UPI's Capital Comment for Oct. 29, 2001

By United Press International   |   Oct. 29, 2001 at 1:40 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 (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.

Out -- New Jersey State Sen. William Gormley, a Republican, says he will not seek the U.S. Senate seat held by embattled Democrat Robert Torricelli. His move came just days before a new poll by Quinnipiac College was released, showing Torricelli's approval ratings on the uptick. The survey shows that 44 percent of those polled approve of the job Torricelli is doing in the Senate, while 30 percent disapprove. Early suspicions are that Gormley -- who is the darling of the liberal Republicans who make up much of the state's GOP establishment -- was eased aside in an effort to clear the field and give Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiando a clear shot at the nomination. In 1994, LoBiando bested Gormley in the GOP primary for the House seat he won later that year.

Mob action -- An unholy alliance between the FBI and certain mobsters led to shocking instances of violence and corruption -- at least that is what Boston Globe reporter Ralph Ranalli charges in his new book Deadly Alliance -- The FBI's Secret Partnership with the Mob. On Nov. 6, the Cato Institute think tank hosts a book luncheon for Ranalli, where he will discuss his view of how the FBI's informant program went awry and its policy implications.

Whistling past the graveyard? -- The position of the National Rifle Association in the Virginia governor's race has been a topic of some discussion. Early on, Democrat Mark Warner had several high-profile meetings with NRA leaders, leading analysts to speculate he was actually courting their endorsement -- an unusual move for a Virginia Democrat.

When the NRA released its endorsements several weeks ago, it endorsed neither Warner nor his GOP opponent, former state Attorney General Mark Earley -- prompting a discussion of how Warner had successfully remade himself into a moderate-to-conservative Democrat and was a real threat to the Virginia GOP juggernaut. All of that may now be up in the air.

Last week, James Jay Baker, chairman of the NRA Political Victory Fund, released a letter that begins "With Election Day just around the corner, I thought it was important for every Virginia NRA member to be furnished with the most timely information available on the Virginia Governor's race. The NRA Political Victory Fund has issued a grade of A- to Republican Mark Earley, and a grade of C to Democrat Mark Warner. In our judgment, Mark Earley is clearly a better candidate for Virginia's NRA members and gun owners." The Washington Post, which has endorsed Warner, reacted to news of the letter on Friday with a story headlined "NRA Withholds Endorsement in Va. Race," but that sort of sounds like an endorsement to us.

A gift that keeps on giving -- The Transplant Recipients International Organization is honoring Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, as Heroes in Transplantation in recognition of their "instrumental leadership promoting organ and tissue donation." The two will be recognized at a dinner on Nov. 13.

Blurring the lines -- Abortion-rights opponents are working hard to bring the arrest of abortion provider Brian Finkel, medical director of the Metro Phoenix Women's Center, to the attention of the national media. According to the Arizona Republic newspaper, "Finkel was arrested (Wednesday) morning ... accused of sexually abusing at least nine patients over an 8-year period. The arrest culminated a yearlong investigation by Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, who said that 'every time we thought we could wrap up the investigation, another victim (came) forward.'" And while Romley says clearly that "This is not an abortion issue," abortion-rights opponents say this gives a major black eye to the right-to-choose movement. Finkel, an outspoken advocate for legal abortion has made himself a lightning rod with public comments including these taken from a 1999 interview with the Phoenix, Ariz., New Times "'Got a Tech 9 (semi-automatic pistol). Every gynecologist needs a Tech 9.' Here's his first semi-automatic, 'so I could have more rounds, 'cause they were bringing me more Christians'... There's a Smith and Wesson .40 and a few rifles, 'for crowd control down at the office. Ya ever looked down a gun?' he asks. 'C'mon, it's fun ... Pretend the Catholic hordes are after you.'"

No falcon, no snowman -- The International Association of Political Consultants is holding its 2001 annual meeting on the island of Malta, which they are calling "the political crossroads of the world." Among the topics on the agenda are "The Issue of Romanian Transition" and "The Politics of Terror."

See for yourself -- Rep. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, announces that a public field hearing will be held on Oct. 29 in New York's City Hall. Scheduled witnesses at the hearing include Gov. Frank Keating, R-Okla.; Gov. Roy Barnes, D-Ga.; and Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Dig - The New York Post reports that a roofing firm "hired by mayoral candidate Mark Green's brother violated city building laws by failing to obtain a work permit at the building where five men were killed and 11 injured" when a scaffold collapsed. Green's brother Stephen fired the firm Thursday, but the political damage may have already been done, such as it is. Under ordinary circumstances, the revelation could be damaging to mayoral candidate Mark Green, a former Nader-raider who made his name as a consumer advocate, but his lead over Republican Michael Bloomberg will likely be little affected by the news.

Personnel note -- The nomination of Michelle Van Cleave to be assistant secretary of defense has been withdrawn ... North Carolinian Earl Phillips has been nominated by the president to be ambassador to Barbados -- which also gives him jurisdiction over St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines ... Paul Hatch, former executive director of the Republican Governors' Association, joins the New York-based Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft Global Public Affairs Group.

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