The Web's Best Political News Summary: Feb. 6: Money for Nothing But For Mitch It's Not Free

Hardly A4 today, President Bush lends a face to our twin leads — the ongoing budget fights, punctuated by the expected death of stimulus package today; and the looming campaign finance reform vote in the House next week — as he travels to economically hurting New York to headline two fundraisers.

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News Summary

Also, former President Ronald Reagan turns 91 today, making him the oldest living former president in U.S. history. Before taking off for New York, President Bush will sign Reagan's boyhood home into the ranks of national historic sites, and commemorate a proud supply-sider.

Talk about editorial pages on the warpath: with the House now scheduled to debate and vote on Shays-Meehan, the House version of McCain-Feingold, next Tuesday and Wednesday, both Bush and Vice President Cheney are embarking today on previously planned, separate fund-raising efforts that have been billed as the kickoff of their promised big push to help the GOP in the midterm elections.

Both of Bush's appearances in Manhattan tonight will be on behalf of New York's Republican Gov. George Pataki; the first, being held at the Mayor's Residence, is closed to the press, while the second, lower-dollar event at a hotel is open.

The practice over the years of presidents attending fund-raisers closed to the guardians of the public interest (that would be us, the media) has switched back and forth and now back, without much of a public, or even press debate. We, for three, would argue that openness is in the public interest. Of course, having been to some closed fund-raisers, we generally find that the politicians don't say anything much more interesting than they do at open events.

And keep in mind, of course, that Pataki is not a candidate for federal office, so the rules governing the big money that he's raising wouldn't be affected directly by the measure being considered on the House floor next week.

"On Monday, [Bush] attends a Milwaukee fundraiser for Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum," USA Today adds. ( )

Mr. Cheney, meanwhile, will set off on a fund-raising tour for endangered House Republicans, raising money tonight in Evansville, Ind., for Rep. John Hostettler, and tomorrow in Louisville, Ky., for Rep. Anne Northup. We ask plaintively: is ANY national news organization efforting (as we say in TV) to cover these Cheney trips?

The Washington Post 's Edsall writes the counterpunch for Democrats: that their candidates in many of these same key races are financially better positioned heading into 2002. ( )

As we expect the New York Times to do most each and every day between now and Wednesday, the Washington Post editorial page rails against the overall grand tour, "Mr. Bush is said to have agreed to 40 [fundraising] events, most to be held later in the season. That's a substantial commitment for leaders who still have a war to run. It underscores yet again the corrosive grip of the money chase on national politics." ( )

As far as the second of our twin leads goes, New York is a city the White House hasn't exactly shown a lot of love toward lately, nor gotten a lot of love from, as far as economic assistance and politics go.

We were focused on Treasury Secretary O'Neill yesterday, but apparently it was Mitch Daniels who got a little testy after his multiple appearances on the Hill. "White House budget director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. said yesterday that he regrets likening New York's fight for more federal aid to 'a little money-grubbing game.' Under questioning from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) … Daniels also seemed to back away from comments the day before that $5 billion from the Sept. 11 victim compensation fund would count against President Bush's pledge of $20 billion to help New York recover from the terrorist attacks. Daniels grew livid when reporters pressed him on the discrepancy after the Budget Committee hearing. At one point he snapped at a reporter, 'Is English okay, or would Spanish be more plain?'" ( )

All the papers write the stimpack obit: Senate Majority Leader Daschle, anticipating a failure to agree on the bill, intends to pull it today.

The Washington Post notes, "Still, the collapse of the stimulus plan would help improve the administration's 2003 budget forecast, turning a projected $80 billion deficit into a $15 billion deficit — and actually producing a surplus in 2004. Moreover, if the economy revives in time for the November elections, GOP strategists said, the administration would not have to share credit with Democrats but instead could say last year's tax cut was responsible." ( )

In addition, "[c]onservative Republicans pressing for a balanced budget said that absent the stimulus deal, a balanced budget was in reach and they would press for one by seeking deeper spending cuts."

