Utah, which, not coincidentally, was the only state where Bush received over 70 percent. White women average 2.45 babies in Utah, compared to merely 1.11 babies in Washington, D.C., where Bush earned but 9 percent. The three New England states where Bush won less than 40 percent — Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island — are three of the four states with the lowest white birth rates. …

“Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility (just as he did in 2000), and 25 out of the top 26, with highly unionized Michigan being the one blue exception to the rule. …

“In sharp contrast, Kerry won the 16 states at the bottom of the list, with the Democrats’ anchor states of California (1.65) and New York (1.72) having quite infertile whites.”

No and no

Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson turned down a Bush Cabinet post and rebuffed appeals from Republican leaders to switch parties, the Omaha World-Herald reported yesterday.

Mr. Nelson’s future has been subject of renewed speculation ever since the president selected Nebraska Republican Gov. Mike Johanns, Mr. Nelson’s most likely Republican opponent in 2006, as his nominee for agriculture secretary.

Before settling on Mr. Johanns, however, the White House had reached out to Mr. Nelson to see whether he was interested in the job. Mr. Nelson turned down the offer, although he did say he might be interested in heading either the Commerce or Energy department, United Press International said.

At roughly the same time, two Republican leaders approached the Nebraska Democrat about joining the Republican Party, according to a source who spoke Monday on the condition of anonymity. Mr. Nelson declined their entreaties, and the conversations didn’t go forward, the source said.

Another candidate

Former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard said yesterday he is considering entering the race for Democratic National Committee chairman.

Mr. Blanchard will take part in a candidates’ forum at the Association of State Democratic Chairs convention on Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

“I am preliminarily exploring it, because I’ve had a lot of encouragement,” Mr. Blanchard told the Associated Press. “They said if there’s any possibility that you might be running, you should be down there” at the meeting.

Mr. Blanchard, 62, was Michigan governor from 1983 to 1990 and later was ambassador to Canada.

Along with Mr. Blanchard, those scheduled to speak at the candidates forum are former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean; outgoing Rep. Martin Frost of Texas; New York businessman Leo J. Hindery Jr.; Donnie Fowler, who directed Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign in Michigan; Simon Rosenberg, founder and president of the centrist New Democrat Network; and former Denver MayorWellington Webb.

On second thought

“Republicans spent much of the presidential primary season trying to shutter political groups created by Democrats for the new era of campaign finance. Now they have more power to do so,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“But chances of that happening appear slim. One reason why: Given the strength of similar Republican groups in the 2004 homestretch, many in President Bush’s party now see so-called 527 groups as a potential asset, not a threat,” reporter Jeanne Cummings writes.

“The Republicans got a late start, having spent months unsuccessfully pressuring the Federal Election Commission to rein in the Democratic operations. But by the election, Internal Revenue Service records show, pro-Bush groups had raised more than $80 million, and launched some of the most consequential attacks on Democratic nominee John Kerry. Texas developer Bob J. Perry led Republican donors by giving $8 million to pro-Bush 527 groups, such as Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth.

“‘The great irony here is the pro-Democratic groups started this whole 527 scam, and in the end, it was the pro-Republican 527s that had the greatest impact,’ says Fred Wertheimer, a veteran of campaign-finance overhaul.”

Parting shot

Mary Frances Berry resigned from her post as chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission yesterday, but left with a parting shot in her letter to President Bush.

In the letter, written on the letterhead of the University of Pennsylvania’s history department, where Ms. Berry is a professor, she contends that her term ends Jan. 21, rather than Dec. 5, as the White House records state.

“Were this issue put before the courts, I am certain the distinction would be clear, and I would prevail in my position,” she wrote. “However, given that the conclusion of my tenure is only a few weeks away, a legal challenge would be an unwise expenditure of resources.”

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

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