- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

Arnold backs down

Under pressure from firefighters and police officers, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger backed off, for now, from his plan to privatize California’s public employee pension system.

The Republican said “misconceptions” among firefighters and police officers that privatization would strip them of death and disability benefits had come to dominate the issue.

Over the past few weeks, Mr. Schwarzenegger has waged a campaign to put privatization on the ballot during a special election next fall. But yesterday he said he would wait until the June 2006 election if lawmakers did not craft a compromise measure in the coming months.

“Let’s pull it back and do it better,” said Mr. Schwarzenegger, flanked by more than a dozen police, fire and local government leaders.

The move followed days of meetings with police and fire chiefs and survivors of firefighters and police officers killed in the line of duty, all of whom expressed concerns that the ballot language opened the possibility that the employees would lose death and disability payments, the Associated Press reports.

The attorney general’s office, analyzing the proposed ballot language, earlier had reached the same conclusion.

Mr. Schwarzenegger said that was not his intention.

The governor, who has called the state’s pension system “another government program out of control,” wanted to hold down the state’s escalating pension contributions by making new employees open 401(k)-style individual investment accounts.

The state’s contribution to the pension system this year is $2.6 billion, up from $160 million in 2000.

More on Berger

“Memo to Martha Stewart: Next time, save your lies for reporters,” the New York Post’s Deborah Orin writes.

“Sticky-fingered Clinton aide Sandy Berger got off a lot easier than Miss Martha — no jail time and no aggravating ankle bracelet — because he only lied to the press about purloining top-secret documents,” Miss Orin says.

” ‘He may have lied to the press when he suggested he did it by mistake, but lying to the press isn’t a federal crime. If he had lied to us, we would have prosecuted,’ said prosecutor Noel Hillman, who heads the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section.

“Berger copped a misdemeanor plea last week and got off with a $10,000 fine after admitting he sneaked out of the National Archives five top-secret memos hidden in his clothes, ostensibly to review them in his office.

“He also admitted using a scissors to cut three of them into little pieces to destroy them — his excuse appears to be that he was afraid of getting caught if he tried to sneak them back into the National Archives.

” ‘It’s reasonable to conclude that disposal was a better alternative than sneaking them back,” Hillman said as he provided new details on questions still swirling around Berger’s deal.

“The prosecutor disputed reports that there were potentially revealing notations handwritten by Berger in the margins of the memos, saying, ‘There were no notations — none.’

“He said the originals had been scanned into an Archives computer and Berger only got copies printed from it.

“Asked if he’s sure Berger didn’t take originals, too, he said there’s no evidence of that.”

Ford’s numbers

“A new poll conducted for Rep. Harold Ford Jr.’s campaign shows him with a comfortable lead in the Democratic primary and running neck and neck with his potential Republican rivals,” Roll Call reports.

“Ford, who has yet to announce for the contest, is widely seen as the Democratic nominee to replace Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who is retiring at the end of the 109th Congress,” reporter Chris Cillizza said.

“The survey confirmed that sentiment, showing Ford with a 62 percent to 15 percent lead over state Sen. Rosalind Kurita. On the Republican side, former 7th District Rep. Ed Bryant led the pack with 35 percent to 26 percent for former 4th District Rep. Van Hilleary; Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker received 15 percent. State Rep. Beth Harwell, who also is running, was not tested.

“The survey was conducted by Ford pollster Harrison Hickman, a partner in the Global Strategy Group.”

Gorton’s demand

Former Sen. Slade Gorton, Washington Republican, joined the fray in his state’s election dispute, calling for a criminal probe of the ballot count in King County.

Mr. Gorton and state Republican Chairman Chris Vance held a press conference Wednesday to push for a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the county’s failure to count nearly 100 absentee ballots in the painstakingly close gubernatorial race last year, the Seattle Times reported.

“I think it’s appropriate to come to the conclusion that King County has the worst election administration in any county in the United States of America — a humiliating statement, I think, from our perspective,” said Mr. Gorton, adding that the election outcome putting Democrat Christine Gregoire in the governor’s mansion was the result of either fraud or “colossal incompetence.”

Mr. Gorton himself lost his seat in 2000 to Democrat Maria Cantwell after a recount.

Another pie thrower

A conservative activist who criticizes what he calls the leftist domination of college campuses was struck with a pie Wednesday night at Butler University in Indiana.

David Horowitz, president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, had just started a lecture at Butler when he was hit, the Indianapolis Star reports.

Mr. Horowitz’s supporters followed the assailants out of the hall, and confronted them with what a witness called “pushing and shoving.” However, the attackers got away, reporter Kevin O’Neal said.

“There’s a wave of violence on college campuses, committed by what I’d call fascists opposing conservatives,” Mr. Horowitz said. “It’s one step from that to injury.”

After the incident, Mr. Horowitz completed his lecture.

It was the second time in a week that a conservative lecturer was hit by a pie at an Indiana university. On March 30, William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, was attacked during a speech at Earlham College in Richmond.

Butler spokesman Marc Allan called Wednesday’s incident “deplorable.”

Kerry on crutches

Sen. John Kerry, whose sailboarding and skiing trips were campaign fodder during last year’s presidential race, is recuperating from knee surgery.

The Massachusetts Democrat, who is in Rome for the funeral of Pope John Paul II, had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee during the recent congressional recess and will be on crutches for a couple of weeks to keep weight off his knee, said his spokeswoman, April Boyd.

She said it was an outpatient procedure to repair cartilage in his knee, which was damaged by “years of soccer, hockey and marathon running.”

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

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