The Washington Times leads, "The Democrat-led Senate is expected to kill an economic recovery bill today, leaving $77 billion from President Bush's budget unspent and vulnerable to lawmakers' wishes." ( )

Among other annoyances for the administration today …

Maybe it's time to start wondering how much earth he can scorch on his way out. The retiring (literally — not as in "shy and") Mr. Armey yesterday denounced Mr. Bush's plan to expand AmeriCorps: "The Texas Republican said he plans to fight the president's push to increase federal funds for organizations such as AmeriCorps, created during the Clinton administration. 'He is so wrong on that. I do not understand why anyone would embrace AmeriCorps. It was not a good idea then, and it is not a good idea now,' Mr. Armey said." ( )

On the energy task force front, now that the Justice Department has responded that Judicial Watch is not entitled to the records, the court hearing has been scheduled for next Tuesday. "In addition to Judicial Watch's lawsuit and the GAO's impending action, the Natural Resources Defense Council has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Energy over the same matter. A hearing is scheduled for Friday in federal court" in Washington. ( )?coll=la%2Dnews%2Da%5Fsection )

Still, the administration does have one score to crow about. The Washington Post reports that tomorrow, Bush is expected to announce his support for a compromise bill to encourage public and private support for charitable institutions. "It allows a charitable tax deduction for those who do not itemize on their tax returns, a 'Compassionate Capital Fund' to encourage public-private partnerships and the restoration of funding to the Social Services block grant, a pool of federal money for community organizations." However, the bill may run into trouble in the House, which passed a version that blurred the line between church and state. ( )

Late editions of the New York Times and its Web site carry a brief story on the same topic, with this saddest-of-all-possible sentences in the print dodge: "The Washington Post first reported the compromise on its Web site tonight."

The Hill will host some more Enron hearings today, but the big one comes tomorrow, when Chairman Tauzin tees things up again.

From the ABCNEWS London Bureau: Pakistani police have linked a banned Islamic militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammad (Army of Mohammed), to the kidnapping of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl. The hunt is on for a former British public school student whom they believe is responsible for Pearl's kidnapping. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, born in East London, was named by State Department officials as a key figure in the case.

On the anniversary of her father's death from lung cancer, as well the 50th anniversary of her ascendance to the throne, Queen Elizabeth II is visiting a cancer unit, breaking with tradition by making a public appearance on what is normally for her a private day.

U.S. forces have determined they captured the wrong people in a commando raid in Afghanistan last month and have released them. The 27 captured were handed over to an official of the Afghan interim government. An investigation continues to determine whether some 15 killed in the raid on a suspected al Qaeda hideout also were the wrong people — that is, not the Taliban and al Qaeda figures that troops were after.

Budget Politics

Restive congressional Republicans, who don't want the GOP to become the party of deficits, are seizing on the likely failure of the stimulus bill today — and the spare cash that will leave in the presidential budget — to make a different case, says the New York Times (and other papers): "The seeming collapse of the economic stimulus legislation prompted some House Republicans to call for Congress to adopt a balanced budget this year, and there were indications that the Republican leadership and the White House might go along with them," but the Times doesn't really explain what that means. ( )

Alison Mitchell's Times story on the picking of the lock on the lockbox updates what some will surely see as an empty gesture: "To help shield their members and reassure older voters, House Republican leaders are planning a vote soon on a measure that would require the Social Security Administration to give out certificates to people guaranteeing all the retirement benefits for which they are qualified." ( )

Consider us now on the record predicting that these certificates before too long will appear in a Frank Rich column.

