UPI's Capital Comment for Feb. 25, 2002

By United Press International  |  Feb. 25, 2002 at 2:54 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (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.

Carrying on -- Robert Reilly, director of the Voice of America, is adding his name to the list of those who have strongly condemned the slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. The perpetrators of this "evil deed" will not succeed in limiting coverage of events in that region by Western journalists, Reilly said.

"In covering extremist elements in Pakistan," Reilly said, "Mr. Pearl exemplified the best of journalism by bravely undertaking the risks required to get the story." Reilly said that Pearl's killers will never achieve their goals because other journalists, including those at the Voice of America, are even now continuing his efforts to shed light on what is happening in the region.

He's back -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Republican firebrand who led the GOP to its first national majority in fifty years, has finally weighed in on the Enron scandal as it relates to the Bush administration.

Last week on the Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, Gingrich said, "I feel deeply that the officials at Enron who sold stock while locking their employees into their own stock ought to go to jail. If this is not a violation of your fiduciary trust, then we better change the law because you can't sustain democratic capitalism with this kind of defrauding of your workers, your stockholders, and the general public. Having said that, there is no evidence that Enron got anything out of their involvement. They went to the Bush administration on the Kyoto Convention. They were turned down. They went to the secretary of the treasury for help. They were turned down. They went to the secretary of commerce. They were turned down."

Gingrich then characteristically took the fight straight to the Democrats. "Between Global Crossing's ties to the Democratic National Committee chairman, Enron's contributions to various Democratic groups, the New York Times article that Enron and the Gore campaign were plotting together all of last year, I think there's more than enough evidence the Republican can win that fight," he said.

Here we go again -- North Carolina Superior Court Judge Knox V. Jenkins has ordered that the state legislative district maps he previously ruled unconstitutional should not be used in the 2002 elections, although he appeared to leave the ultimate decision to a state appellate panel.

The judge's order throws the pending May 7 primary in doubt, though Jenkins told the General Assembly they would "would have five days to tell the court when it would redraw the maps and propose a new election schedule."

For veteran observers of the Tarheel state politics, this is all of a piece. Throughout the 90s, state and federal district boundary lines were repeatedly redrawn as the result of law suits challenging their constitutionality.

In-dependent -- Embattled U.S. Rep. James Trafficant, D-Ohio, has announced he will seek re-election to his seat as an independent rather then compete in a party primary against fellow Democrat Tom Sawyer. Trafficant represents Ohio's 17th District and Sawyer the 14th, though for the next election the two men were put into the same district, the new 17th, after the boundary lines were redrawn in the decennial redistricting. The colorful Trafficant, who was effectively expelled from his party after he voted for Republican Denny Hastert of Illinois to be Speaker of the House, is currently fighting charges of corruption brought against him by the federal government.

Terror confab -- The American Society for Industrial Security is presenting the its 20th Annual Conference on Global Terrorism, Political Instability and International Crime, on March 6-8 at the Wyndham City Center Hotel in Washington.

The conference will address several inter-related subjects concerning terrorism, such as key security concerns, as well as the techniques and tactics necessary to counter this phenomenon including: The ideology of Islamist terrorism; chemical terrorism; bioterrorism; air transportation; and nuclear energy.

Examining the evidence -- Former U.S. Independent Counsel Robert Ray Jr. is considering a bid for the GOP nomination to take on embattled Democrat Sen. Bob Torricelli in New Jersey. The counsel's office is wrapping up its work, having recently moved out of its Pennsylvania Avenue digs to less opulent quarters, and is expected to release its final report as early as the first week of March.

A Republican campaign consultant who declined to be named suggested the prospects of a Ray-Torricelli contest, while exciting political theater, might not otherwise be worth watching.

"Clinton won the state big. McGreevey, the new governor, won the state big. Sure Ray can do an effective job attacking Torricelli on the ethics and corruption stuff but what does he (Ray) have going for him besides the fact that he was the guy who cut the deal with Clinton. The conservatives that make up the party's base hate the deal because they think he let Clinton off with a slap on the wrist and the swing-voters probably do not want to hear all about Whitewater again -- they don't even want to go through Whitewater-lite, which is what a campaign against Torricelli based on the allegations the U.S. Attorney's office did not want to pursue would probably turn out to be," he said.

Hanging on -- Republican David Lord kept an Iowa Senate seat in his party's control Tuesday, winning a special election that allows him to serve out the rest of this year's term in Senate District 39 after winning the election with 70 percent of the vote. He defeated Steve Shelley of Stuart, 3,447 to 1,451. Republican Sen. Joann Johnson resigned the seat to take a federal appointment in Washington, D.C. Lord, a retired business owner, has served three terms in the Iowa House of Representatives. His victory gives Senate Republicans a 29-20 advantage over Democrats

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