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UPI's Capital Comment for April 10, 2002

By United Press International

WASHINGTON, April 10 (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.

Who's your member? -- Ideological lines are hardening over the bid by former Fort Wayne, Ind., Mayor Paul Helmke to oust incumbent Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., from his House seat. Souder is a reliably conservative vote while Helmke is a liberal Republican whose campaign is encouraging Democrats and Independents to cross party lines and vote for him in the GOP primary. Close to one-third of the district is new to Souder but it is so solidly Republican that the winner of the primary probably determines the winner of the general election. Washington organizations are closely monitoring how the National Republican Congressional Committee behaves in this race, watching to see if the NRCC, which has a policy of supporting incumbents in primaries, works as hard for Souder as they have for more liberal GOP'ers who were challenged from the right, like New Jersey Rep. Marge Roukema.

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Step forward -- The president's volunteer initiative may breath new life into AmeriCorps, the Clinton-created volunteer program once targeted for elimination by congressional Republicans. A newly reformed, reborn AmeriCorps is going to play a key role in the initiative, especially in the area of helping existing programs leverage their power to recruit volunteers. One idea under consideration is to provide grants to organizations only after they have explained how they will take the federal dollars and use them to recruit and manage real volunteers, unpaid workers giving of their time and talents to address a pressing social or community need. Programmatic success is going to be measured by the number of man-hours of work individual grants are able to spark.


But on such short notice -- The Republican National Committee is busy organizing a new voter contact program it is calling "The 72 hour initiative." Fearing their ground game will be overwhelmed by the last minute get out the vote efforts of labor unions and civil rights groups, the RNC is investing considerable time and resources in the identification of likely GOP voters and the establishment of a network of personal contacts to make sure they turn out to vote. In Georgia, as one example, 3,000 activists reportedly are being trained to go door-to-door between April and the November elections, building a list of targeted voters who will receive turn-out calls, mail and the personal touch to get them to the polls.

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What a turn off -- New York State Democratic Committee Chairman Denny Farrell wants Republican Gov. George Pataki to get off the television, at least as far as state-funded tourism ads are concerned, until after the November election. The use of taxpayer dollars for "self-promotion" is, Farrell said, "inappropriate," pointing out that, "When he was in the (New York State) Assembly, Pataki voted for a bill to bar the governor from appearing in taxpayer-funded advertisements altogether, not just in the last six months of an election year."


Not so Simple Simon -- GOP businessman Bill Simon, the Republican candidate for governor of California, is in Washington meeting with party leaders about his race. On Wednesday, Simon is scheduled to meet with President George W. Bush and with senior White House strategist Karl Rove. Likely topping the agenda is the unenthusiastic reception Simon has gotten from a several key Bush allies in California after his upset primary victory.

Monday night, Simon addressed the major donors to GOPAC, the political committee once headed by former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont and, later by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The surprisingly soft-spoken Simon, who has never before run for public office, took great pains to stress his status as a political outsider and his business background. Simon called the current California state budget, with its $17 billion deficit, "one of the grossest examples of mismanagement I've ever seen," and told the crowd, "In my world, (Democrat Gov. Gray Davis) wouldn't be running for re-election; he would be looking for a new job."

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You can bank on it -- Edward B. Rust Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of State Farm Insurance Co., has been named the new chairman of The Financial Services Roundtable, a trade association representing the interests of banking, insurance and investment companies. "During just the past two years, the American marketplace has greatly evolved with banking, insurance and investment services now coalescing under the financial services banner," Roundtable President Steve Bartlett said. Rust is the first insurance executive to serve as chairman of the Roundtable.


Mapmaker, mapmaker, make me a map -- Republican efforts to hold on to control of the U.S. House of Representatives went off the tracks Monday as a federal three-judge panel threw out Pennsylvania's new congressional district lines on the grounds the deviation rate of 19 -- meaning the district could have 19 more or 19 fewer people then the ideal number -- was too high and violated the constitutional principle of one man, one vote. Current projects hold that the new map will change the partisan nature of the state's congressional delegation from 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats to 13 Republicans and six Democrats. The legislature has three weeks to fix the problems before the court takes control of the process. Republicans likely will appeal to Pennsylvania's State Supreme Court.

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