- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Spitzer’s jet

Eliot Spitzer is running for governor [of New York] as the best guy to clean up Albany, including its corrupt ‘pay-to-play’ system of shaking down interest groups for campaign donations and other goodies,” New York Daily News columnist Tom Hammond writes.

“So what the heck is he doing jetting around on the Gulfstream of a Wyoming businessman who wants to run racetracks and build casinos in New York?” Mr. Hammond asked.

“It’s one thing for Spitzer to pile up money and endorsements from insiders. Fish gotta swim, pols gotta grub for cash. But accepting deeply discounted air travel from a gambling mogul doing lots of business with state government — as Spitzer and an aide did in May — is too cozy for comfort. The would-be Sheriff of Albany should be keeping a safe distance from favor seekers, not putting himself in a position where he owes them anything.

“Spitzer was on a two-day fundraising swing out West and needed to get from Phoenix to Tucson to Cincinnati and back to New York in a hurry. Casino developer Richard Fields got wind of his predicament and offered the use of his corporate jet. Thanks to him, Spitzer and his aide could meet their tight schedule, skip the long check-in lines and fly in style.

“The offer practically screamed ‘conflict of interest.’ Fields is part of a group bidding to take over the Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga horse tracks. He also represents developers working with the Oneida Indians of Wisconsin to build a casino in the Catskills. Both issues will fall squarely on Spitzer’s plate if he wins in November.”

Outside help

Sen. Joe Lieberman’s re-election bid is getting some outside help from a group grateful for the lawmaker’s support for the Iraq war.

Vets for Freedom, an independent group with Republican ties, will air an ad in Connecticut today and tomorrow featuring veterans from the state who thank the three-term incumbent for backing the conflict.

Executive Director Wade Zirkle said his group’s political arm is spending $60,000 to broadcast the commercial on cable and broadcast channels.

“We want to support policy-makers who’ve been supportive of troops in the field,” Mr. Zirkle told the Associated Press.

Vets for Freedom calls itself a nonpartisan organization that was founded by Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans. Republican strategist Dan Senor, former spokesman for the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority in post-invasion Iraq; Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard; and former Lieberman Chief of Staff Bill Andresen have advised the group, Mr. Zirkle said.

Moving left

“There’s been much talk in Washington recently about the fate of ‘moderate Democrats,’” Byron York writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“These days, Nancy Pelosiis a moderate Democrat — if that is defined as standing near the center of the party’s ideological spectrum. But the truly moderate Democrat — the type of centrist that has been so maligned by the left-wing blogosphere — is pretty much a thing of the past. Just look at a few numbers,” Mr. York said.

“Americans for Democratic Action rates House members on a scale from 0 to 100 based on how they have voted on issues important to various liberal constituencies. In 1985, when there were 253 Democrats in the House, 20 were ADA ‘All-Stars’ — that is, they had perfect scores of 100. In 2005, when there were 202 Democrats in the House, there were 65 All-Stars. An astonishing 143 — about 71 percent of the Democratic caucus — had scores of 90 or above. …

“The numbers are similar in today’s Senate, where 22 of 45 Democrats have received the ADA’s most-liberal rating. Forty Democratic senators — about 90 percent of the Democratic caucus — have ADA ratings of 90 or above. …

“Today, after years of drifting leftward, Democrats face a dilemma. They are the target of an angry, energized … movement that considers the mainstream Democratic Party too centrist, too accommodating to Republicans and insufficiently ‘progressive’ for today’s politics. The farther Democrats move to the left, the farther their most passionate constituents prod them along.”

Florida primary

Rep. Katherine Harris, Florida Republican, yesterday overcame opposition from many in her party’s establishment to claim the nomination for the U.S. Senate, while Democrat Rep. Jim Davis won the race for his party’s nomination to succeed popular Gov. Jeb Bush, the Associated Press reports.

Mrs. Harris next faces an uphill battle against the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Bill Nelson, who had no primary challenger. With 75 percent of precincts reporting, she had 50 percent of the vote against three relative unknowns. Mrs. Harris had 359,712 votes to 212,448 for lawyer Will McBride (30 percent) and 112,789 for retired Adm. LeRoy Collins (15 percent).

“Tonight is a great victory for our party and for Florida,” Mrs. Harris said. “It’s a great victory because it shows each of us we can overcome adversity to achieve extraordinary victories.”

In the governor’s race, Mr. Davis won a concession from state Sen. Rod Smith late last night. The U.S. representative led by 47 percent to 41 percent, or 311,910 votes to 273,441, and will face Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist, who claimed the Republican nomination to replace Mr. Bush. Mr. Crist had 481,719 votes (65 percent) to 244,559 votes (33 percent) for Tom Gallagher, the state’s chief financial officer.

As Florida secretary of state six years ago, Mrs. Harris oversaw the recount that upheld George W. Bush’s victory in the 2000 presidential race. She became a rising star in the Republican Party, parlaying name recognition into two terms in Congress. But state party leaders tried to talk her out of running for the Senate, citing fears she would lose to Mr. Nelson while spurring a large Democratic turnout, which would hurt the entire Republican ticket.

Rumsfeld’s surgery

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld underwent shoulder surgery yesterday to repair a torn rotator cuff, officials said.

Eric Ruff, the Pentagon press secretary, said Mr. Rumsfeld, 74, had the surgery on his left shoulder at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He described it as elective surgery that was scheduled weeks in advance.

Mr. Rumsfeld did not undergo general anesthesia for the procedure, Mr. Ruff said. Some of the defense secretary’s responsibilities were transferred briefly to the deputy defense secretary, Gordon England, the spokesman said. After the nearly two-hour operation, Mr. Rumsfeld was resting at the hospital and an overnight stay was being considered, Mr. Ruff said.

“He’s fine. He’s recovering,” the spokesman said.

Tears in the rotator cuff can be caused by injury or by weakening of the tendon from wear and tear. Mr. Ruff said Mr. Rumsfeld’s cuff tear was caused by “an old athletic injury,” the Associated Press reports.

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

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