WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.
150 channels, 100 proof -- The Cato Institute, Washington's leading libertarian think tank, is sponsoring a public forum on the issue of liquor ads being shown on television. At issue is not the fact of the ads and whether they should exist but whether they should be covered by federal regulation or industry self-regulation. Making the case at CATO's March 21 program are NBC's Bob Okun, Bob Corn-Revere of the law firm of Hogan & Hartson and Peter H. Cressy of the Distilled Spirits Council of the Unite States. A luncheon will be served afterwards but, alas, it will be dry.
A novel approach -- United Press International fetes its very own Martin Walker at the National Press Club Tuesday night. The party is in honor of the publication of his novel, "The Caves of Perigord," a story of "Prehistoric love and art, World War II love and courage, and modern day love and art world intrigue."
Tennessee two-step? -- It's former Gov. Lamar Alexander against U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant, R-Tenn., in the contest for the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Fred Thompson. Bryant announced Saturday and Alexander on Monday. The race promises to pit the old GOP moderate wing, typified by Alexander, against the more dynamic conservative wing, who will likely line up behind Bryant. One issue each of them will have to address, though neither looks forward to it, is whether they support GOP Gov. Don Sundquist's repeated attempts to impose an income tax on residents of the state.
If it weren't for that, Tennessee politicos say, Sundquist would have been a shoo-in to replace Thompson. Instead, he is political dead meat.
Tennessee four-step -- The Democrats are cautiously eyeing each other right now, trying to decide who is going to make the race. While former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall has emerged as an outside candidate, the current discussion centers on which and how many of the state's four Democrat congressmen will go for it. Early betting is that Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., who gave the keynote address at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, is a likely go -- he has a brother waiting in the wings to keep the seat in the family. The remaining discussion centers on which of the others, Reps. John Tanner, Bart Gordon or Bob Clement, might also throw their hat into the ring --with Gordon, as the most moderate of the three, attracting most of the early attention.
Phone clone -- Scuttlebutt on Capitol Hill is that Virginia GOP Sen. George Allen -- generally a reliable vote on social issues -- may be "headed south" on the Senate's Brownback-Landrieu bill to ban all human cloning. Allen tells people he is concerned about the impact on medical research, but this excuse does not mollify those in his camp who expect him to uphold the ban.
Thune to third-party groups: Stay out of our state -- The campaign of South Dakota Republican John Thune, who is seeking his party's nomination for a seat in the Senate, has contacted the top Republican party and conservative third party groups which typically run campaign ads in House and Senate races, requesting that those groups refrain from running ads in the 2002 South Dakota Senate race.
According to a campaign release, the campaign began contacting groups Friday afternoon and followed up with a letter that read, in part: "Although I realize that I have no legal authority to stop anyone from advertising, I am hopeful that voluntary compliance will achieve a positive result. It is my sincere belief that South Dakotans will be best served if the conditions of this agreement can be upheld."
Third party groups contacted and requested to stay out of the South Dakota race include: Americans for Tax Reform, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Club for Growth, the Family Research Council, the South Dakota Family Policy Council, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the National Rifle Association, and the American Conservative Union.
Of course, under the vagaries of existing campaign law, any campaign that is successful in its attempt to influence the behavior of groups or individuals engaged in independent expenditures runs the risk of being tagged for it in complaints to the Federal Elections Commission. Who said nothing interesting ever happened in South Dakota? Certainly not us.
Question answered -- Just after congressional filings closed in Indiana, Hoosier Republicans were -- as we reported -- shocked at the last-minute entry of former Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke into the Republican primary against sitting GOP Rep. Mark Souder. It is a serious threat to Souder's hold on the seat and, to show how seriously he takes Helmke's challenge, the congressman's campaign has been running radio ads in the district for the past month.
Now, we know the why behind Helmke's last-minute move: term limits.
Souder, a member of the freshman class of 1994, made a pledge to the voters that he would serve no more than six terms in the House -- 12 years. According to published reports in the Indiana press, Souder recently hinted that the large influx of new voters in the district from redistricting might change the terms of the pledge.
Helmke has latched on to what some have called "Souder's waffling," hoping to make the pledge a major issue in the race -- even though it was for six terms and not six years, something Helmke may have overlooked when he said, "Either it's a broken promise or it's an open seat or both." For Helmke, making term limits an issue may mean a lot of help for his admittedly uphill primary campaign. Term limit supporters have been known to spend an awful lot of money, albeit unsuccessfully, trying to defeat candidates who make and break -- and whether Souder has done this is, at best, debatable -- pledges on term limits.
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