Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Reid’s staffer

An aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, was arrested on the West Front of the Capitol for disorderly conduct during President Bush‘s inaugural address last week, the Hill newspaper reports.

The aide, Nathan Ackerman, is a TV producer on the Senate Democratic Communications Committee — an organization that was folded into Mr. Reid’s new communications “war room,” reporter Geoff Earle writes.

About 20 minutes into Mr. Bush’s speech, Mr. Ackerman, 36, and another man held up a sheet that said “No War.” According to a Capitol Police report, Mr. Ackerman and another suspect “were blocking the view of the audience, and they were engaged in a verbal dispute with members of the audience.”

The report states that Capitol Police officers told Mr. Ackerman and the other suspect to relinquish the sign or be arrested, but that “neither complied and both were placed under arrest.” The report did not name either suspect, although Mr. Ackerman’s identity was confirmed with the Capitol Police.

Gallagher’s defense

Columnist Maggie Gallagher yesterday defended her decision to accept $21,500 from the Department of Health and Human Services to help it package an administration marriage initiative, but apologized for not disclosing it.

“Is it acceptable for someone who writes a newspaper column to do research and writing for the government?” the columnist wrote.

“Of course, the reason Howard Kurtz of the [Washington] Post is interested is the now-notorious case of conservative columnist Armstrong Williams, who signed a very different sort of government contract: to promote Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act on his television show.

“Armstrong defended himself in two ways, first by saying, ‘I’m a pundit, not a journalist.’ And second by saying that he supported the Bush act anyway, so why shouldn’t he take money?

“It cost him his newspaper column. Very properly, I might add. I have no interest in taking either of these lines of defense. So what’s my answer to Howard?

“My first instinct is to say, no, Howard, I had no special obligation to disclose this information. I’m a marriage expert. I get paid to write, edit, research and educate on marriage. If a scholar or expert gets paid to do some work for the government, should he or she disclose that if he writes a paper, essay or op-ed on the same or similar subject? If this is the ethical standard, it is an entirely new standard.

“I was not paid to promote marriage. I was paid to produce particular research and writing products (articles, brochures, presentations), which I produced. My lifelong experience in marriage research, public education and advocacy is the reason HHS hired me.

“But the real truth is that it never occurred to me. On reflection, I think Howard is right. I should have disclosed a government contract when I later wrote about the Bush marriage initiative. I would have, if I had remembered it. My apologies to my readers.”

Welfare and fathers

Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, says he is “fairly optimistic” that the Senate will pass a bipartisan welfare-reform reauthorization this year.

“I don’t see a major roadblock on it,” he said yesterday at a briefing at the National Press Club with leaders of seven groups that promote responsible fatherhood.

The nation’s largest social program for low-income families expired in September 2001 owing to inaction in the Senate. It has been temporarily reauthorized ever since.

Funding for fatherhood programs is “not controversial,” said Mr. Santorum, noting that he and Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, co-sponsored a bill last year to help fathers get jobs, learn communication skills and reconnect with their children.

Rep. Wally Herger, California Republican, urged supporters of fatherhood programs to lobby their state leaders to get a welfare bill sooner rather than later. “The budget’s getting tighter,” Mr. Herger said. There will be “tremendous pressure to reduce these programs.”

Suspect job offer

A former New York councilman said Tuesday that aides to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg offered him a job so he would not challenge the mayor in the November election, an accusation the mayor strongly denied.

Mr. Bloomberg and his aides acknowledged they had offered Thomas Ognibene a position with the mayor’s campaign, but said they did not know he had wanted to run himself, the Associated Press reports.

“When we read in the paper he was running, we had no further contact,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

But Mr. Ognibene, a Republican, said one of the mayor’s aides, Richard Wager, had attended a recent speech in which Mr. Ognibene announced that he intended to run.

Mr. Ognibene said within days of the speech he met with Mr. Wager and Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey, and was offered a $144,000-a-year job. Mr. Ognibene said he never would have been offered a job if he weren’t running.

“I’m not for sale,” he said.

Take it outside

Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey, New Jersey Democrat, said yesterday he threatened to take a radio talk-show host outside after the shock jock made dismissive comments about postpartum depression, an ailment that has afflicted first lady Mary Jo Codey.

Mr. Codey said radio station WKXW 101.5-FM should take action against Craig Carton and defended Tuesday’s aggressive rebuke at the station’s Ewing Township studios.

“Somebody made disparaging remarks about my wife. I defended my wife like any man or husband would,” Mr. Codey told reporters at the Statehouse in Trenton. “I have a right to defend my family, and I will.”

Mr. Codey denied an account in the Star-Ledger of Newark that said he told Mr. Carton off-air: “I wish I weren’t governor; I’d take you out.”

“I didn’t say I would take him out,” Mr. Codey said. “I said I would take him outside. When you’re Irish, you take them outside, not out.”

According to the account from a Star-Ledger reporter who witnessed the confrontation, Mr. Carton responded: “That’s real professional. You want to fight?”

Mr. Codey said yesterday he did not recall Mr. Carton challenging him to a fight.

On the air yesterday, the radio host refused to apologize and demanded an apology from Mr. Codey, calling him “an out-of-control, arrogant man.”

Veep to speak

Vice President Dick Cheney has agreed to address the presidential banquet on Feb. 17 at the American Conservative Union’s 32nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce

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