UPI's Capital Comment for Jan. 11, 2002

By United Press International  |  Jan. 11, 2002 at 10:47 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (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.

Bad start -- Former Montana Gov. Mark Racicot is not off to a good start in his prospective tenure as chairman of the Republican National Committee. Reeling from suggestions his continued work as a lobbyist while chairing the RNC would be a conflict of interest, Racicot has backed off his original plan, although he will continue to do work for his Texas-based law firm.

Also going down hard, at least for party conservatives, is the forthcoming announcement the former New York Port Authority Chairman Lew Eisenberg has been tapped to be the new RNC national finance chairman.

Eisenberg has been a big supporter of former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and is one of the major financial angels behind the Republican Leadership Council, a group that aggressively promotes GOP candidates who are outside the party mainstream on taxes, spending and abortion.

Maybe next year -- The small town of Mooresville, Ind., has shot down a proposal to hold a festival in honor of John Dillinger. The one-time America's most wanted fugitive and bank robber was a native son of the community. He still has family in the area and they had suggested to the town fathers a museum and festival featuring antique car shows, bands and bank exhibits might bring in tourist dollars.

More deductions -- Texas multi-millionaire Leo Linbeck, who has been leading the charge for fundamental tax reform --specifically the so-called "Fair Tax" proposal -- is once again downsizing his Americans for Fair Taxation organization. Most of the staff of 20 is being let go. Insiders suggest this means President Bush, to whom Linbeck is personally close, is putting off any push for major changes to the nation's tax system -- at least while the war against terrorism rages.

The great debate -- On Jan. 16, the Cato Institute plays host to a debate between its leading constitutional scholar, Roger Pilon and the left-wing People for the America Way's Ralph Neas on the subject of judicial confirmations. The two man are facing off on opposite sides of the proposition, "Resolved: The Senate Should Take Ideology into Account in the Judicial Confirmation Process." A reception will follow.

Once more with feeling -- The Screen Actor's Guild will conduct what in the political business is known as "a do-over" following allegations that irregularities tainted the outcome of recent leadership elections. In addition to SAG President Melissa Gilbert, Treasurer Kent McCord and Recording Secretary Elliot Gould will have to stand for election once again. Gilbert narrowly defeated fellow 1970s network star Valerie Harper by under 2,000 votes. SAG attorneys have ruled that Gilbert and the others may remain in office until the new elections are held, but at least one unsuccessful candidate from the last go-round -- law professor Eugene Boggs -- is asking she be removed from office.

Staying clear of the briar patch -- South Carolina Democrat Rep. John Spratt, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, called Thursday for a budget summit between the White House and congressional leaders to try and set parameters for the budget to find a way to reduce the level of deficit spending.

Perhaps recognizing how budget summitry was the undoing of the president's father, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was decidedly noncommittal when asked about it in the daily press briefing, saying only: "The president looks forward to submitting his budget to the Congress, which will take place in early February, and then he hopes that Congress will give it a fair consideration. The president believes that the process that Congress has with the House and Senate committees taking up the budget and considering them is the best process."

And in a not-so-subtle jab, Fleischer added, "This will be an interesting year, because now the Senate, of course, being in Democrat hands, will have to come out with a budget resolution, and the House will come up with a budget resolution. It will be very interesting to see, given the Senate's new control, what 50 senators in the Democratic Party and the Senate will be able to come up with."

First ladies club -- gubernatorial wives Columba Bush of Florida, Vicki Cayetano of Hawaii, Hope Taft of Ohio and Sharon Kitzhaber of Oregon are serving as the co-chairwomen of a national initiative to combat underage drinking.

The Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free, a public interest group, will gather in Washington to discuss ways to prevent children from the ages of 9 to 15 from using alcohol.

New kid on the block -- Fox News Channel's senior correspondent Rita Cosby premieres her new show on Jan. 12. The award-winning Cosby, the youngest senior correspondent in network television, will anchor a mix of interviews and in-depth news stories every Saturday and Sunday night at 10 p.m. EST.

Pushing up -- The Rainbow/PUSH coalition, led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, will kick start its "Wall Street Project" at the New York Hilton on Jan. 15. Scheduled to appear with Jackson are New York Stock Exchange Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dick Grasso, Citigroup CEO Sanford Weill and New York State Comptroller and Democratic candidate for governor of New York H. Carl McCall.

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