UPI's Capital Comment for March 1, 2002

By United Press International  |  March 1, 2002 at 2:56 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 1 (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.

Higher cost of dying -- Gov. John Rowland, R-Conn., signed legislation Thursday to make the cigarette tax in the Nutmeg state the third highest in the nation. Starting April 3, the tax on a pack of cigarettes will be $1.11. Rowland hopes the new tax will help fill the $1 billion fiscal hole the state faces over the next two years, if, as expected, it brings in $130 million in fiscal year 2003 alone. Only New York and Washington State impose a higher levy on a pack of smokes.

Tripp wire -- Linda Tripp, the former White House staffer who was at the center of allegation that former President Clinton had a sexual relationship with a White House intern, has breast cancer.

According to a statement released by her attorneys, Tripp “is being treated for breast cancer at this time. She has asked us to pass on her thanks to those individuals who have sent her such supportive and encouraging messages. However, this is indeed a very private and personal matter and we all hope that everyone will understand and respect her right to privacy in dealing with such a difficult challenge.”

Her attorneys said the statement was being made in anticipation of an upcoming supermarket tabloid story concerning her health.

Tripp is a former friend of former White House intern Monica Lewinsky who became a household name after reports appeared that she had a sexual relationship with Clinton while working in the executive mansion. Her tape-recorded conversations with Lewinsky became the basis of the speculation that the affair had occurred. Tripp has said she made the tapes to protect herself after Lewinsky asked her to lie about what she knew about the affair.

Tell it to the judges -- John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who would chair the House Judiciary Committee should his party regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, has asked the three-judge panel overseeing the office of Independent Counsel Robert Ray to determine if Ray has violated federal law with his tentative moves toward a run for U.S. Senate.

Ray, who replaced former federal Judge Kenneth Starr as the independent counsel investigating corruption in the White House, is looking at a bid for the GOP nomination to challenge Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J.

The release of the OIC’s final report on Whitewater et al is expected next week, leading some to suggest Conyers’ inquiry is politically motivated. If a partisan tag can be hung on Ray, suggests one source, then it makes it that much easier to discredit the report.

Tell it to the chief -- Black America's Political Action Committee has announced that Alvin Williams, currently the executive director, has been named president and chief executive officer of BAMPAC effective January 2002. In his new position, Williams will continue to oversee the daily operations of the organization, while also directing its efforts to expand the scope of its political action.

No smores here -- The American Conservative Union has scheduled another of its new “Public Policy Boot Camps” for mid-April. Instructors at the Arlington, Va., forum include Stephen Moore of Club for Growth, Americans for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist and The Polling Company’s Kellyanne Conway.

The “Boot Camp” teaches congressional, statewide and local candidates the basics of current and pressing public-policy issues.

The search for the naked truth -- Since being elected mayor of tiny Georgetown, Colo., in April of last year, feisty Koleen Brooks has attracted more than her fair share of the national spotlight.

It’s not just that Brooks, who runs a combination hair salon/coffee shop/tanning facility from an old log cabin in the center of town, is a former stripper. She is a controversial party girl whose efforts to expand the town’s retail base have, in her opinion, run afoul of proponents of historical preservation and slow grow. Now, she’s headed into court.

Georgetown District Attorney Mike Goodbee, says Brooks faked a recent attack on herself and has been charged “with a misdemeanor for allegedly reporting an assault that never occurred and with tampering evidence,” according to the Rocky Mountain News.

Brooks, who stands accused in the court of public opinion of having flashed her breasts in a local bar shortly after taking office, faces up to 18 months in prison, a $100,000 fine and a year’s probation if she is convicted.

For her part, Brooks maintains she was attacked as she walked home on Feb. 16 and that she will fight the charges against her in court. She blames opponents of her agenda to bring economic growth to the community for the attack upon her, the scurrilous rumors about her behavior and the indictment. The mayor and members of the Board of Selectmen are all facing a recall election scheduled for April 2.

New kid on the block? -- America’s seniors have a new group looking out for their interests, sort of. The Alliance for Retired Americans, a creation of the AFL-CIO to lobby for the interests of retired union members and others, has begun popping up all over Washington.

The group is busy soliciting members by urging them to abandon the AARP, which is criticized by inference on its Web site, proclaiming it “is not a senior citizen’s social club and it is not an organization formed to sell you things.”

ARA is also not the latest iteration of the National Council of Senior Citizens, in spite of the fact that ARA hired much of the staff of the NCSC when it closed its doors at the end of last year, an ARA spokesman said.

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