Robert Pear joins congressional Democrats in their skepticism about the White House's budget-helping projections about the growth of Medicare costs, a huge part of the federal budget no matter what: "If White House estimates are correct, Medicare would grow more slowly in the next decade than it has in any 10-year period since its creation in 1965. It would also grow more slowly than projected spending by private health insurance plans, and Medicare spending for the average beneficiary would not keep pace with medical inflation." ( )

When we first heard that the president's budget cut money for the space program, we immediately thought: whither Florida's Space Coast? (Florida? That must-win state in 2004?) But according to an analysis by the Orlando Sentinel, most of those cuts will come from NASA's California operational base (OH … ), and jobs and programs will, in fact, be TRANSFERRED to Florida. ( )?coll=orl%2Dhome%2Dheadlines )

Campaign Finance Law Vote

The New York Times ' sources look at the timing of the snap vote: "Senior Republican aides said one of the reasons that the House leaders had decided to move now is that they wanted to head off any effort by the bill's supporters to delay its effect until after the 2002 elections. They said they feared that such a delay might build more Republican support for the measure. The Republican aides said that if the debate happened now and the bill could become effective quickly, some Democrats might worry about voting for it. Democrats have run about even with Republicans in soft money fund-raising, but they lag behind Republicans in regulated donations." ( )

"Some supporters of the measure, declining to be named, suggested that another reason for the speedy vote was the expectation that two of the bill's major supporters, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Mr. Gephardt, of Missouri, would be unavailable to lobby for health reasons."

"Mr. McCain is at the Mayo Clinic for plastic surgery after removal of an early form of melanoma from his nose. Mr. Gephardt had hernia surgery scheduled for next week. After Mr. Hastert told him the bill would come up, Mr. Gephardt rescheduled the procedure for this Friday."

GAO/Energy Task Force Vote

USA Today reports on another memo leaked by Waxman's office: "Less than a month before President Bush presented his energy plan to the nation, the Environmental Protection Agency sent the White House energy task force a blistering memo saying that the latest draft was 'problematic,' 'overly simplistic' and 'not supported by the facts.' Commenting on what was then Chapter 8 of the energy plan, the memo says, 'Costs of compliance with environmental requirements are overstated, several inaccurate statements and opinions are presented as factual, and no citations are provided for many of these statements.'" ( )

"It continues, 'We are very concerned that this language is inaccurate and inappropriately implicates environmental programs as a major cause of supply constraints in the United States' refining capacity.'"

"The memo suggests there was disagreement among Cabinet members over the direction of energy policy."

"On Tuesday, however, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman's office said it was satisfied with the final version of the energy report, which was released last May."


Joe Berardino, the Andersen CEO, signs another round of full-page newspaper ads (the The Wall Street Journal's is on A13), with the word "Volcker" in there five times in seven paragraphs, although NOT in any sentence that reads, "Did I mention that Paul Volcker is working with us now?"

The Wall Street Journal editorial page doesn't want Enron to became another opportunity to enrich the trial bar.

The Washington Post gives front-page treatment to previously low-profile Enron exec Lou Pai, who helped concoct some of the company's business spin-offs and walked off with $270 million from stock sales. ( )

Enron Legislative

The The Wall Street Journal sees in the words of Rep. Billy Tauzin "the clearest indication yet that lawmakers, despite the distractions of the unfolding election year, won't be content to simply probe Enron's failings," but will seek legislative fixes. It's an interview worth reading, but we think the "clearest indication yet" construct is a bit fabricated.

Enron Politics

This is a good quote from the New York Times , reflecting the administration's professed lack of worry about the issue: "A … senior administration official scoffed at the idea that the Enron collapse was anything but a corporate scandal. 'People think Ken Lay is Satan,' the official said. 'They don't think we are and they don't think some G.A.O. process story is the equivalent of lying and robbing people.'" ( )

On the other hand, the The Wall Street Journal has a must-read on how Halliburton and other corporations with ties to the Bush White House are so worried about the appearance of special treatment that they feel constrained from dealing with the administration the way they would have before — which some people might not think is such a bad thing, but others would disagree.

Energy companies, and the president's energy plan, are being particularly affected. "Some Democrats also are preparing to slam Mr. Bush for his connection to Thomas Kuhn, president of Edison Electric Institute who helped raise more than $100,000 for the Bush presidential campaign, should the administration relax pollution controls for the investor-owned power plants in his group."

"[F]or now, the White House is 'spooked,' says a GOP lobbyist who talks frequently with Karl Rove," who does a very high volume of calls each day, apparently.

