- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

FEC delay urged

Federal Election Commission lawyers recommended yesterday that the agency delay a decision on new donation and spending limits for tax-exempt groups, a move that could allow them to spend millions on ads and voter drives in this year’s presidential race.

In a step with far-reaching political implications, the FEC lawyers urged the commission to take at least three additional months to review the issue. If the commission agrees, it is unlikely the groups would face new regulations before the November election. The FEC is expected to consider the proposal tomorrow.

The recommendation was hailed by three Democratic groups that have been raising and spending “soft money” — unlimited donations to parties from unions, corporations and individuals — on TV ads and get-out-the-vote efforts opposing President Bush, the Associated Press reports.

“Obviously, we feel that this is a sound piece of advice,” said Jim Jordan, former campaign manager for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry and now a spokesman for the Media Fund, America Coming Together and America Votes. “We’ve maintained all along that the process was moving much too quickly.”

At issue is how the nation’s campaign-finance law affects non-party groups that raise and spend soft money. The law broadly bars the use of the large donations in presidential and congressional elections, and the FEC is considering the reach of the ban.

Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign, the Republican National Committee and several campaign- finance watchdog groups have called on the FEC to crack down on such groups, arguing that Democrats have created a “shadow party” of partisan tax-exempt organizations to evade the law’s ban on soft-money spending by national party committees.

Partial disclosure

Teresa Heinz Kerry, responding to repeated calls that she disclose information about her private fortune, said yesterday she earned more than $5 million last year and has paid about $750,000 toward income taxes, according to her husband’s presidential campaign.

Mrs. Kerry and Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, filed separate tax returns. Earlier this year, he released tax returns showing he had paid federal taxes of $102,152 on adjusted gross income of $395,338.

Mrs. Kerry, an heir to the Heinz ketchup fortune, is worth an estimated $500 million. She was married to Sen. John Heinz, a Pennsylvania Republican who died in a plane crash in 1991. She married Mr. Kerry in 1995.

“While I am not a candidate for any public office, a great deal of my financial information has been disclosed for many years on my husband’s Senate ethics disclosures and now that he is a presidential candidate, with the office of government ethics,” Mrs. Kerry said. “Today, I am making additional public disclosures by releasing my personal tax information.”

She has said she was reluctant to reveal her finances because of privacy concerns for her children.

The campaign reported that Mrs. Kerry had an estimated gross taxable income in 2003 of approximately $2,338,000, along with tax-exempt interest income of $2,777,000, largely from state, municipal and other public bonds.

She paid $587,000 in estimated federal income taxes for 2003 and $162,777 in estimated state and local income taxes. In April, she paid another $280,000 toward expected additional 2003 and 2004 liability, the campaign said.

Church opinion

The National Council of Churches said yesterday that U.S. policy in Iraq has become so destructive, the United Nations should take over.

Separately, bishops of the United Methodist Church, which claims President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney as members, said the war has led to the “denigration of human dignity,” the Associated Press reports.

On the day that an al Qaeda tape showed an American being beheaded, the National Council of Churches said in a pastoral letter that giving control to the United Nations was the only way to create “lasting peace.”

The council, which often takes positions on the left wing of the political spectrum, represents 36 Christian denominations and has been highly critical of the Iraq war.

“Many people see our policy as one based on protection of our country’s economic interests narrowly defined, rather than on principles of human rights and justice that would serve our nation’s interests,” said the letter, which the council hopes will be read in churches nationwide. “We are convinced that current policy is dangerous for America and the world and will only lead to further violence.”

Then and now

“Here’s more evidence that a million ain’t what it used to be,” the Wall Street Journal says.

“On Sunday, the Million Mom March ended up attracting between 2,000 and 3,000 women to the West Lawn of the Capitol. Though organizers tried to put a brave face on the paltry turnout, it was quite a comedown from Mother’s Day four years ago, when the same event attracted hundreds of thousands and was cheered on from the Clinton White House,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“The ostensible purpose of this year’s march was to kick off a campaign to secure bipartisan congressional support for the extension of the federal ban on assault rifles, which expires in September. But who are we kidding? This was a rally that featured speakers such as Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The real agenda here was illustrated by the mannequin of George W. Bush that, as The Washington Post reported, ‘people were invited to pummel.’ So what if Mr. Bush supports an extension of the ban and has said he’ll sign an extension if it reaches his desk?

“The founder of the Million Mom March is Donna Dees-Thomases. Back when she first dreamed up the event, she liked to pass herself off as an ordinary New Jersey housewife appalled by the gun violence she saw on TV. Later it emerged that Ms. Dees-Thomases just happened to be the sister-in-law of longtime friend of Hillary Clinton, Susan Thomases.

“It tells you something about where this issue is heading politically that now-Sen. Clinton didn’t bother showing up this year. We can appreciate that she must have had better things to do on Mother’s Day.”

Leaving the church

New Jersey state Sen. Bernard Kenny, a Democrat, said he is leaving the Catholic church over his support for abortion, the Newark Star-Ledger reported Monday.

Mr. Kenny, the state Senate majority leader, announced his decision just days after the archbishop of Newark called it dishonest for Catholic politicians to receive Communion if they favor abortion.

A former altar boy who regularly attended Saints Peter and Paul Church in Hoboken until about a year ago, Mr. Kenny said he considered leaving the church about two years ago because his views on several issues, including abortion, conflicted with the church’s position on those issues.

Mr. Kenny said he decided to act after Newark Archbishop John Myers published a pastoral letter last week. “Even before the bishop’s communication … I’d been struggling privately about how I can be a member of this church when I’m taking positions inconsistent with what they are espousing,” he said.

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

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