- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2005

Defending Scouts

The House overwhelmingly passed a nonbinding resolution yesterday urging the Defense Department to continue its long-standing support of the Boy Scouts of America — a response supporters say is necessary to counter attacks on the group by some liberal organizations.

“Once again, we find the Boy Scouts of America under attack from the American Civil Liberties Union,” said Rep. Joel Hefley, Colorado Republican, who sponsored the resolution, which passed 418-7, with only a handful of Democrats opposing it.

The Defense Department in November agreed to warn military bases that department policy does not allow them to be official sponsors of Boy Scout units and that military personnel may sponsor Boy Scout groups only in their off-duty capacity. The action was in response to an ongoing ACLU lawsuit that challenges a range of federal support to the Boy Scouts, because the group administers a religious oath.

Mr. Hefley’s resolution urges the Defense Department to “continue to exercise its long-standing statutory authority to support the activities of the Boy Scouts of America,” and would particularly encourage continued support for the national and world Boy Scout jamborees, which are periodically held on military property.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, plans similar Senate legislation.

Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican, said Boy Scouts stress God, family and country, “which, of course, the ACLU can’t stand.”

No Democrats took to the floor to oppose the resolution during its brief debate yesterday morning. Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri was one of few Democrats to speak and he “wholeheartedly” endorsed Mr. Hefley’s proposal, praising the Boy Scouts as “one of the finest organizations in our country.”

U.N. tag team

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell will report to Congress on scandals at the United Nations as part of an overall look at the organization.

Mr. Gingrich, Georgia Republican, said the report on U.N. effectiveness, ordered by Congress, is due by June 6, just weeks before the United Nations’ 60th anniversary, Cox News Service reports.

“We are not, in any sense, rendering personal judgment,” but the two men will examine “egregious scandals” at the United Nations, Mr. Gingrich told reporters at a briefing yesterday.

Mr. Gingrich said he and Mr. Mitchell, Maine Democrat, will ask, “What have we learned in 60 years of experience about how the international community organizes itself, and what is it in the U.S. interest to do? ”

While several groups have produced U.N.-reform recommendations over the years, this one is different, said Mr. Mitchell, because it has been charged with identifying action plans for review by the Congress, which controls U.S. funding for U.N. operations.

Gannon-gate

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, New York Democrat, yesterday sent a letter to President Bush asking for an explanation of how an Internet reporter who used the pseudonym “Jeff Gannon” was admitted to White House briefings.

The reporter resigned late Tuesday amid a flurry of accusations about his professional credentials with Talon News, which is funded in large part by GOPUSA, a company with ties to the Texas Republican Party, the Web log MediaCitizen.com reported.

Some liberal Internet sites said “that Gannon is, in fact, James ‘J.D.’ Guckert, and that [several pornographic] Web sites … are registered to the same owner as Gannon’s Web site, jeffgannon.com,” Scott Shepard of Cox News Service reports. “All the sites are down and not accessible.”

In her letter, Mrs. Slaughter wrote: “It appears that ‘Mr. Gannon’s‘ presence in the White House press corps was merely as a tool of propaganda for your administration.”

Mr. Shepard reports: “White House press secretary Scott McClellan … dismissed her suggestion that Gannon was allowed into White House press briefings to help promote Bush’s political agenda.

” ‘She must not be following the briefings too closely because she’d see that there are a number of people in that room that are advocates,’ McClellan said. ‘There are a number of people who express their views in that briefing room.’ …

“Meanwhile, Democratic activists began a petition drive at democrats.com, seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate any links between Gannon and the White House press operation.”

Overhaul sought

Election officials yesterday proposed overhauling the way tax dollars can be used to cover the cost of running for president, including an increase in the amount that can be spent by primary candidates who take public money.

The proposal by Federal Election Commission Chairman Scott Thomas and Vice Chairman Michael Toner follows the first presidential race in which candidates from both major parties opted out of public financing in the primaries.

President Bush skipped it in 2000; he did so again for the 2004 race, and Democrats John Kerry and Howard Dean followed suit. All went on to raise record sums from private donors.

“The presidential public-financing system is at an historic crossroads,” Messrs. Toner and Thomas wrote in a letter to congressional leaders. “If Congress does not act within the next two years, the system runs the serious risk of being totally irrelevant in the 2008 election and beyond.”

Arnie vs. GOP

Influential California Republicans want Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to drop his effort to redraw congressional district lines in time for the 2006 elections.

Instead, the Los Angeles Times said Tuesday, the governor is being urged to focus his efforts on a measure that would change the process for drawing state legislative districts.

Republican leaders including Mr. Schwarzenegger’s closest ally in Congress, Rep. David Dreier, are pressing the governor to exempt Congress from his map-making plans.

Some Republicans fear that any change in the congressional boundaries could place the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives at risk. By some estimates, the state’s 20-person Republican congressional delegation opposes the governor’s effort 4-to-1.

Under the governor’s plan, the Legislature would be stripped of its power to redraw voting districts and give the job to a panel of retired judges who, in theory, would be less guided by partisan concerns.

Senator’s diagnosis

Sen. Michael D. Crapo will undergo treatment for prostate cancer after being diagnosed with the disease a second time, his office announced Tuesday.

The Idaho Republican said side effects from the treatment should not limit his ability to conduct Senate business.

“I expect to be putting in full workdays and will, as usual, be meeting with constituents who have traveled to Washington,” the 53-year-old Mr. Crapo said. He is to undergo a short radiation session each weekday for eight weeks, the Associated Press reports.

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


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