WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (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.
Enron and on and on -- In Republican circles, anyone who ever heard the word "Enron" is waiting for their chance to be dragged into the political maelstrom surrounding the collapse of what was, on paper, America's seventh largest company.
One who doesn't wait anymore is high-powered GOP consultant Ed Gillespie who has of late figured in several prominent stories, including ones in the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times that raise questions about his work for Enron.
Gillespie is taking it all in stride, telling United Press International that "When we signed Enron as a client a little over a year ago, they were the seventh largest company in the country and on the cover of magazine after magazine as one of the best run companies in the nation. We had no knowledge of their inner workings or their business model," he says.
"I was asked to help them advocate for energy deregulation and against government price controls on electricity and, later, for corporate tax relief -- all of which I believe to be good policy," Gillespie said.
As to the media attention he is getting for his works, Gillespie says, "These facts were publicly disclosed months ago when I filed the disclosure report that said what I would be doing for (Enron) and to whom I would be speaking on their behalf. But in this environment, that is somehow considered news."
"As for the 21st Century Energy Project," a coalition Gillespie directed to push for a national energy policy, "This was not some secret organization. We had a press conference at the National Press Club to announce its formation. I was all over the news pushing the agenda of the group. All of the members of the project were disclosed at the press conference -- there's no secret here. The ads (the group ran) were issue advocacy ads, not independent expenditures. In fact, the only ads that mentioned members of Congress by name were positive radio ads that lauded Democrats and Republicans alike."
Gillespie says, "Congress is right to look at the policy implications of the Enron collapse" but says those policy implications involve pension reform and auditing standards.
Keeping the options open -- Though close to 3,000 people died in the terror attacks almost five months ago, the number of families or injured survivors applying to the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund continues to be remarkably low. Survivors and victims who take advantage of the Justice Department-administered fund give up their right to sue the airlines or anyone else for the attacks. The total number of claims received by the fund, as of close of business last Thursday, was 276, the Justice Department reported.
Follow the money -- The Center for Responsive Politics, a left-leaning group that studies campaign contributions, is hosting its first-ever Washington conference on money in politics. Money in the Midterm: Tracking the Cash in the '02 Elections is billed by the group as "A must for any journalist covering politics, Congress, the 2002 elections, or any of the industries and interest groups supplying the millions of dollars that will fund this year's campaigns."
The conference will take place Friday and Saturday, March 22-23 at the University of Maryland in College Park, and is being cosponsored by the university's Center for American Politics and Citizenship.
Battle royale -- Former Georgia State Supreme Court Judge Denise Maiette will challenge U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., for the right to represent the Democrats on the November ballot in the state's new fourth congressional district,
Surrounded by supporters, Maiette -- who resigned from the court to make the race -- began what some are saying is a long shot bid to topple the five-term congresswoman. There are others though who suggest that McKinney's attack on former New York City GOP Mayor Rudy Giuliani may have been the last straw for many of her constituents.
Shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attack, McKinney weighed in against Giuliani's decision to return a $10 million gift to a victim's fund from a Saudi prince, Alwaleed bin Talal. The congresswoman later apologized for her strong words but some feel the damage is done.
Pressing Janklow -- A poll of South Dakota voters shows current Republican Gov. Bill Janklow to be the party's strongest potential replacement for Rep. John Thune, R-S.D. Thune is giving up an otherwise safe seat to run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Tim Johnson.
Janklow reportedly triumphs over a crowded GOP field that includes former U.S. Rep. And Sen. Larry Pressler, who Johnson defeated for re-election to the Senate six years ago. In the poll, Pressler shows up as beating everyone should Janklow not make the race -- which some say is an additional incentive for the governor to run.
The Janklow-Pressler feud is said to go back to their high school days and has continued for many years. In 1986, Janklow -- who had reached the end of the first of two separate back-to-back terms as governor -- challenged incumbent GOP Sen. Jim Abdnor for re-nomination. The primary was so divisive that it allowed then-U.S. Rep. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., to win election to the Senate by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin. The rest, as they say, is history.
Personnel notes -- Dan Peters, the former Procter & Gamble executive who now heads The Peters Foundation has been elected by the board to be the new president of The Philanthropy Roundtable ... Former Clinton White House communications director Ann Lewis has been named national chairman of the DNC Women's Vote Center ... Neil Volz, who had been pulling double-duty as chief of staff to Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and staff director of the Ney-chaired House Administration Committee, will be tripling his workload now that he has signed on as a lobbyist with Jack Abramoff's group at the law firm of Greenberg Trauig ...
Got a tip for UPI's Capital Comment? E-mail it to CapComm@UPI.com