UPI's Capital Comment for April 18, 2002

By United Press International   |   April 18, 2002 at 7:13 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 18 (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.

The unbearable heaviness of taxation -- As tax week draws to a close, Washington is abuzz with interesting observations, some humorous and some not. One oft-repeated bon mot comes from The Tonight Show's Jay Leno, who explained why the IRS tax form is called the 1040.

"For every $50 you earn," he said, "you get $10 and the government gets $40."

On a more serious note, the Tax Foundation has calculated that Tax Freedom Day, the day on which the average American has earned enough in gross income to pay their total tax bill, falls on April 27 -- two days sooner then in 2001. In the United Kingdom, by way of comparison, Tax Freedom Day falls on June 10.

Riding the tiger -- Cornel West, the controversial academic who teaches courses in Afro-American studies and the philosophy of religion at Harvard University, is trading crimson for orange after repeated clashes with the new Harvard president, former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

West, who is himself a tiger of the left, will join the faculty of Princeton University.

Summers incurred West's wrath when the new president suggested that the academic needed to spend more time in the classroom and less on his outside activities, which include a number of books, frequent media appearances and a rap CD. West, who called Summers "the Ariel Sharon of American higher education" in a Monday appearance on National Public Radio, is reportedly trying to convince Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the well-respected chairman of Harvard's Afro-American studies department, to follow him to Princeton.

Top dogs -- National Journal, the high-end weekly that tracks the ins-and-outs of Washington politics and policy, recently came out with its latest list of the most powerful lobbying firms in the city. Leading the list, which is based on income generated from lobbying, is Cassidy and Associations -- a frequent sponsor of the "Imus in the Morning" program on Washington's WTNT-AM -- at $33 million for 2001.

Also on the list are the law firms Patton, Boggs (No. 2) and Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld (No. 3), passing Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, which comes in at No. 4 for the year..

Rounding out the top five is newcomer Greenberg Trauig, which saw a 332 percent increase in its lobbying revenue stream after it brought on veteran insider Jack Abramoff in early 2001. According to NJ, Abramoff is responsible for nearly half of the $16.4 million generated by the lobbying practice.

Whose side are you on -- Republican elected officials typically treat member vs. member primaries like an anthrax-laden letter: they try to stay as far away from them as possible. This year, things are different. On Wednesday night, there was a fundraiser in Washington for Rep. John Sununu, R-N.H., who is challenging two-term GOP Sen. Bob Smith in the primary. According to Sununu, five Smith senate colleagues lent their support to the event: Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.; GOP Conference Chairman Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.; Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo.; Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska; and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. This is an almost unheard of show of support by incumbents for someone trying to oust a fellow member of the exclusive club of 100.


"Simon" says new poll -- A poll of 825 "somewhat likely voters" conducted by the firm of Probolsky and Associates Opinion Research has California GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon Jr., at 44 percent to 38 percent for incumbent Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat. The poll, which was conducted April 2-4, also showed that Davis was viewed "unfavorably" by 53 percent of those responding to the survey. Veteran politicos know that any time an incumbent's unfavorable is above 50 percent, trouble is on the horizon.

A name to remember -- The board of directors of an Alzheimer's care and research facility in Robinson Township, Pa., near Pittsburgh, have announced that it will now be known as "The Ronald Reagan Atrium 1 Nursing, Research and Rehabilitation Center" in honor of the nation's 40th president. The more than 90-year-old Reagan suffers from the disease, which keeps him largely confined to his Bel Air, Calif., home, where he is under the care of his wife, Nancy, and a team of aides.

There's a party going on -- No one can accuse the Republicans of trying to forget their past; in fact, they sometimes seem to revel in it. In South Carolina, former Rep. Tommy Hartnett, who last held office in the 1980's, has been named interim chair of the state GOP, succeeding Henry McMaster. Speculation is that Hartnett, who lost a 1992 senate race to long-time incumbent Democrat Fritz Hollings by just 3 percentage points, is angling for another shot.

In Colorado, the party central committee has named former chairman and 1994 gubernatorial candidate Bruce Benson to be the party's leader after the incumbent, Bob Beauprez, resigned to run for the state's new 7th Congressional District.

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