- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2006

A renegade band’

Al Gore, in an interview with the British newspaper the Guardian, called the Bush administration “a renegade band of right-wing extremists.”

Denying that his politics have shifted to the left since he lost the 2000 election, Mr Gore said: “If you have a renegade band of right-wing extremists who get hold of power, the whole thing goes to the right.”

The former vice president said he does not “expect to be a candidate” for president again, while refusing explicitly to rule out another run. Asked if any event could change his mind, he says: “Not that I can see.”

Mr. Gore, who appeared at the Guardian Hay literary festival over the holiday weekend, is promoting “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary and book detailing the supposed climate change crisis that he warns “could literally end civilization.”

Meanwhile, the left-wing group MoveOn.org messaged its e-mail subscribers in the District yesterday, asking them to attend Mr. Gore’s movie when it premieres here tomorrow.

“How the movie does on opening weekend in your town will determine how it’s received in the local press and how many other cities get to see it. That’s why we’re asking folks to pledge to see the movie and get tickets in advance,” said the e-mail, which provided a link to sign the pledge and buy tickets in advance.

Punches pulled

The office of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid reversed course last night and said the Nevada Democrat would no longer accept free boxing tickets in the future.

The Nevada senator still thinks it was “entirely permissible” for him to accept ringside seats for three professional boxing matches in 2004 and 2005 from the Nevada Athletic Commission, but has nonetheless decided to avoid doing so in the future, his office said.

“In light of questions that have been raised about the practice, Senator Reid will not accept these kinds of credentials in the future in order to avoid even the faintest appearance of impropriety,” spokesman Jim Manley said.

The announcement came, the Associated Press reports, after the wire service confronted Mr. Reid’s office early yesterday with conclusions from “several ethics experts” that the Senate’s top Democrat misstated congressional ethics rules.

He had said that as a Nevada senator, he had a duty to ensure proper regulation of boxing in his home state and could accept free tickets from a state agency to that end, while Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who joined him for one of the fights, needed to reimburse $1,400 for his seat because he came from out of state.

Melanie Sloan, a former Justice Department prosecutor and head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, disagreed, saying that Mr. Reid “is no more obligated to go to boxing matches than he is to a Celine Dion concert in Vegas.”

McCain and Bilbray

Sen. John McCain on Tuesday canceled an appearance for a Republican congressional candidate who has attacked his opponent for supporting Mr. McCain’s immigration bill.

Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, was scheduled to speak yesterday at a breakfast fundraiser for Brian Bilbray, who is in a close runoff race with Democrat Francine Busby to fill the San Diego-area seat left vacant by disgraced former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

Cunningham was sentenced in March to more than eight years in prison for accepting bribes. The winner of Tuesday’s special election will fill the remaining seven months left in Cunningham’s term.

Mr. Bilbray, a former congressman who worked as a lobbyist for an anti-immigration group, repeatedly has attacked Mrs. Busby for supporting the immigration bill passed last week in the Senate. Mr. McCain was a principal architect of the bill.

In an e-mail sent to the Bilbray campaign, McCain spokesman Craig Goldman acknowledged that Mr. McCain and Mr. Bilbray “disagree on some of the issues related to immigration reform.”

The e-mail reiterated Mr. McCain’s endorsement of Mr. Bilbray, and said Mr. McCain’s Straight Talk America political action committee would make the maximum allowable contribution of $5,000 to Mr. Bilbray’s campaign. Mr. Goldman did not return phone and e-mail messages left seeking comment, the Associated Press reports.

Ridge aids Swann

Tom Ridge threw his considerable clout behind Republican Lynn Swann on Tuesday to help the former football star jump-start fundraising for his Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign.

Mr. Ridge, the nation’s first homeland security secretary and a former Pennsylvania governor, joined Mr. Swann for meetings with prospective contributors in five Pennsylvania cities.

The Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer faces incumbent Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, in November. If elected, Mr. Swann would become the state’s first black governor.

As of May 1, Mr. Rendell had $13.6 million on hand — more than five times Mr. Swann’s total.

“I do have some friends that helped me over the years raise money,” Mr. Ridge said after the meeting in New Cumberland, near Harrisburg.

The pair also met with small groups of potential donors in or near Philadelphia, Scranton, Pittsburgh and Erie, the Associated Press reports.

Hastert’s milestone

Rep. J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, is the longest-serving Republican speaker of the House — a milestone that produced congratulations from political friends and foes alike yesterday.

“The House has achieved unprecedented success under his leadership,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. “It’s no wonder Denny has become the longest-serving Republican speaker in history. It’s been great to work with him as my partner since 2003, and I look forward to his continued leadership of the House.”

“I salute Speaker Hastert for reaching this milestone — it is a testament to his leadership within the Republican Conference and the halls of Congress,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Mr. Hastert, a former high school teacher and wrestling coach, is serving his ninth term in the House. He served five years as chief deputy majority whip before being elected speaker in 1999.

Fantastic in Iowa

Iowa Republican Party Chairman Ray Hoffmann says he hasn’t seen any signs of erosion in the Republican Party’s base. “The economy is fantastic here, unemployment is 3.8 percent, corn prices are up. Things are looking good.”

Mr. Hoffman, a stockbroker and owner of an Italian restaurant, says, “I live in northwest Iowa, which is the base of the Republican Party, and if there were rumblings, I would be the first to know about it. I really don’t see out here that people are bothered by what is going on in Washington, though immigration does come up quite a bit.”

But “the Republicans do have a fault,” Mr. Hoffmann told reporter Donald Lambro of The Washington Times. “We don’t know how to tell our story [about the economy]. Maybe our new [White House] press secretary, Tony Snow, will be able to tell it.”

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

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