- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2004

Conn. subpoena

Federal authorities have stepped up their corruption investigation of Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland’s administration, serving a subpoena this week for records related to construction work and renovations to the governor’s mansion.

The state Department of Public Works, which oversees operation of the state-owned residence in Hartford, is being ordered to produce documents dating back eight years. The subpoena, obtained by the Associated Press, was served on the agency on Monday.

Whether investigators are interested in any particular contracts or contractors was not clear.

“We have and will continue to comply with all subpoenas,” said Dean Pagani, Mr. Rowland’s spokesman and chief of staff.

The Republican governor is under fire for lying about who paid for improvements to his summer cottage in Litchfield County. Mr. Rowland initially said he paid for the renovations himself, but disclosed Dec. 12 that much of the work was provided as gifts by state contractors and state employees.

Mr. Rowland’s admission came amid a federal investigation into possible bid-rigging by members of his administration. A former deputy chief of staff for Mr. Rowland pleaded guilty in March to accepting bribes for steering state contracts.

Some of the people who helped pay for improvements at Mr. Rowland’s vacation home are being scrutinized as part of the bid-rigging probe. Some subcontractors who worked on the cottage said they were promised state work if they gave the governor a good deal.

Mr. Rowland has said he did not promise any state work to those working on his cottage. He also has denied any wrongdoing.

A harsh campaign

“When Democratic Party officials devised their primary calendar for 2004, they produced a rapid-fire voting schedule intended to quickly produce a nominee who could escape the battering that has hobbled so many presidential candidates over the years,” New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney noted yesterday in a front-page story.

“But less than three weeks before the first vote in the nominating process, the caucuses [in Iowa] on Jan. 19, it appears possible that the party has achieved just half of its goal. The Democrats may get their early nominee, party officials say, but it now appears likely to be someone bruised by the nominating fight and confronted with the challenge of uniting a deeply divided party,” the reporter said.

“In a classic case of unintended consequences, a process intended to produce unity, a strong candidate, and a compelling platform to take against President Bush has so far produced a campaign that many Democrats describe as strikingly harsh and marked more by daily bickering than sweeping themes or compelling ideas on where to take the country.”

Unlikely donor

The Halliburton Co. has contributed $1,000 to one of its top critics — Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat.

According to recently released monthly campaign finance reports, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company made the donation through its political action committee in November.

And Mr. Waxman, despite his denunciations of the energy giant’s Pentagon contract, intends to keep the money, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.

“We always regard contributions as an expression of support for our work,” said Waxman aide Phil Schiliro.

Halliburton officials, for their part, did not return calls to discuss the contribution and only released a written statement saying the company “embraces diverse opinions and believes it is vital for continued success.”

Candidate wanted

Hoping to stop state Rep. Gary Haluska from winning a sixth term, Republicans in the Johnstown, Pa., area have taken the unusual step of placing a classified ad in a newspaper seeking state House hopefuls.

Republicans have about a month to gather the 300 signatures on nominating petitions, spurring Cambria County Republican Chairman Robert A. Gleason Jr. to cast a wide net for candidates, the Associated Press reports.

Enticements include $62,000 a year, leased car, mileage paid and a pension.

“It’s not a bad job, and it’s well paid for a little bit of work,” Mr. Gleason said.

The hardest part of the job may be unseating Mr. Haluska, a Democrat who has held the seat in the county of 152,000 — where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1 — since 1994.

Willie’s wail

Willie Nelson plans to debut an antiwar ballad tomorrow in Austin, Texas, at a fund-raising concert for Democratic presidential candidate Dennis J. Kucinich.

Mr. Nelson said he planned to record “What Ever Happened to Peace on Earth” this week in Nashville, Tenn., and rush-release it as a single.

“Now, I haven’t played it for Toby [Keith] yet,” a laughing Mr. Nelson told the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman for Tuesday editions. Although the two country singers are close friends — and recently had a duet hit with “Beer for My Horses” — the sentiments of Mr. Nelson’s song are the polar opposite of Mr. Keith’s militant war anthem, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.”

The Nelson song asks questions such as “How much oil is a human life worth?” the Associated Press reports.

Barbour’s big party

Country music singers Kenny Rogers, the Gatlin Brothers and Steve Azar will entertain guests at Mississippi Gov.-elect Haley Barbour’s Jan. 12 inaugural gala.

Tickets to the invitation-only event at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson range from $40 each for floor-level seats to $25 for mezzanine and upper-level seating.

While the gala and the Jan. 13 inaugural ball require tickets, other events will be free and open to the public, the Associated Press reports.

The Gatlin Brothers were among several celebrities who took part in Mr. Barbour’s successful campaign.

Tickets to the inaugural ball at the Mississippi Coliseum and the Mississippi Trade Mart will cost $50. The ball and musical gala headline six days of inauguration activities, dubbed “Mississippi’s Moment.”

Activities begin Thursday with a statewide tour and end Jan. 13 when Mr. Barbour is sworn in on the south steps of the state Capitol.

Decade of cliches

“You’d think that after the phony bubble of the late 1990s, built on exaggerated earnings and revenue claims by some greedy corporate executives, that referring to the Reagan era of the 1980s as ‘the Decade of Greed’ would be passe. But it’s a slap at the decade some in the media can’t shake,” the Media Research Center Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mediaresearch.org.

“Case in point: On Tuesday’s ‘Today,’ Matt Lauer marked the 20th anniversary of the film ‘The Big Chill’ — yes, NBC considered this milestone newsworthy — by recalling how it was released in 1983, a period he described as ‘a time of Reaganomics, burgeoning yuppies, and the Decade of Greed.’”

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

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