Halliburton has an existing problem dealing with an asbestos-related lawsuits for which it would like help from Washington. It even participates in a Washington coalition with a very un-Washington-coalition name: "the Asbestos Alliance!"

"How important is the legislative effort to Halliburton? A few weeks ago, when a false rumor spread on Wall Street that Mr. Bush was planning to merely mention the asbestos issue in his Jan. 29 State of the Union speech, Halliburton bonds shot up in price on the potentially good news. Mr. Card, the president's chief of staff, says Mr. Bush plans a new drive to overhaul the tort-law system, but isn't sure if the asbestos claims would be addressed." (ABC editors' note: can those Wall Street folks be so naive as to think the word "asbestos" would make it into a SOTU?)

Enron Investigation

The Los Angeles Times fills in some details on alleged sales of stock by Enron executives during the unraveling phase. ( )

The Wall Street Journal 's congressional sources say that Enron executives "tried to get one of the company's in-house lawyers fired in 2000 after their boss expressed unhappiness with the way the lawyer was negotiating with a partnership in which the boss had an interest … ."

Legislative Agenda

"The Bush administration is readying a proposal on global warming to issue before President Bush leaves for Asia next week, hoping to ease concerns by allies and environmentalists following the administration's rejection of the Kyoto accord restricting emissions," the Washington Post reports. ( )

"Administration officials cautioned that they still have not finished deliberations, but several officials said Bush will probably roll out the proposal next week. The optimism follows a meeting Monday night of Bush's Cabinet-level global warming working group, which narrowed differences over proposals for limiting pollutants and greenhouse gases that cause the atmosphere to warm."

"According to those familiar with the administration's discussions, Bush continues to oppose an international accord setting tough mandatory limits but will outline various measures the United States will take to limit the release of greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide."

"The intensifying deliberations underscore Bush's efforts to grapple with an issue that has caused him trouble abroad with leading U.S. allies and at home, where his poor standing on environmental issues is one of the few chinks in his otherwise lofty public standing."

The former Energy Department engineer who was in charge of determining whether Yucca Mountain would be a suitable repository for the nation's nuclear waste swore in an affidavit and also said yesterday that "U.S. officials have known since 1995 that the site's geologic features would not adequately protect groundwater and air from potential radioactive pollution." ( )

The fight over Yucca Mountain "pits the administration and its allies in the nuclear power and manufacturing industries against the Nevada political establishment, environmental groups and Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), who has vowed to block the project. The administration says a permanent burial site is essential to consolidate nuclear waste stockpiles that could be targeted by terrorists."

"Last week, scientists on an independent nuclear waste advisery panel meeting in Nevada said there were enormous gaps in what the Energy Department knew about the site and about the high-tech canisters it proposes for storage. Officials said research on how well the mountain and the waste containers would isolate the radioactive materials would continue for as long as the repository was open, which could be 300 years."

The story points out that the guy is a consultant to the state of Nevada.

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary

The Washington Post 's Kamen reports this Sen. Kerry sighting: "For years, former Small Business Administration deputy chief Fred Hochberg was President Bill Clinton's highest-ranking openly gay government appointee. Small wonder Hochberg's 50th birthday bash Saturday at New York's most tony Le Cirque was filled with gay activists and a who's who of Democratic political noteworthies, has-beens and wannabes: Bill Clinton, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and John F. Kerry (Mass.), … The lavish dinner for nearly 200 was hosted by Hochberg's mother, mail-order mogul Lillian Vernon, and his partner, writer Tom Healy. Hochberg reprised his '70s hair with a huge Afro wig, as he and Bill Clinton posed for photos." ( )

Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is in New Hampshire today campaigning for an Executive Council candidate.

Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes gives his State of the State today, after a bit of a delay, and we'll all watch to see what kind of big-time speech the guy can give.


