Thursday, July 20, 2006

Dead heat

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, under fire from activists in his own party, has lost ground to his challenger and is in a statistical dead heat for the Democratic nomination, according to a poll released yesterday.

Businessman Ned Lamont led Mr. Lieberman, 51 percent to 47 percent, among likely Democratic voters in the latest Quinnipiac University poll. The difference was within the poll’s margin of error of four percentage points, but Mr. Lieberman’s numbers were down from a Quinnipiac poll in June.

Last month, Mr. Lieberman had led 55 percent to 40 percent.

The poll’s results weren’t all bad for the three-term senator: When non-Democrats were included, the survey of registered Connecticut voters showed him leading in a three-way race, with 51 percent for Mr. Lieberman, 27 percent for Mr. Lamont and 9 percent for Republican Alan Schlesinger, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Lieberman filed papers last week that will allow him to petition his way onto the November ballot if he loses in the Aug. 8 Democratic primary.

The poll results were not the only bad news for Mr. Lieberman yesterday. A spokesman for Bill Clinton said the former president will support the winner of the Democratic primary, even if it’s not Mr. Lieberman.

“He’s known Senator Lieberman for over 30 years and while he doesn’t agree with him on every issue he thinks he has been a good senator, has the right position on most key Democratic issues and is going to work to help him win the primary,” Jay Carson told the Election Central blog. “However, he respects the primary process and will support the candidate that wins the Democratic Primary and work to help that candidate win.”

Backing Bolton

A senator who last year temporarily blocked John R. Bolton’s nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations said yesterday that he would not stand in the way this year because of an urgent need to ease tensions in the Middle East.

“I realized we’re at war … and I said I think we need to accelerate this decision-making,” said Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican. “For the betterment of our country, we need to clarify our position regarding John Bolton.”

Mr. Voinovich frustrated his Republican colleagues last year when he opposed Mr. Bolton’s nomination in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That led President Bush to install Mr. Bolton through a temporary appointment that expires in January.

Now, Mr. Voinovich said, pressing diplomatic issues with Iran and North Korea and in the Middle East require a smooth approval process for the man he once called a bully.

“My observations are that while Bolton is not perfect, he has demonstrated his ability, especially in recent months, to work with others and follow the president’s lead by working multilaterally,” Mr. Voinovich said.

Cash on hand

Republican Bob Corker, vying against two Republican candidates for the Senate nomination in Tennessee, wrote checks for $1.7 million in recent weeks to help his campaign.

Mr. Corker on Wednesday filed notice of the contribution with the Federal Election Commission, which will allow the other Republican candidates — former Reps. Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary — to receive campaign contributions above the donor limits to level the playing field, the Associated Press reports.

The primary is Aug. 3. The Republican choice likely will face Democratic nominee Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who holds the seat, is stepping down at the end of his term as he weighs a 2008 presidential bid.

Mr. Corker, already well ahead of his Republican opponents in fundraising, said he is committing his own money to counter the negative tactics of others in the race. Mr. Bryant is airing ads criticizing Mr. Corker’s changing stand on abortion, and Mr. Hilleary also has run negative ads during the race.

Mr. Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, also said he has raised about $1.1 million from outside contributors during the cycle — which ran from April 1 through July 14. To date, the campaign has collected about $6.6 million from outside sources. The campaign reported having $1.2 million cash on hand.

Hillary’s helpers

The stars are aligning for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton; Hollywood stars, that is.

In a recent financial disclosure, the New York Democrat and former first lady said she raised almost $5.7 million from April through June, a large chunk of it from La-La Land’s biggest names, including actor Tom Hanks and actress wife Rita Wilson ($4,200), Billy Crystal ($4,000), “Wedding Crasher” Owen Wilson ($2,100), comedian Chris Rock ($2,100) and chanteuse Bette Midler ($4,200).

These celebrities join an A-list of Democratic supporters who previously attended Hollywood fundraisers attended by Mrs. Clinton, whose political war chest has reached $43 million. Because she faces virtually no opposition in her re-election bid for the Senate, observers see this as contributions to a 2008 presidential bid.

Walt Disney Co. chief Robert A. Iger, director Rob Reiner, actresses Reese Witherspoon and Edie Falco, actors Paul Newman, James Caan and Danny DeVito, and talk show host Jerry Springer also have ponied up for Mrs. Clinton, who has more than $22 million cash on hand.

PAC closes

The fundraising organization that helped vault former Rep. Tom DeLay to Republican leadership ranks in the House and distributed election money to numerous Republicans has been fined for campaign-finance violations and is shutting down.

Under an agreement with the Federal Election Commission, Americans for a Republican Majority agreed to pay a $115,000 fine and close. The agreement, reached July 7, was made public late Wednesday.

The agreement resulted from an audit by the FEC of the political action committee’s records for Jan. 1, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2002. The audit found Mr. DeLay’s committee had not properly reported contributions, disbursements and cash on hand.

It also found the committee failed to properly report outstanding debts and obligations and did not follow federal rules for paying for shared federal and nonfederal activities, the Associated Press reports.

The audit was conducted in August. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, had filed a complaint calling for enforcement action against the PAC.

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

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