UPI's Capital Comment for Jan. 4, 2002

By United Press International  |  Jan. 4, 2002 at 1:22 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (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.

Here's your hat... -- Former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, the president's choice to be the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, wasted no time in establishing control of party headquarters. Several key Gilmore lieutenants have been tossed even before the members of the committee have voted Racicot into office.

Bounced from their posts were Political Director Bryan Slater, who managed Gilmore's 1997 come-from-behind gubernatorial win in Virginia; Government Relations head Mike McSherry, who ran political operations for the Virginia GOP in 1997 and managed Gilmore's relations with other governors as head of the Virginia federal liaison office; Communications Director Mark Minor, who served Gilmore as campaign press secretary; and Member Relations Director Mary Shea, who was Gilmore's liaison to the members of the committee.

Also gone from the RNC is Director of Research and Strategic Planning Barbara Comstock, who is the new head of public affairs at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Tea-leaf-reading conservatives are calling the move "a purge" designed to remove Gilmore loyalists from the building. In any event, it is clear that the White House is wasting no time in taking control of party political operations with Racicot all set to play the role of fundraiser and spokesman rather than political strategist.

Out -- Louisiana Democrat Sen. John Breaux announced Thursday that he would not be a candidate for governor in 2003. Seen by many as the easy victor should he have run to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Mike Foster, Breaux's decision to remain in the Senate throws the race wide open.

Snubbed! -- The redistricting plan proposed by the GOP-controlled Florida Senate conspicuously omits a seat for GOP House Speaker Tom Feeney -- who is already raising money for a congressional race in 2002. Feeney, who was Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's running mate in his unsuccessful 1994 bid for the state's top office, has been feuding with GOP Senate President John McKay ever since the Florida recount battle. McKay, who is viewed as the more moderate of the two, refused to move as aggressively to defend the state's prerogative to choose its electors as Feeney. The two have also tangled over the proper way to address Florida's fiscal shortfall, forcing Bush to call two special sessions of the Legislature to deal with it.

Tapped -- Rumors in GOP circles are that the National Republican Congressional Committee has anointed N.J. state Sen. Gerald Cardinale as the party's choice to replace retiring GOP Rep. Marge Roukema in Congress.

Roukema is retiring after 22 years in the House, having spent the last two primary campaigns fending off an aggressive challenge from N.J. state Assemblyman E. Scott Garrett, who is also seeking the nomination this time.

Both Garrett and Cardinale are conservatives so the move likely will generate another round of complaints about NRCC Chairman Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va. In 2000, Davis came under fire for supporting the more liberal former Rep. Dick Zimmer over former Rep. Mike Pappas in a New Jersey primary contest in another district. Zimmer won the primary, only to lose the general election to Democrat Rep. Rush Holt.

Feeling secure -- U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt is the keynote speaker at the 29th annual Securities Regulations Institute, presented by the Corporate Counsel Center of Northwestern University School of Law, in cooperation with the University of California, San Diego.

The institute will take place Jan. 23 to 25 at the Hotel Coronado in Coronado, Calif.

Digital service -- The states of Illinois and Kansas tied for first place in the fourth annual Digital State Survey, conducted by The Progress & Freedom Foundation and the Center for Digital Government. The states rounding out the top 10 in the 2001 survey are Washington, which ranked No. 1 in three earlier annual surveys, Maryland, Arizona, Maine, New Jersey, Utah, Ohio and Michigan.

The results are based on a comprehensive poll of chief information officers in the 50 states. The report, which is sponsored by Compaq Computer Corp., documents progress made by states in 2001 in adopting digital technologies to improve delivery of services to citizens. The survey examined digital technologies in eight categories: E-commerce & Business Regulation, Taxation & Revenue, Social Services, Law Enforcement & the Courts, Digital Democracy, Management & Administration, Education and Transportation.

Meet the new boss... -- Robert Borchardt, chairman, CEO and president of Recoton Corp., is the new chairman of the Board of Governors of the Electronic Industries Association, a leading trade association for consumer electronics firms.

Recoton is a global leader in the development and marketing of consumer electronic accessories, home speakers and car audio products and video gaming products, with sales of over $700 million.

Efforts to close bureau draws criticism -- A bipartisan group of 69 members of the U.S. House of Representatives has written to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, urging her to reconsider a departmental decision to eliminate regional offices for the Women's Bureau.

"Regional offices have provided specialized information about community training programs and work supports to help low-income and low-skilled women find the help they need," the lawmakers wrote. "Through workshops, conferences, partnerships with local organizations, and other types of outreach, these offices address sexual harassment and other forms of workplace discrimination based on sex, domestic violence, child care, and other pressing concerns of women in the labor force today."

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