UPI's Capital Comment for Feb. 7, 2002

By United Press International

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 (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.

Did NPR defame the TVC? -- The Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative group, has written to National Public Radio and demanded a retraction and an apology after being cited on the Jan. 22 broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition in a story about the anthrax-laced letters sent to Capitol Hill.


Writing for TVC, Andrea Lafferty says reporter David Kestenbaum incorrectly "stated and otherwise inferred that the FBI considers the Traditional Values Coalition a suspect in the anthrax mailings to Capitol Hill."

NPR's transcript of the broadcast has Kestenbaum saying, "Two of the anthrax letters were sent to Sen. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, both Democrats. One group who had a gripe with Daschle and Leahy is the Traditional Values Coalition, which, before the attacks, had issued a statement criticizing the senators for trying to remove the phrase 'so help me God' from the oath. The Traditional Values Coalition, however, told me the FBI had not contacted them and then issued a statement saying NPR was in the pocket of the Democrats and trying to frame them. But investigators are thinking along these lines. FBI agents won't discuss the case, but the people they (the FBI) have spoken with will."


Lafferty's letter says the suggestion that TVC was involved "is a lie."

In her letter she says that Kestenbaum "offered no facts to support his 'story.' Mr. Kestenbaum contacted our Washington office to inquire whether the FBI had contacted us 'yet.' Of course, we advised him that under no circumstances should NPR disseminate such false inferences and information. It is the sort of 'guilty until proven innocent' tactic, which National Public Radio deplores regularly when covering foreign governments on its news programs, but then hypocritically turns around and commits to further its own agenda."

The wrong "N-word" -- Television's MSNBC is busy apologizing for a graphic gaff on air Tuesday that has left some viewers steaming. The Congress of Racial Equality's Niger Innes appeared on the network to discuss Ken Lay's failure to testify before a congressional committee investigating Enron. Unfortunately for all concerned, an MSNBC producer added an extra "G" -- in exactly the wrong place -- to Innes' first name in the on-screen graphic that identified him. Niger, who is the son of civil rights legend Roy Innes, is reportedly taking the whole thing in stride, suggesting this is not the first time such and error had been made.


Let my people go -- A bipartisan group of House members is asking President Bush to reverse his executive order to dissolve two union locals at the Justice Department. National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelly said the letter from the House members -- including Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Constance Morella, R-Md. -- "spells out, in direct and unmistakable terms, why the president's action is completely inappropriate."

The congressional signatories said the right to organize is one of the freedoms that must be protected. In a Jan. 7 executive order, Bush removed two groups of DOJ employees -- both represented by locals of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- from the protection of the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act. Bush said their inclusion in labor organizations could infringe on national security duties.

State of emergency - North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has invoked emergency powers to address the state's budget deficit, estimated at close to $1 billion.

Easley, a Democrat, says that close to $350 million could be saved by cutting state spending by 7 percent in most agencies. He also says he will dip into North Carolina's reserve fund and withhold close to $200 million in reimbursements to local governments. The shortfall occurs because tax revenues are projected to be 3.1 percent lower then last year, rather than the 4 percent increase that had been forecast in the wake of Easley-initiated tax increases that were enacted last year.


Easley says he does not expect that any state employees will have to be laid off because of the coming cuts.

In -- Bill Sniffin, former editor and publisher of central Wyoming's Lander Journal, has announced his candidacy for governor. Sniffin will face off in the Republican primary against State Rep. Stephen Watt and former House Speaker Eli Bebout, who is expected to announce his candidacy in the next several weeks. Current GOP Gov. Jim Gerringer is term limited.

I treasure our time together -- Kansas State Treasurer Tim Shallenburger, who hopes to succeed retiring GOP Gov. Bill Graves, hits Washington next week to meet the movers and shakers who play power politics in the nation's capital. Shallenburger, who like Graves is a Republican, will be feted by friends at the Monocle restaurant on Capitol Hill Wednesday night.

A page right out of history -- House Republicans applauded Wednesday as President Bush signed legislation authored by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., designating former President Ronald Reagan's boyhood home in Dixon, Ill., a "National Historic Site."

Wednesday was the former president's 91st birthday, making him one of only three U.S. chief executives to reach a 10th decade of life.


"As a former high school teacher, I have long believed that history is a very important subject area for the future of our democracy and our way of life," Hastert said.

Open library books -- A bill by Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., to require the disclosure of contributions to presidential library foundations passed the House Wednesday.

"The vast majority of people who give money to presidential libraries do it for the right reasons," Burton, the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said. "But there will always be those who make contributions for other reasons -- to gain access to a president and his staff -- to gain influence."

Burton said he drafted that bill after investigating former President Bill Clinton's final-day-in-office pardon for former fugitive financier Marc Rich. Rich's ex-wife, Denise Rich, donated $450,000 to Clinton's library foundation. Congressional efforts to prove a quid pro quo relationship existed between the donation and the pardon were fruitless.

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