UPI's Capital Comment for October 19, 2001

By United Press International  |  Oct. 19, 2001 at 5:09 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- News notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Not a good way to start -- Even before ex-Los Angeles Mayor Dick Riordan gets out of the gate in his race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination for governor of California, the campaign has reportedly been rocked by a mass resignation. According to reports, Fiona Hutton, the deputy campaign director, speechwriter Bill Whelan, veteran GOP strategist Arnold Steinberg and Dan Schnur, who was formerly a top aide to Pete Wilson, the state's late Republican chief executive, have severed ties to Riordan's efforts.

On the other hand ... -- Veteran Democrat Pat Caddell, who was once pollster for Gary Hart's presidential efforts and who many in his party have never forgiven for his aggressive attacks on Bill Clinton, has reportedly been tapped to lead a "Democrats for Riordan" effort in California.

Real power -- National Journal, the weekly magazine covering politics and government in Washington, has come out with its annual analysis of Washington lobby firms. To the surprise of no one who follows the issue, the new powerhouse in town is the Florida-based firm of Greenberg Traurig, which has cracked the Top 10 for the first time. Insiders say much of the credit for the firm's astounding 407 percent boost in revenues goes to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who brought a reported $3 million in business to the firm last year -- along with an extensive network of Washington contacts and a crack staff of associates. Not coincidentally, Abramoff's former firm, the Washington-state based Preston Gates, which National Journal says was ranked in the top 5 during his years there, dropped out of the Top 10 list as revenues generated from lobbying activities dropped by "nearly 50 percent," according to the magazine.

Always leave them wanting more -- Ann Brown, the controversial Clinton appointee who is about to leave her post as chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, is pushing hard for a new round of regulations and compliance actions as she heads out the door. Attracting particular attention is her effort, as reported in CPSC Monitor, "to seek a recall of some 20 million air guns, manufactured by at least two different companies." The guns, which have been in the hands of consumers for the last 30 years, are not marketed to children and are restricted for sale to those over the age of 18. CPSC is claiming jurisdiction over these guns because, as they use compressed air rather then gunpowder to propel bullets or pellets, they are outside the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Gun enthusiasts say that Brown has, throughout her tenure, tried but failed to get oversight of firearms at the CSPC because they are, in her view, dangerous consumer products -- and that the air gun issue is a stalking horse for a later move against handguns, rifles, and shotguns.

Mapmaker, mapmaker, make me a map -- News reports from Oregon say that the state's Supreme Court had issued the last word in the ongoing redistricting battle. On Thursday, they settled the debate over boundaries for Oregon House and Senate districts by leaving Democrat Secretary of State Bill Bradbury's redistricting plan as is -- with one exception. The court also ordered him to adjust a district drawn with erroneous Census data in Sheridan -- otherwise, his plan to redraw 30 Senate and 60 House districts remains intact.

Odd man out -- It appears that U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, who lost his congressional seat in the 1994 GOP landslide only to gain it back two years later, may once again be headed home. According to sources knowledgeable about the state's redistricting efforts, Strickland will be the member who loses his seat after the state's congressional districts are redrawn. Originally Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, was expected to get the boot, but his aggressive threats to run against GOP Gov. Bob Taft in 2002 led him to suggest to the GOP-controlled redistricting authority that Strickland might be a better candidate for a forced retirement.

Switch -- Democrat Brian Schweitzer, the Whitefish, Mont., farmer and political activist who lost a bid for U.S. Senate in 2000, has been the Number 1 choice of his party to take on Freshman GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg next year. He is reportedly telling people that he will take a pass on the race. The former U.S. Senate candidate would rather face GOP incumbent Gov. Judy Martz in 2004.

Rest period -- Rep. Doug Bereuter, R-Neb., the veteran congressman who was unceremoniously passed over for the chairmanship of the House International Relations Committee in favor of Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., may be the next member of the Congressional retirement caucus, according to rumors on Capitol Hill.

Muscle -- Tom Phillips, the publishing tycoon who once counted the conservative newspaper Human Events among his holdings, has stepped up his efforts to develop a new generation of center-right political leaders. Phillips is chairing the National Conservative Campaign Fund, founded in 1999, which has set as its goal the retention and strengthening of "conservative control over the Congress and elect(ing) even more conservatives to the House and Senate."

Personnel note -- Brian Jones has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be general counsel at the U.S. Department of Education... Stephanie Leger, a former legislative counsel to Sen. John Breaux, D-La., joins the lobby shop at the law firm of Greenberg Traurig... Council Nedd II, veteran Washington policy expert, joins the Council for Affordable Health Insurance as director of state affairs.

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