- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

Bar of proof

“Get ready for a feeding frenzy, with the press as the sharks and John McCain as the bloody chum,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“The long-winded article the New York Times dropped on McCain on Wednesday night falls between an impeccable investigative project and the ‘hit-and-run’ smear job his campaign calls it. It is a meringue of tantalizing hints and innuendo about the steamy nexus of sex and power. It’s all there — except a clear and firm direct allegation, let alone proof,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“It suggests McCain had an affair with an attractive young lobbyist and used his Senate office to do favors for her clients. But it never actually says either of those things directly, relying instead on the worries of his aides that he was risking his reputation and career by being so close to the lobbyist and her clients. Said aides are, unfortunately, mostly anonymous in the article.

“Both McCain and the woman denied an affair, the Times reported. And the support McCain gave to her clients had been previously reported. And, oh, did I mention that this happened, if it all did happen, eight or nine years ago?

“Based on my long career in journalism, including 10 years as a writer for the Times, I am surprised the newspaper published the article in its current form. Clearly, the reporters and the editors involved believed they are onto something. But that isn’t the test for publishing such a devastating article this late in the political calendar.

“The bar of proof gets raised when we’re in the late innings of a presidential primary and your subject is closing in on his party’s nomination. You either have the goods, or you don’t. And if you don’t, fairness and the professional requirements say you don’t publish. The consequences deserve no less.”

Money update

The government’s top campaign-finance regulator says Sen. John McCain can’t drop out of the primary election’s public-financing system until he answers questions about a loan he obtained to kick-start his once faltering presidential campaign, the Associated Press reports.

Federal Election Commission Chairman David Mason, in a letter to Mr. McCain this week, said the all-but-certain Republican nominee needs to assure the commission that he did not use the promise of public money to help secure a $4 million line of credit he obtained in November.

Mr. McCain’s attorney, Trevor Potter, said Wednesday evening that Mr. McCain has withdrawn from the system and that the FEC can’t stop him. Mr. Potter, who was FEC chairman in 1994, said the campaign did not encumber the public funds in any way.

“Well, it was done before in another campaign. … We think it’s perfectly legal. One of our advisers is a former chairman of the FEC, and we are confident that it was an appropriate thing to do,” Mr. McCain said yesterday at a press conference.

Mr. McCain, a longtime advocate of stricter limits on money in politics, was one of the few leading presidential candidates to seek FEC certification for public money during the primaries. The FEC determined that he was entitled to at least $5.8 million. But the senator from Arizona did not obtain the money, and he notified the FEC earlier this month that he would bypass the system, freeing him from its spending limits.

Ugliness ahead

“As the race for the Democratic presidential nomination heads into what can be considered its 15th month, two candidates remain standing, at their backs two of the best political teams ever assembled,” Reid Wilson writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“But when the presidential contest blew through February 5, when more than 20 states held nominating contests, the Clinton campaign seemed to have been caught unaware of the prospect of a long, drawn-out campaign in which neither is able to deliver a fatal punch to the other. Obama, thanks to a $32 million fundraising haul in January, was more prepared to deliver resources to post-Super Tuesday states, but that effort only started in the few days leading up to February 5,” Mr. Wilson said.

“Now, with the prospect of a brokered convention becoming more than idle speculation, top strategists in both camps are increasingly concerned at the prospect of a nominating contest drawn out until August, in which party leaders and elected officials — commonly known as ‘super delegates’ — make the difference.

“In August, if party elders do not step in to manage some sort of resolution, both campaigns will take their battles to Denver, where they will fight the ugliest, most public political battle in 40 years. … It has been said that one should never underestimate the Democratic Party’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Will run again

Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the history of the U.S. Senate, filed for re-election yesterday despite a federal investigation into his ties to an oil-field services contractor.

Federal authorities are reviewing the remodeling of the 84-year-old’s official residence in a resort near Anchorage; the contractor helped do the work, but Mr. Stevens hasn’t been charged and has said he paid all bills presented to him.

Democrats hope the long-running investigation can weaken Mr. Stevens, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Stevens was appointed to the Senate in 1968, won a special election two years later and has been re-elected six times. Through positions on Senate committees controlling the country’s purse strings, Mr. Stevens has delivered billions of dollars to Alaska, a state rich in land but poor in infrastructure. Grateful constituents named the largest airport in the state after him.

Also to run again

Postponing retirement plans he announced last week, Rep. John Shadegg, Arizona Republican, said yesterday that he will seek an eighth term in Congress.

Mr. Shadegg said he reconsidered after 146 of his House colleagues signed a letter pleading for him to return. Leaders of 33 conservative organizations also asked him to stay.

“Perhaps this is my calling,” Mr. Shadegg told the Associated Press. The 58-year-old surprised many Republicans on Feb. 11 when he announced his plans to leave the House, despite having raised more than $1 million for another campaign, to spend more time with his family.

“That’s a lot of time to spend apart,” he said. “After the reaction from people here in Arizona, and friends calling me … we sat down and kicked it around and said, ‘Maybe the sacrifice isn’t as great as we’d thought.’ ”

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

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