UPI's Capital Comment for Oct. 31, 2001

Oct. 31, 2001 at 2:56 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- News notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Big news -- For several days, the state of North Carolina was abuzz that big news was due from Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. Once the front-running Democrat in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., she has been somewhat eclipsed by the announcement that former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles was joining the race. Some speculated that the forthcoming announcement might be a withdrawal from the race. As it turns out, the news is a different kind of bell-ringer: Marshall was married to Bill Holford, a Wilson, N.C., attorney, last Saturday.

Win Ben Stein's vote -- The Club for Growth, working with the National Federation of Independent Business, a major small-business lobby, is launching a television ad campaign in support of GOP nominee Bret Schundler's campaign for governor of New Jersey. The ads feature actor and personality Ben Stein, host of Comedy Central's "Win Ben Stein's Money," who first surfaced as a high school economics teacher in the feature film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

Stein is best remembered for the segment where he repeats Bueller's name over and over in an obnoxious monotone while calling the class roll.

In the ad, a take-off on that bit, Stein educates his "students" about Democrat nominee Jim McGreevey's record of support for taxes increases as a member of the New Jersey Legislature.

Oh dear, what can the matter be? -- Some of the GOP colleagues of Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., do not seem too keen on the idea of him returning to Washington for a third six-year term. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., is reportedly joining with former New Hampshire GOP Sen. Warren Rudman to throw a fund-raiser on behalf of U.S. Rep. John Sununu, R-N.H., who is challenging Smith in the GOP primary. Additionally, former Bush-the-elder's White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, who is mentioned as a possible GOP Senate candidate in North Carolina next year, and Ed Rogers, a prominent GOP lobbyist who partners with former RNC Chairman Haley Barbour, among others, will both be raising money for the congressman at an event tentatively scheduled for Nov. 14.

Whirling dervish -- Merrill Cook, the once -- and he hopes future -- congressman from Utah's 2nd Congressional District, appears to have some trouble making up his mind. Several days ago, he announced he would make a run at regaining the seat he held for two terms, but lost after delegates to the Republican district convention did not re-nominate him for a third term. Cook announced that, in 2002, he would be running as an independent. Now, after being bombarded with complaints from GOP faithful who think that an independent run would merely guarantee the re-election of Democrat Jim Matheson, Cook has reversed position and is now reportedly telling people he will run on the GOP line.

FOIA information -- The American Muslim Council and a number of other groups have written to the U.S. Department of Justice asking for the disclosure of information "concerning the individuals 'arrested or detained,' in the words of Attorney General Ashcroft, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack and referred to by the president, the attorney general and the FBI director in various public statements." The letter goes on to ask for specific information including "the identities of each such individual, the circumstances of their detention or arrest, and any charges brought against them," as well as the identities of their legal representatives and the courts involved.

Ballot security -- The Orlando, Fla., City Council has enacted some of the toughest absentee ballot procedures in the nation. The new law prevents someone from delivering another person's absentee ballot without written authorization and photo identification. No one can pick up more than two ballots other than their own and those of their immediate family. In essence, this ends, for the city of Orlando anyway, the long-held practice by party activists, campaign workers and special-interest groups of collecting and delivering hundreds of completed absentee ballots to election officials.

Personnel note -- Hal Stratton, former New Mexico attorney general, has been nominated by the president to be the new chairman of the Consumer Products Saftey Commission... Former U.S. Sen. Wyche Fowler, D-Ga., who was most recently Bill Clinton's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, takes over as chairman of the board of the Middle East Institute... Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, is the new chairman of the venerable legal powerhouse Verner Liipfert... Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., is now in charge of Verner Liipfert's international and government affairs practices.

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