- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 5, 2004

Every vote counts?

“Should a vote in Los Angeles count more than a vote in Montana? That’s one question raised by an analysis of Census Bureau data conducted by researchers at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which finds that nine congressional seats would have been allotted to different states in 2000 had noncitizens (including illegal aliens) been excluded from the counts Congress uses to allocate seats,” the Atlantic magazine reports in its March issue.

“For example, according to the CIS, California, home to 5.4 million noncitizens, would have six fewer representatives if citizens alone had been counted when the 435 seats in the House were divvied up,” the magazine article said.

“The practice of counting noncitizens when making apportionment decisions doesn’t just tend to exaggerate the political influence of states with high immigrant populations; it also has a striking effect on the clout of individual voters. Consider California’s 31st District, in Los Angeles, where 43 percent of the residents are noncitizens and cannot vote. Because each House district is required to have an equal number of residents, rather than citizens, far fewer votes are required to win an election there — 34,000 in 2002, compared with an average of nearly 100,000 in the districts of the four states that lost a seat in the 2000 reapportionment.”

Finding the truth

“The investigation into just how memos written for Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee ended up in the hands of Senate Republicans and the media is not likely to be resolved once the official investigation into how they were leaked is completed,” Peter Roff writes.

“The matter has helped further inflame the already heated passions on both sides of the aisle. Those allied with the Democrats want blood, implying that the memos were stolen or obtained through computer hacking. Many of those normally allied with the Republicans argue that how they were obtained is less important than what they say,” said Mr. Roff, senior political analyst for United Press International (UPI).

“At least one Republican close to the issue says the memos were obtained through a computer glitch that, from a legal standpoint, is the equivalent of them having been left on the desk of a GOP committee staff member. The memos contain information that, as far as the Democrats are concerned, is politically damaging, hence their outrage over the leak.

“But some folks say it may be even worse. One person who has seen the memos argues that they also include information that can only be described as evidence of political corruption and that the federal whistleblower statute should protect the people who made them public. Senate Republicans, who one person involved in the issues said, ‘are more concerned with saving face than with getting to the truth,’ reportedly do not want the debate over the leaked memos to go down that road. At least one source close to the issue says they may have no choice in the matter.”

Informal probe

House ethics leaders have initiated an “informal” investigation into supposed efforts to bribe Rep. Nick Smith, Michigan Republican, into voting for the Medicare prescription-drug bill.

Ethics Committee Chairman Joel Hefley, Colorado Republican, and ranking Democrat Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia released a statement late Wednesday, saying an “informal fact-finding” into offers made to Mr. Smith during last year’s unprecedented, three-hour vote on Medicare prescription-drug legislation was opened Dec. 8.

Mr. Hefley previously has dismissed calls from Democrats for a formal investigation as politically motivated, UPI reports.

Mr. Smith has said he was encouraged to vote in favor of the drug bill by unnamed persons who suggested his son, who is running for the retiring legislator’s seat, could receive campaign assistance in return for a changed vote.

Mr. Smith has backed away from his initial statements and refused to say who was involved in the conversations.

He was quoted in yesterday’s Congress Daily AM as doubting the productiveness of the inquiry, saying no member is dumb enough to offer another member of Congress money.

Porker of the Year

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, has been named Porker of the Year 2003 by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).

Mr. Specter finished first with 51 percent of the vote in an online poll, outdistancing his competitors by a 2-to-1 margin, the organization said yesterday.

The other finalists, in order of votes received, were Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, 25 percent; Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, 14 percent; Rep. Jim Gibbons Nevada Republican, 6 percent; and Rep. Terry Everett, Alabama Republican, 4 percent.

The five finalists were chosen by CAGW staff from among the 11 Porker of the Month winners throughout 2003 and voted on by more than 3,300 participants.

Mr. Specter was selected as the October Porker of the Month for including language in fiscal 2004 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act that provided $1.4 million for three pork-barrel projects in Pennsylvania. He also acted to remove limits on the number of mailings senators can send to their constituents in counties with less than 250,000 people.

The new chairman

Rep. Joe L. Barton, Texas Republican, soon will be named chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sources told United Press International yesterday.

Mr. Barton announced his bid for the chairmanship shortly after Rep. Billy Tauzin, Louisiana Republican, said he would give up the Energy and Commerce gavel before the end of the current Congress. Sources tell UPI that none of the other Republicans with enough seniority to be considered for the post are campaigning for it.

Mr. Tauzin is widely assumed to be in line to take over the leadership of a pharmaceutical trade association and will not be running for re-election in 2004.

Hands-on mayor

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has begun making surprise visits to the city’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood after slayings there, raising concerns among police investigators that he will interview witnesses and be forced to testify in court about his encounters, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, has involved himself in at least two homicide cases since taking office last month, once Sunday to survey the scene of a killing a few hours after it had occurred and once to try to talk with a witness, police said. The mayor has told investigators to expect more such visits.

“The mayor said he is hands-on, he is going to be monitoring the homicide situation in San Francisco, and he expects to see results,” said Lt. John Hennessey, head of the homicide detail. “He said we shouldn’t be surprised that he visited the neighborhoods or be surprised if he visits the neighborhood in the future.”

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

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