- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2006

‘Nightline’ accused

The Federalist Society yesterday called on ABC to investigate a report by its news show “Nightline” that suggested Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had done something unethical by participating in a legal seminar sponsored by the group.

“The report grossly misled viewers about a recent trip Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia took to teach a 10-hour course on the Constitution and separation of powers. ‘Nightline’ suggested that Justice Scalia’s trip was a ‘judicial junket,’ and even strained to manufacture a link with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff,” Federalist Society President Eugene B. Meyer said in a letter yesterday to ABC News President David Westin.

The program, which aired Monday, emphasized that Justice Scalia had missed the September swearing-in of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. because of his commitment to attend the legal seminar at a Colorado resort, suggesting that the jurist spent most of his time playing tennis and engaging in other frivolous pursuits.

“Rather than taking a recreational trip with hours of tennis and going fly-fishing, as ABC would have its viewers believe, Justice Scalia was honoring an agreement made nearly a year in advance with the Federalist Society to teach a serious scholarly program to more than 100 lawyers from 38 states that required considerable work and advance preparation,” Mr. Meyer said in his letter.

“Prior to the course, Justice Scalia produced a 481-page course book that attendees were expected to review in advance. The course was approved by at least 30 state bars for most of the attending lawyers’ continuing education requirements. Justice Scalia was there to share his knowledge and experience and received only reimbursement for travel and lodging.”

As reported in this column yesterday, the ABC program strained to link Justice Scalia to disgraced lobbyist Abramoff, saying the jurist attended a cocktail reception partly funded by a legal and lobbying firm where Mr. Abramoff once worked.

“We call on ABC to launch an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the development and production of this story,” Mr. Meyer said.

Ney seeks re-election

Undaunted by speculation within his own party that he may have to quit Congress because of a corruption probe, Rep. Bob Ney announced yesterday he’s running for re-election.

“2006 promises to be a vigorous campaign, and I am ready for the fight,” said Mr. Ney, Ohio Republican. He planned to hold his first formal campaign event today.

Mr. Ney’s popularity has hardly dimmed in his expansive rural district even after he was identified in disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s guilty plea as the central figure in Abramoff’s scheme to bribe members of Congress, the Associated Press reports.

Spanish response

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will give the Spanish-language response to President Bush’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, Democratic congressional leaders announced.

Mr. Villaraigosa has been seen as a rising Democratic star since his election in May as the first Hispanic in 133 years to lead Los Angeles, the country’s second-largest city. He will deliver his remarks from his Los Angeles office, said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

The Democrats’ English-language response will be given by newly inaugurated Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

New name, game

An advocacy group that fought President Bush’s Social Security reforms and Republican efforts to cut entitlement spending is now changing its name and going after Republicans on corruption charges.

Americans United to Protect Social Security — an umbrella organization for about 200 liberal advocacy groups — is retooling as Americans United. “We are shortening our name and expanding our scope,” the group said yesterday in announcing a $1 million ad campaign focusing on the legal troubles of various Republicans, including Rep. Tom DeLay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The National Republican Congressional Committee noted the change and said Democrats are outsourcing their agenda. “National Democrats are at it again,” read an NRCC statement. “Before Thanksgiving, they punted on presenting voters with their agenda for 2006. Now, they are hiding behind a shadow group that can accept unlimited donations to advance Democrat ideals, whatever those are.”

Gloomy prognosis

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell says the United States is losing its edge in the global economy and needs to spend $100 billion to recover its advantage, reports Donald Lambro of The Washington Times.

Mr. Rendell, the Democratic Governors’ Association’s finance chairman, presented a lengthy list of economic reforms on trade, education, health care and energy at a National Press Club news conference Tuesday. On behalf of the DGA, Mr. Rendell hoped President Bush will consider including the reforms in his State of the Union proposals next week.

“Sadly, America is losing its competitive edge,” Mr. Rendell said, pointing to U.S. dependence on foreign oil, a declining number of engineers and science graduates, skyrocketing health care costs and a mushrooming trade deficit.

DGA proposals call for increased spending for higher teacher salaries, alternative sources of energy, a health care tax credit for businesses who offer worker health care coverage, and a “level playing field” in global trade.

But when a reporter asked how the United States could be losing its edge when it has stronger scores in technology development, employment, incomes, economic growth and trade exports than the rest of the major industrialized nations, Mr. Rendell dismissed those factors. “The trend line is getting worse,” he said.

Hillary’s numbers

Only 16 percent of voters say they would vote for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for president in 2008, while 51 percent said they definitely would vote against the New York Democrat, according to a CNN-Gallup poll.

Thirty-two percent said they might consider voting for Mrs. Clinton.

However, the poll offered Mrs. Clinton little encouragement in seeking crossover votes: 90 percent of Republicans said there was no chance they would support her.

Bennett to CNN

William J. Bennett, radio talk-show host and former secretary of education, will join CNN as an analyst and commentator for various programs, the network announced yesterday.

CNN-U.S. President Jon Klein said Mr. Bennett will be one of CNN’s political commentators as part of the network’s continuing effort to bring a broad range of perspectives to its viewers. The network in recent days also hired former Rep. J.C. Watts, Oklahoma Republican, to do analysis and commentary.

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

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