- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Hollywood party

Taxpayers sent 92 federal employees to a six-day AIDS conference in Hollywood, Fla., the sixth such federally supported meeting in just five months, prompting suspicions from federal investigators.

“The 92 employees and over $405,000 in federal funds spent on this conference exceed the 78 [Department of Health and Human Resources] employees who attended and $315,000 spent on the International AIDS Conference in Toronto held just a month earlier,” a Senate investigator told The Washington Times about last month’s 2006 U.S. Conference on AIDS.

“The Senate subcommittee on federal financial management is also investigating how many federal employees attended two other federally funded AIDS conferences that occurred between these two widely attended meetings,” the investigator said, referring to an Aug. 28-31 event in Washington and a Sept. 13-15 event in Boston.

“There were also two other AIDS conferences supported by CDC in May of this year,” the investigator said. “That means that during the last five months, there have been at least six federally supported AIDS conferences that have cost millions of dollars.”

Activists at the Florida conference criticized the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress who they said had “cut money for education campaigns … and are not boosting funds to treat additional cases of HIV,” according to news accounts.

Trying out lines

President Bush, campaigning in Reno, Nev., yesterday, continued to draw sharp distinctions between Republicans and Democrats over the war on terror, telling voters to take note of Democrats’ votes against the CIA interrogation program, reports Stephen Dinan of The Washington Times.

But the president, who is on a three-day campaign swing out West, did not mention the two biggest political frays of the day — Bob Woodward’s book questioning Mr. Bush’s conduct of the war in Iraq and the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley’s e-mails and instant messages to former House pages.

Mr. Bush is expected to break out a new version of his campaign stump speech today and tried out a few new lines yesterday as he challenged Democrats’ commitment to the tools he says are needed to fight terrorism.

“Look at who voted for those proposals and what political party voted against them,” Mr. Bush said.

Today, he campaigns in California for two senior Republican House members fighting for re-election amid charges they are tainted by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Tomorrow, he will be in Arizona to campaign and to sign the homeland security spending bill, which includes funding for 700 miles of border fence.

Very suspicious

An advocacy group that registered more than a million voters two years ago is facing new reports of voter fraud and sloppy work just weeks before crucial midterm elections.

Philadelphia’s municipal voter registration office has rejected about 3,000 cards submitted by ACORN — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — since April because of missing information or invalid addresses, the Associated Press reports.

Denver County election officials forwarded about 200 cards to the secretary of state’s office after finding similar handwriting on signatures.

In Ohio, election officials in three of the state’s largest counties have cited problems with hundreds of voter-registration cards. ACORN is accused of submitting cards with nonexistent addresses, forged signatures and, in one case, for someone who died seven years ago.

“In my opinion, there’s a lot of words but little action in terms of fixing the problem,” said Matt Damschroder, elections board director in Franklin County, Ohio.

ACORN, which has about 220,000 members nationally, dispatches workers and volunteers to impoverished neighborhoods, gas stations, courthouses and other places to sign up new voters. ACORN recruits new voters in heavily Democratic poor and minority neighborhoods.

An amazing vote

“Democrats keep insisting that, whatever their opposition to the war in Iraq, they’d be as tough as anyone in fighting al Qaeda. We’d love to believe this for the country’s sake, but then what are Americans to make of last week’s congressional vote on detainee interrogation and military tribunals?” the Wall Street Journal asks in an editorial.

“The bill was a compromise between the White House and three GOP senators who Democrats had been hailing as voices of independence and courage only days earlier. But rather than endorse this deal that puts limits on interrogation methods, Democrats in both houses voted overwhelmingly no. In the House, only 34 Democrats supported the bill, most of those from the South or rural areas, while the entire leadership and 160 Democrats voted no,” the newspaper said.

“Over in the Senate, 32 Democrats opposed the bill, including the leadership and everyone who’s been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2008 …

“This amazing vote only reinforces the Republican argument that, given the chance, Democrats would return to the pre-9/11, law-enforcement model of fighting terrorism. In voting ‘no,’ they were opposing aggressive interrogation of even the worst al Qaeda captives. If Democrats fall short of regaining Congress this year, votes like this will be the reason.”

Doubt creeps in

“There may be something going on in the country that makes the conventional wisdom Democrats will take control of Congress next month less likely than it appeared just a month ago,” Peter A. Brown writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“For the vast majority of Americans who have been paying attention to the baseball pennant races, their kids’ return to school or new television series, this may take some explaining,” said Mr. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“But so far, the message from Democratic primaries has been that the electorate is not that energized. For instance, in Florida, a state with a plurality of Democratic voters, turnout was higher in the Republican primary for governor.

“What all of this means is that if you haven’t been paying attention to the upcoming election, you haven’t missed that much. Now that the election is just a month away, we’ll see just how unhappy Americans are with President Bush and the Republicans.”

A rocking city

The Big Apple. The Windy City. The Rock?

After a yearlong project to replace Little Rock’s former moniker, “City of Roses,” Arkansas’ capital city yesterday presented its new nickname, “The Rock,” the Associated Press reports.

“The Rock kind of portrays something pretty solid,” said Mayor Jim Dailey. “A rock — there is something substantive about it.”

Mr. Dailey said he wasn’t concerned that “The Rock” would be confused with the former Alcatraz prison in the San Francisco Bay or with the professional wrestler-turned-actor of the same name.

Little Rock is named for a feature found by French explorer Bernard de La Harpe when he mapped the Arkansas River in 1722. Early land deeds refer to “the little rock,” and to a bigger rock upriver. Part of the little rock was blasted away early last century during construction of a railroad bridge.

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

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