UPI's Capital Comment for April 29, 2002

By United Press International  |  April 29, 2002 at 10:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 29 (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.

Rumor number 1 -- Presidential adviser Karen Hughes' announcement that she was heading back to Texas set Washington on its ear. A frantic search for a reason beyond the typical "wants to spend more time with the family" excuse proved fruitless. There is talk, however, that Hughes is going to take on a very special mission when she returns to Texas: oversee the potentially problematic re-election of Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry and ensure that Atty. Gen. John Cornyn does not lose retiring Republican Sen. Phil Gramm's senate seat.

Insiders predict it likely she will assume a senior if unofficial role in the statewide GOP campaigns although they deny that such an assignment had anything to do with her decision to leave the White House.

Taking a shot at gun violence -- Anti-gun activists are speaking out about the Friday shooting that close to a score of people dead in Germany. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is lamenting this latest "chilling demonstration of the carnage caused by the flood of illegal weapons." In a statement issue Friday, Coalition Executive Director Joshua Horwitz offered condolences to the victims, calling for tougher laws while taken aim at the supporters of private firearms ownership.

"While we do not yet know how the gunman obtained his weapon," Horwitz said, the gun lobby likely will use (Friday's) shooting to say that gun laws do not work -- that Germany's strict gun laws failed to prevent this massacre. But the real issue here is the illegal gun market, fueled by the smuggling of weapons from countries with weak gun laws -- such as Eastern European and Balkan nations as reported in press accounts today -- into countries with tough laws like Germany."

Rumor number 2 -- The selection of Marc Racicot to chair the Republican National Committee ruffled a few feathers among party leaders but, as presidents usually get what they want in such matters, his nomination was approved. There were, of course, many Republicans who wanted the former Montana governor to run against Democrat Sen. Max Baucus instead of taking the RNC because they believed it would be an easy win for the GOP. When stories began circulating that Racicot would not seek re-election to the post next year, most people discounted it but its persistence has caused people to look at it again.

What a theory they have developed. Racicot's gubernatorial successor, Judy Martz, has had more than a bit of trouble recently and her approval numbers are, to put it mildly, low. Speculation is high that she will not run in 2004 -- which would leave Racicot free to run with the party endorsement even though, because of the state's term limit law, he would have to run as a write-in candidate.

We're standing firmly behind you -- The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which says it is the only national organization dedicated to helping elect openly gay candidates to public office, has issued its latest round of candidate endorsements for the 2002 election cycle.

Getting the nod this week from the group are Democrat Daniel O'Donnell, who is running in New York State Assembly District 69; Democrat Tim Carpenter, who is trying to be elected to the State Senate's 3rd district; Republican Karl Rohde, who is vying for election in Oregon's 19th State Senate district; Democrat Charlie Smith, who has put himself forward in South Carolina State House District 119; and Republican John Brady, who seeks to be the next Sussex County, Del., recorder of deeds. Since 1991, the Victory Fund has raised $3 million for candidates and has helped to quadruple the number of openly gay candidates, which the fund says number more than 200 in the current election cycle.

Rumor number 3 -- Karen Hughes may not be the only senior White House aide headed out the door. The post-Hughes departure buzz has been replaced by talk that Mary Matalin, who heads up Vice President Dick Cheney's communications effort, may leave by the end of the year. The former aide to Republican guru Lee Atwater is married to the man most would consider the late Mr. Atwater's Democrat doppelganger -- consultant and pundit James Carville, something that gives some party activists heartburn. The departure gossip may simply be wishful thinking on their part, as many of those who worry in a semi-public private fashion about the Carville/Matalin marriage are disgruntled GOP operatives who have tangled with Matalin in the past and ended up wishing they hadn't, so thoroughly did she thump them.

Broadcast rudes -- The Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, a civil rights organization, has filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against communications company Mediacom, citing the firm's "corporate irresponsibility" as pertains to African-American programming.

In the complaint, NAN's Horace Sheffield says his group has tried "in good faith" to discuss what it calls "the lack of African-American programming on Mediacom's current line-up." He also accuses a Mediacom executive of making "a verbal threat to me and NAN by indicating that she had 'friends' and 'associates' who wanted to 'deal' with us but she has not let them -- 'yet.'"

Sheffield also told the FCC, via his e-mailed complaint, that he has "filed a formal complaint with the FBI asking them to investigate the threats made against me, as well as any hidden ownership ties that Mediacom may have to the (La Cosa Nostra)/Mafia" and that he wants the company's FCC license revoked.

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