Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Democrats blocked

Congress has refused to halt spending on a decade-old investigation of former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros despite a Democratic senator’s attempt to stop it.

A Senate provision that would have ended spending on the probe next month was killed during closed-door negotiations on a broader bill paying for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat.

The bill for the Cisneros investigation had reached nearly $21 million at the end of September.

“Even waste has a constituency,” said Mr. Dorgan, who sponsored the measure to end the spending.

Independent Counsel David Barrett was not immediately available for comment yesterday, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Cisneros admitted in 1999 that, when being considered for a Cabinet post, he lied to the FBI about how much he paid a former mistress. Mr. Cisneros, housing secretary from 1993 to 1996, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was fined $10,000.

President Clinton pardoned him in January 2001.

In an editorial last month, the Wall Street Journal criticized Mr. Dorgan’s efforts, saying he was trying to squelch the probe because it had shifted from Mr. Cisneros to an investigation of a possible cover-up by the Clinton administration that involved the Internal Revenue Service.

Mr. Dorgan denied that in a letter to the newspaper also signed by Sens. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, who co-sponsored the measure on halting spending.

Weighing her options

Jeanine Pirro, the district attorney in Westchester County, N.Y., said yesterday she will seek statewide office in 2006, possibly by running for the U.S. Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mrs. Pirro told the Associated Press she has not decided which office to seek, but mentioned three possibilities: state attorney general, the Senate and governor, the latter if Republican George E. Pataki decides against seeking another term.

Asked if she thought she could beat Mrs. Clinton, Mrs. Pirro refused to answer directly, but said: “I have never been afraid of challenges, no matter how daunting.”

A statewide poll earlier this month matching Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Pirro had Mrs. Clinton leading, 62 percent to 27 percent.

Mrs. Pirro said she will not run for re-election this year. The decision to leave was difficult, but “it’s time to do more elsewhere,” she told the AP.

State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, is stepping down to run for governor in 2006, and Mrs. Pirro said his job is attractive because “law enforcement is in my blood.”

No makeup, please

A former FBI whistleblower who urged the agency to investigate terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui in the weeks before September 11 is considering a race for Congress in Minnesota.

Coleen Rowley told the Associated Press yesterday she will make a decision by early next month on whether to run as a Democrat against incumbent Republican Rep. John Kline in next year’s election.

Miss Rowley, 50, who retired from the FBI last year, said she’s spoken to people to get their input, both inside and outside of politics, but has been put off by some suggestions that she get a “makeover.”

“I’ve butted heads with a few people — anyone who tells me I have to spruce up my hair and buy a new wardrobe,” Miss Rowley said, declining to identify the source of the unwanted advice. “I haven’t worn makeup since I was 21. You have to be authentic and genuine in serving the populace.”

Miss Rowley was named one of Time magazine’s people of the year for 2002 after criticizing the agency for ignoring her pleas to investigate Moussaoui more aggressively. He was the only person charged in the United States in the attacks.

Miss Rowley said she would run as an “independent-minded Democrat,” focusing on issues such as international security and civil liberties.

The Kline campaign said that it was too early to speculate about the race, and that Mr. Kline is focusing on congressional business.

Cloning war

“In Missouri as in Massachusetts, a Republican governor has been battling legislators over human cloning,” National Review noted yesterday in an editorial at www.nationalreview.com.

“There are, however, two big differences. Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt faces a legislature controlled by his own party, whereas Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney confronts a heavily Democratic legislature. And Romney is fighting against cloning, while Blunt is fighting for it,” National Review said.

“Blunt’s battles have received less attention than Romney’s — in part because Romney may be running for president in 2008, while any presidential ambitions Blunt has lie further in the future; in part because Massachusetts is in the northeastern corridor, which still interests the national media more than the Midwest. But the controversy in Missouri, however unnoticed, has certainly gotten heated. Pro-lifers have accused the self-described pro-life governor of ‘betraying’ them. Earlier this month, he accused them of political ‘game playing.’

“In truth, there is a sincere disagreement between most pro-lifers and Gov. Blunt. The governor should think twice about taking cheap shots at constituencies that helped to elect him. Pro-lifers should refrain from accusing him of a betrayal, since he disclosed his position when he ran last year.

“Unfortunately, his position is an incoherent mess.”

Party primary

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that states may bar a political party from opening its primary election to members of another party, upholding restrictions in nearly half the states.

In a 6-3 decision, justices ruled against the Libertarian Party in its First Amendment challenge to Oklahoma’s system. The party wanted to open its primaries, over the state’s objections, to voters registered as Democrats or Republicans in hopes of attracting more members, the Associated Press reported.

Oklahoma is one of 24 states that have closed or semi-closed primaries. Closed primaries require people to register and vote with one political party. In semi-closed systems, like the Oklahoma one, political parties generally may only allow their own members and independents to cast ballots.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said Oklahoma and other states have broad powers to structure primaries as they see fit. The Libertarian Party’s rights of free association thus were not violated, he said.

In a dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens expressed concern that Oklahoma does not give voters a chance to participate in third-party elections.

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

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