The Washington Post looks at the recent, largely Enron-inspired rush by politicians from President Bush to Hill Democrats to tout oneself or one's positions as "populist." "But neither Bush's late-January swing through the South, nor a recent series of speeches by Democratic leaders, came close to the full-scale attack on moneyed interests that defines true populism." ( )

President Bush will campaign for Elizabeth Dole on February 27 in Charlotte, N.C. ( )

The Wall Street Journal hides a good story on why anti-term limits forces are on the march, on B13.

The Washington Post 's Kamen writes up the latest fund-raising trip in his usual cheeky style: "Recent cold and cloudy days giving you the blahs? Then 'Viva Puerto Rico!' Yes, it's your chance for a 'Puerto Rico Weekend Getaway' with House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). For a mere $5,000, which even includes a 'spouse or guest,' lucky contributors to Americans for a Republican Majority buy the right to pay for a weekend vacation ('Hotel fees and travel fare are additional cost') at the beautiful Doral Resort at Palmas del Mar on Feb. 22-24 … Sure, five grand plus the cost of the trip may seem pricey — even if you do get to hang with 'The Hammer' — but here's the good news: Our invitation notes there's a casino where you can gamble and maybe win back the money or even come out ahead." ( )

Everyone now and then, says Janet Reno, "I go zoop."

Appearing in Tallahassee yesterday, Reno spoke to state Democrats and picked up the endorsement of the painters' union. Here's a wonderful bit of spin: "The AFL-CIO calls the painters union one of the most politically effective unions in the country," Reno spokeswoman Nicole Harburger. ( )

In South Dakota's mega Senate race (pitting not one but two U.S. Senators against not one challenger but one challenger plus the White House), a local issue has attained national import. And it's kind of interesting, if you can take a deep breath and follow us through the thicket.

At stake is the indemnification of the company which owns the Homestake Gold Mine from liability for future environmental challenges. Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson told a local public radio station last week that the Senate — and its Majority Leader, Tom Daschle — acting in concert with Republican Gov. Bill Janklow, worked expeditiously to get funding and begin the process of setting up the indemnifying waiver. But then, Johnson said, the House of Representatives dropped the ball — referring, in a way, to Rep. Jim Thune, the Republican running to unseat him.

Whew. OK. Thune responded yesterday with a TV ad claiming that Thune worked with Sen. Daschle to secure funding for the project. The ad is running in the Sioux Falls market, covering the more conservative western half of the state. ( ).

District Court Judge Charles Pickering is perhaps the most contentious nominee to come down the pike since Otto Reich and Eugene Scalia, at least for some liberal activist groups in Washington. He's up for an appellate court seat in the Fifth District.

Pickering's got a second confirmation hearing tomorrow, and at least some of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will reflect the view expressed by one party activist we talked with: "He's a Dixiecrat."

Here's our take on this classic, '80s-style battle: ( )

Always the Paper of Record on the left attacking the nominees of Republican presidents, the New York Times does the Pickering confirmation fight in full force. ( )

The Los Angeles Times editorial page weighs in with a "NO!" ( )?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dcomment%2Deditorials )

We saw Dennis Cardoza, the man likely to oust Rep. Gary Condit in next month's Democratic primary, grilled by both Crossfire halves last night on CNN. Both Bill Press and Tucker Carlson asked him repeatedly: distinguish yourself, issue-wise, from Condit. Cardoza's response (which, by the way, is what he also told us yesterday): "This is not about Gary Condit. I'm running for the people of the district." And it's true: it's hard to find a way, other than the Chandra Levy matter, in which Condit is out of step with his district, or different from Cardoza — who told us he's running because Condit otherwise would get beaten in the general election and the seat would thus fall to the GOP.

The article is from yesterday, but it outlines Cardoza's trip to D.C. this week, and mentions the fund-raiser thrown for him last night by California's two U.S. Senators. ( )

Attention, California voters: the rules for registering and voting have changed since the last election. You may now register to vote up to two weeks before the March 5 primary, rather than up to one month beforehand — so, as late as February 19 — but now, "voters registered with a party receive a ballot listing only that party's candidates, as before 2000. Registered independents, however, may request the ballot for the Democratic, Republican, American Independent or Natural Law parties — the parties that opted to let independents participate." ( )?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dcomment%2Deditorials )

Republican governors John Rowland of Connecticut and Lincoln Almond of Rhode Island will deliver their State of the State addresses today, along with Barnes.

