UPI's Capital Comment for April 23, 2002

By United Press International  |  April 23, 2002 at 11:35 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 23 (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.

What a deal -- Grassroots Republicans in Ohio are chafing over rumors that Gov. Bob Taft and Sen. Mike DeWine have cut an as-of-now private deal to swap jobs four years from now if Taft is re-elected governor this fall.

The deal has some rank-and-file GOP'ers "dewine-ing" that party leaders must think they are "taft" if they will allow that to occur without a fight. Both men come from the party's more liberal wing. Conservatives are said to prefer a wider range of options, including Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Auditor Jim Petro, and former U.S. Rep. John Kasich.

Taft is the great-grandson of former President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft; the grandson of former Republican Senate leader Robert Taft; and the son of former congressman and Senator Bob Taft, Jr. If he wins re-election, term limits require him to leave office in 2006. DeWine, a former congressman and lieutenant governor, is in his second term in the U.S. Senate, which also ends in 2006.

Out, and then some -- Essex County, N.J. Executive Jim Treffinger, the nominal front-runner for the GOP nomination to take on Sen. Bob Torricelli, D-N.J., in the fall, has quit the race four days after his county offices were raided by the FBI. Sources inside New Jersey political sources say the FBI was looking for evidence in a wide-ranging corruption scandal involving the trading of services and goods to elected officials in exchange for construction contracts.

Treffinger maintains his innocence but says that the burden of raising funds for the campaign while fighting to clear his name was just too high. The county executive says he will not resign from his elected post but would surrender the leadership of the county GOP organization.

With Treffinger out, all eyes are turning to state Sen. Diane Allen, a former Philadelphia television anchor, who in the words of one New Jersey insider is "so clean she squeaks." Also back in the hunt is millionaire businessman Douglas Forrester, whose $2.2 million war chest is a profound asset, especially if the party groups currently pledged to Treffinger decide to stay out of the primary.

First in war, first in peace, and first in the heart's of his countrymen -- Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, is embarking on an unprecedented $85 million national public awareness campaign to restore the standing of the first president.

"While scholars continue to acknowledge that George Washington's character and leadership were the best the nation has even known, many contemporary Americans, unlike previous generations, have lost touch with the real Washington," Jim Rees, Mount Vernon's executive director, said. "Our historic campaign intends to reverse that trend and restore Washington to the prominence he deserves."

The plan calls for the construction of a new state-of-the-art orientation center, education center, and museum on the grounds of the estate located 16 miles south of Washington, on the Potomac River. The groundbreaking for the buildings, which total 50,000 square feet, will occur next year, and completion is expected in 2006.

Oh galley -- The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is hosting a luncheon briefing Wednesday with Rear Adm. Eli Marum, head of naval operations for the Israel navy. Marum has held various command and staff positions including a stint as head of the navy's Operational Intelligence Department and was also commander of Haifa Naval Base.

All in the family -- Mary Cheney, the openly lesbian daughter of second couple Dick and Lynn Cheney, has joined the board of the Republican Unity Coalition, a group that is working to build bridges between homosexual Republicans and the GOP rank and file. Mary Cheney had previously said she was a political independent and that she wanted to remain "below the radar."

According to RUC President Charles Francis: "Mary's main focus will be to help the RUC reach out to gay and lesbian voters, as well as build bridges to all within the Republican Party. This summer, she will work with us to build the RUC membership network across the country. Mary's experience, both in her past work at Coors and with the Bush/Cheney campaign, provides the RUC with a whole new level of judgment and political savvy."

Leave the children home -- Concerned Women for America and the Culture and Family Institute, two conservative groups, are sponsoring a forum at the National Press Club Thursday where the controversial new book, "Harmful to Minors," will be discussed.

The two groups say the book promotes pedophilia because author Judith Levine, who has advocated lowering the age of consent to 12, writes in the book, "Legally designating a class of people categorically unable to consent to sexual relations is not the best way to protect children, particularly when 'children' include everyone from birth to 18." Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jocelyn Elders, who wrote the foreword to the book, has been invited to participate but has not, as of yet, responded to the invitation.

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