- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Left out

A family member of a September 11 victim says Senate Democrats invited him to Washington then snubbed him yesterday after he criticized a bill adopting 9/11 commission recommendations.

“They made me sit in the hallway for 40 minutes for nothing,” said Bruce DeCell, a former New York City police officer whose son-in-law was killed at the World Trade Center on September 11.

He was invited by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee to represent victims’ family members at a lunch and press conference that included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey.

Mr. DeCell, a board member of the World Trade Center United Family Group and vice president of the 9/11 Families for a Secure America, said he was asked to wait in the hall for his turn at a press conference but ended up waiting until it was over.

“I personally don’t care if I’m at the press conference or not,” he said. “If they don’t want me, they could tell me, and I would just go home.”

Thomas Russell, director of the steering committee, later called and apologized, saying he was “being pulled in too many directions and he forgot to come and get me,” Mr. DeCell said.

Mr. DeCell called the explanation “disingenuous.”

“If there were 20 of us and he forgot one, I’d understand it,” he said. “I was the only family member who traveled down here for this.”

Opting out

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, said yesterday he will advance a bill that will let states opt out of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind education law.

“We’re going to provide an alternative” to the five-year-old-law, Mr. Hoekstra said at a Heritage Foundation forum. “We think this is the direction to go.”

Mr. Hoekstra said Republicans sold out their principles by allowing No Child Left Behind to become law in the first place, because now that it’s in place it will only grow in both funding and regulations. “We are on the doorstep of having a national federal curriculum,” he said, calling this possibility “devastating.”

The act — which Mr. Bush and some top lawmakers are working to renew this year — aims to have all students proficient in reading and math by 2014 by requiring states to test children annually and to set standards that schools must meet each year.

Mr. Hoekstra’s bill, to be introduced next week, would allow state leaders to declare that their state is responsible for educating its own children, thereby freeing the state from No Child Left Behind mandates.

Mr. Hoekstra said it’s needed, since there’s already pressure to expand the law. He noted that even a conservative — Rep. Zach Wamp, Tennessee Republican — teamed up with fitness guru Richard Simmons yesterday to advocate adding physical education to No Child Left Behind.

Ridge and McCain

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge will serve as national co-chairman of Republican John McCain’s presidential exploratory committee, the campaign said yesterday.

Mr. Ridge, a former two-term Pennsylvania governor, served as first head of the Department of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005.

“What sets John apart is his ability to form coalitions around a common, principled cause. Our country is at a crossroads, and John McCain is the leader who fundamentally knows what it takes to move us forward and keep us safe,” Mr. Ridge said.

Campus crusade

Conservative activist David Horowitz continues fighting political correctness on America’s college campuses, and will bring the battle to Washington this weekend with his second annual Academic Freedom Conference.

The conference Saturday and Sunday at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, sponsored by Students for Academic Freedom (SAF), will follow on the heels of the three-day Conservative Political Action Conference, which begins today at the same location.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, will give Saturday’s keynote address at the SAF conference, which also will feature panel discussions with student activists from across the country.

On Sunday, Mr. Horowitz — whose new book, “Indoctrination U.,” chronicles his campaign for fairness in academia — will debate Cary Nelson,president of the American Association of University Professors, on the topic, “Political Indoctrination and Harassment on Campus: Is There a Problem?”

“In the past year, we have succeeded in persuading two universities, Pennsylvania State University and Temple University, to adopt new academic freedom protections, which — for the first time — give students explicit academic rights,” Mr. Horowitz said. “These are major victories, but it is crucial that we address not only how far we have come, but how far we have yet to go.”

Group fined

A conservative independent group that ran millions of dollars in ads against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 will pay $750,000 to settle charges that it violated federal campaign laws.

The penalty, announced yesterday by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), is the third-largest in the history of the commission, which regulates election money. The FEC’s six commissioners approved the settlement unanimously, the Associated Press reports.

The group, Progress for America Voter Fund, raised nearly $45 million in 2004, making it the best-financed Republican-oriented group in that campaign. The FEC said that it “failed to register and file disclosure reports as a federal political committee and accepted contributions in violation of federal limits.”

Benjamin Ginsburg, an attorney for the Progress for America Voter Fund, said the group was not admitting guilt. He blamed the FEC for not setting clearer guidelines for independent groups that seek to influence elections.

In December, the FEC settled cases against three similar groups — liberal and conservative — that acted in a like fashion.

Award winners

Accuracy in Media (AIM) will honor Michelle Malkin and Mark M. Alexander for outstanding contributions to journalism in a ceremony today during the American Conservative Union’s 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference.

The Reed Irvine Accuracy in Media Award is named for AIM’s founder, Reed Irvine, who was America’s first media watchdog.

Mrs. Malkin is a syndicated columnist, author, Fox News Channel contributor and a blogger. Mr. Alexander is executive editor and publisher of the Patriot Post (www.patriotpost.us).

Mrs. Malkin will receive the Reed Irvine Accuracy in Media Award for Investigative Journalism in recognition of her work in three 2006 columns on illegal immigration — “Racism gets a whitewash,” “Reconquista is real” and “‘La Raza’ schools: Your tax dollars at work.”

Mr. Alexander’s May 12, 2006, piece, “Pollaganda — media polls as instruments of propaganda,” earned him the Reed Irvine Accuracy in Media Award for Grassroots Journalism.

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

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