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UPI's Capital Comment for Sept. 26, 2002

By United Press International   |   Sept. 26, 2002 at 5:38 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Harkin: Tripp'ed up? -- The Iowa Senate race is heating up. Last week, a transcript of a private meeting between Rep. Greg Ganske, R-Iowa, and some of his supporters was leaked to the media. Ganske is the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate against Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin.

The transcript came from a secret audiotape made by a person or persons unknown, potentially in violation of state and federal wiretap and eavesdropping laws.

The Harkin campaign denied any involvement in the leak, going so far as to suggest in an offhanded way, according to a person familiar with the campaigns, that Ganske's campaign might have orchestrated the leak for their own benefit.

At this point the issue exploded, moving from a discussion over what was or was not said to a question of how the transcript got to the press in the first place. Late Monday night, after repeatedly denying its involvement, the Harkin campaign admitted through campaign manager Jeff Link that it had indeed given the transcript to the Iowa media. Republicans are now demanding a full investigation into the incident.

"After lying about their involvement -- and having the nerve to actually blame the Ganske campaign -- it is not enough to just offer a late night apology," National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Mitch Bainwol said. "Tom Harkin said that 'this is clearly unacceptable,' but what is really unacceptable are the unanswered questions, such as how his campaign got the transcript of an illegally recorded private meeting and who on his campaign distributed it to the media." On Wednesday evening, the Polk County, Iowa, Attorney's Office confirmed that an investigation into the taping was underway and that the Des Moines police department, who have primary jurisdiction in this matter, was investigating the incident. Insiders say that the Ganske campaign may have stumbled onto a way to make a lemon into political lemonade.


The roar of the crowd -- As has been reported elsewhere, things got a bit testy on the normally staid C-SPAN Morning Journal program Tuesday morning. A discussion of the issues of the day between Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., and Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., grew heated after Filner asserted U.S. officials provided chemical and biological weapons and technology to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war -- which the United States and Great Britain have identified as a current threat.

"That is wrong. That's made up," Wilson said while Filner tried to establish the authority for his view by pointing to current press accounts. Wilson countered by charging, "This hatred of America by some people is just outrageous. And you need to get over that." Filner, who was jailed for two months in mid-1961 as a result of a civil rights demonstration in Jackson, Miss., predictably took offense at the charge while Wilson, growing more voluble, refused to back down.

Filner says at least one Republican told him he would have "punched (Wilson) out" had the remark been directed at him though others in the GOP have sided with Wilson, a 28-year veteran of the state's National Guard. According to Wilson's office, calls from South Carolina have been uniformly positive after the altercation. He has also reportedly received several favorable reviews from members of the House GOP leadership who commended him for challenging what his congressional spokesman called "a baseless allegation." Wilson's office points to a Sept. 21 briefing in which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, "I thought it was most unfortunate that even the implication of that would be raised ... I cannot believe that that would be true." Wilson has, his spokesman said, apologized if, in the heat of the debate, Filner believed his Americanism to be at issue.


Under the knife and under the gun -- Ambassador John Negroponte, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, has undergone surgery for prostate cancer. The 63-year-old Negroponte is, according to a spokesman, expected to be back in New York on Sunday and back on the job soon. His absence, even though temporary, presents a political problem for the Bush administration as it prepares for the rather thorny task of moving a resolution in support of regime change in Iraq through the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly.


A boatload of trouble -- While it seems that every member of Congress has their own idea how best to improve the nation's security after Sept. 11, very few of them are willing to discuss how to pay for it. One who has not shied away is Sen. Ernest 'Fritz' Hollings, D-S.C., who proposed $3.5 billion in new taxes on business to pay for increased security measures at U.S. ports earlier in the year.

The U.S. maritime industry currently generates $22 billion in annual revenues to the federal government through 124 different user fees and taxes. Strong opposition to the Hollings plan, particularly from the business community, contributed to the gridlock that stalled the bill in conference earlier this summer. Now there are concerns that the proposal has been revived and is being offered by Senate Democrats in the continuing negotiations over maritime security legislation -- and fears abound that the White House might sign off on it.


Wanted -- -- In an effort to improve the global response to missing children, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, in conjunction with International Center for Missing & Exploited Children, has come out with a new "Good Practice Report" on the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The report provides an analysis of the procedures and systems of eight countries that have the most missing child cases under the Hague Treaty. Those countries include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.


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© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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