UPI's Capital Comment for April 8, 2002

By United Press International  |  April 8, 2002 at 1:33 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 8 (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.

Half and half -- The candidacy of Massachusetts multi-millionaire Mitt Romney got a boost Saturday when the state Republican Party endorsed his bid for governor. Romney, who has returned to the state after rescuing the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics from a public relations disaster, last sought public office in 1994 when he ran against Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.

The news was not all positive for Romney. The 2,700 state convention delegates identified former state party chairman James Rappaport as their choice for Lt. Governor. Although the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in the November election, Romney earlier announced that current party chairman Kerry Murphy Healey was his preferred running mate. The vote, which is non-binding, split 55 percent for Rappaport to 45 percent for Healey. The nominee will be chosen in the May 7 primary.

Critical Mass(achusetts) -- Romney is drawing fire from anti-tax activists in Massachusetts for his refusal to sign a pledge opposing tax increases. The pledge, offered by Barbara Anderson's Committee for Limited Taxation, one of Romney's original supporters, would but him on record against any effort to raise taxes in the state. Romney rejected Anderson's contention that his signature on the pledge would send a clear message to the Democrats who control the state legislature that tax hikes are off the table, earning him praise from the Boston Globe, the editorially more liberal of Beantown's two newspapers. The last three Massachusetts's chief executives, Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci, and Jane Swift, all signed the pledge.

Everybody under the blanket -- On Wednesday, a federal judge in Washington affirmed the state's "blanket primary" process in which voters may, regardless of their political party affiliation, participate in the selection of general election nominees for all parties. The Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties had all argued that a 2000 Supreme Court ruling in a case coming out of California made clear that political parties cannot be forced to allow outsiders to participate in the selection of party nominees.

In the Washington system, voters may alternate back and forth between parties on the primary ballot, choosing the Republican gubernatorial nominee and then picking the Democrat who will carry the party banner in the race for attorney general.

Judge Franklin Burgess ruled the two states are significantly different and Washington political parties failed to prove their First Amendment rights were violated. The political parties said they planned to appeal the judge's ruling.

Cancel my subscription -- Word is traveling through editorial circles in Washington and New York that a major opinion journal is under fire because of intemperate remarks made by some of its writers about Muslims. The story is that some Islamic-American organizations have been leaning on major advertisers, complaining about anti-Islamic statements that have appeared in the magazine and on the Web site since Sept. 11. Some of the advertisers are reportedly considering pulling their ads from the journal in response to the complaints.

Can a muzzle be far behind? -- The proponents of campaign finance reform are not resting on their laurels now that President Bush has signed their legislation. According to a report in the Sunday edition of The Washington Post, a group of 13, including former Common Cause leader Fred Wertheimer and former FEC Chairman Trevor Potter, are drafting a plan that would lead to the abolition of the Federal Election Commission.

The so-called reformers would like to replace the bi-partisan commission with an election czar who would supervise a team of administrative law judges "with new powers to ensure prompt compliance and punishment of violators," the Post says.

Critics of the plan say the effort is little more than an attempt to turn the FEC into a kind of FBI for elections that would, ultimately, suppress political speech because it would be endowed with the power to levy fines and issue cease-and-desist orders.

Law enforcement personnel take aim at airline security measures -- The Law Enforcement Alliance of America, the nation's largest coalition of law enforcement professionals and concerned citizens, has given the nation's airline security measures a failing grade in the wake of September 11.

"The government's own tests show that weapons can get past the screeners, until we allow trained pilots to be armed, there will be no dependable security," James Fotis, the group's executive director said. The LEAA is supporting the request of the nation's five airline unions to President Bush to personally intervene and support the effort to arm and train airline pilots. "If we can teach someone to be a sky marshal, we can certainly teach a pilot to use a firearm in an emergency, after all these are some of America's most highly trained and skilled individuals when it comes to training for emergency situations," Fotis said.

E-mail CapComm@UPI.com if you have a news tip, political personnel announcement or a bit of insider gossip.

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