Ah, to be a fly on the wall when the president of the United States calls foreign leaders.

Actually, Slobodan Milosevic's intelligence service seems to have been able to record Bill Clinton's telephone calls to Milosevic, an alleged portion of which were leaked to a Croatian weekly.

"'It's nice to hear your voice,' Clinton tells Milosevic in one taped call from Air Force One at the end of a New Year's visit to U.S. troops newly installed in Bosnia in January 1996. 'We support normalization of relations and I know it cannot go ahead without you,' the U.S. president stresses during a brief conversation about implementing the Dayton peace accords, which Milosevic helped clinch to end the war in Bosnia." ( );jsessionid=GTJ2P5AYDYHRWCRBAE0CFEYKEEATGIWD?type=worldnews&StoryID=574100 )

Bush Administration Strategy/Personality

As noted, Mitch Daniels had a touch of Paul O'Neill's disease on Monday. You've heard of it; it's where politicians say what they mean but don't really mean to say it as boldly as they did. Referring to the promise of $20 billion in relief for New York in his Senate testimony on Monday, Daniels insinuated that the $5 billion in victim's compensation fees should be counted toward that sum. There's a "little money grubbing" going on, he said.

In as full a back-pedaling mode as the proud and confident Daniels can get, he quickly penned an op-ed column for today's New York Post (suspiciously, not online) assuring the city that they'll probably get more than $20 billion — but not before he hassled a Post reporter.

"Yesterday, the strain was clear when a Post reporter quizzed an agitated Daniels on whether he was committing Uncle Sam to at least $25 billion for New York, including the victims' aid. Daniels grabbed at the ID card around the reporter's neck, called him 'dense' and suggested that maybe Daniels needed to speak Spanish to be understood. He later apologized." ( )

In the op-ed column (page 25), Daniels offers stronger assurance to New Yorkers on the keyest point.

"The federal government will meet President Bush's commitment of providing more than $20 billion to New York, period," Daniels writes.

The New York Times , on the other hand, has a pretty straightforward account of Mitch's sing-along. ( )

The New York Post is all over previewing the president's trip, with a few more details on the trip schedule. ( )

The paper also gets a peek at the names who will grace Mike Bloomberg's fund-raiser for Pataki tonight. Besides President Bush. The list that has anted up $15,000 a head or $25,000 a couple includes real-estate moguls Peter Kalikow, George Klein, Arnold Fisher, Sam and Richard LeFrak, Douglas Durst and Jerry Speyer, a top Republican Party source told the Post . Also mega-lobbyist and former Rep. Bill Paxon, who's married to ex-Rep. Susan Molinari, Republican fund-raiser and former Port Authority honcho Lew Eisenberg and investment banker Pete Peterson. Also, ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani — now making big bucks in the private sector — and philanthropist Carroll Petrie and financier Ezra Zilkha." ( )

The Wall Street Journal (A14) claims that the Chinese government (what we call in Tyler, Texas, "the Communist Chinese") are "rethinking its heavy-handed religious policies and taking a more tolerant line on mainstream groups … ," in advance of President Bush's summit meeting with President Jiang later this month in Beijing.

The Washington Post 's Broder writes up what we suggested last week: that the White House "borrowed" — Broder actually calls it "grand larceny" — the volunteerism idea from the folks at the Democratic Leadership Council. ( )

Homeland Security

The The Wall Street Journal and others report that the Department of Transportation has now said it won't do business with Argenbright Security, who some view as being possessed of a brand name nearly as good as Enron's.

The War Over There

The Washington Times notes, "Iran and Iraq yesterday mixed hostile rhetoric with moves to address U.S. complaints in the first sign that President Bush's 'axis of evil' speech was having a beneficial effect. The third country, North Korea, remained defiant." ( )