- The Washington Times - Friday, July 10, 2009

Message problem

The Republican Party has yet another message problem on its hands.

Two candidates the National Republican Senatorial Committee has recruited for 2010 races are at odds with the anti-stimulus opposition being put forth by the Republican National Committee.

While RNC operatives busy themselves compiling reports of government waste tucked in President Obama’s stimulus bill and issuing hard-hitting talking points against it, they’re being undermined by their Senate fundraising arm.

It appears the RNC is trying to win elections based on principle, while the NRSC is more concerned with who may be electable — a classic political clash.

The top example is the NRSC’s support for the popular Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. NRSC Chairman John Cornyn endorsed Mr. Crist over the more fiscally conservative Marco Rubio earlier this year, outraging many conservatives.

The same scenario is now playing out in New Hampshire.

When the state’s attorney general, Kelly A. Ayotte, another high-polling Republican, announced she was resigning from her post to explore a bid for the Senate, the NRSC immediately issued a statement calling her a “formidable candidate for the U.S. Senate if she decides to run,” a strong indication it would be likely to support her once her candidacy is declared. The committee also e-mailed conservative bloggers items promoting flattering things political reporters had written about her.

But, like Mr. Crist, she doesn’t appear to be much of a fiscal conservative.

As attorney general, Mrs. Ayotte encouraged New Hampshire’s justice system to apply for stimulus money, saying “in times of economic uncertainty and with the potential for increasing crime, we need to continue to support these programs.” Her No. 2, Deputy Attorney General Orville Fitch, has been in charge of doling out stimulus dollars as head of the state’s new “Office of Economic Stimulus.” At that post, he acted as the state’s “stimulus czar.”

If Mrs. Ayotte does harbor any opposition to the stimulus, she hasn’t told anyone. Reporters have complained she’s been vague when asked about the bill, much in the way Republican candidate Jim Tedisco acted in his failed special election bid for New York’s 20th District last fall. Many election watchers say his reluctance to make clear his support for opposition to the bill was a key reason for his loss.

Many race watchers view Mrs. Ayotte as a moderate and compare her to other senators who voted for the stimulus, such as Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, both of Maine.

Meanwhile, there are other Republicans who may challenge Mrs. Ayotte in the party primary, such as former Rep. Charlie Bass, 1996 Republican gubernatorial nominee Ovide Lamontagne and Fred Tausch, who founded the stimulus watchdog group Save the Economy Without Accumulating Record Debt to demand more fiscal responsibility after passage of the bill.

But the NRSC appears to have already picked its favored candidate. Mr. Lamontagne traveled to Washington last month to visit the NRSC to discuss his candidacy.

Not gonna happen

The Republican Study Committee has introduced a bill that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is practically guaranteed to never bring up for a vote based on its name alone.

House RSC members Thursday unveiled the “Reducing Barack Obama’s Unsustainable Deficit Act” to repeal any unspent money left in the stimulus bill - approximately $460 billion - and reclaim unobligated TARP funds - approximately $150 billion - for the purpose of debt reduction.

Regulating H20

The government’s watchdog agency recommends increasing regulations on bottled water, saying water sold by private companies should be subjected to rules similar to the ones tap water must satisfy.

The General Accountability Office’s report, published at the request of Democratic Reps. Henry A. Waxman of California and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, cites the increased consumption of bottled water and the low recycling rate of used plastic water bottles as reasons of concern.

The main difference between tap and bottled water, according to the report, is that Environmental Protection Agency exercises more stringent oversight over public water than the Food and Drug Administration that regulates the safety of bottled water.

The EPA is required to regularly test public water samples in certified laboratories under the Safe Drinking Water Act, while the FDA is permitted to delegate that authority to states where water is bottled. This discrepancy, government researchers say, can contribute to the false notion that bottled water is safer than plain, old tap water.

• Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter @washingtontimes.com.

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