UPI's Capital Comment for May 2, 2002

WASHINGTON, May 2 (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's this about snow in May? -- Tony Snow, the former White House wordsmith who finally found honest work in the cable news industry has signed a new contract with Fox News. As part of the deal, Fox News Channel's signature Sunday morning public affairs program, which is also carried by many of Fox's broadcast affiliates, will be renamed "Fox News Sunday with Tony Snow."


According to the network, the show has experienced a ratings surge of 175 percent since it debuted in 1996 and has the youngest median age among the Sunday morning political news programs. In making the announcement, Fox News head honcho Roger Ailes said, "Tony has distinguished himself as a thorough and insightful anchor with an intense pulse on latest political news. We are pleased with his leadership at 'Fox News Sunday' and look forward to its continuing success."


Something's up, but what? -- There are a number of Republicans on Capitol Hill who are wondering what is up with Tom Davis, the Virginia GOPer who chairs his party's congressional campaign committee. According to Federal Election Commission records, the Tom Davis for Congress committee made a $2,000 contribution on Dec. 27, 2001, to "Judy Smith for Congress." And on Dec. 16, 2001, the Federal Victory Fund, based in Annandale, Va., and identified as Davis' leadership political action committee, gave "Judy Smith for Congress" $3000. And while the party campaign committee chairman is expected to share the wealth with colleagues, Judy Smith is a Democrat, making the donations highly unusual.

In 1998, Smith ran for Congress in Arkansas's 4th Congressional district, losing to Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Ark. In 2000, she was defeated in the Democratic primary by Mike Ross, a state legislator who then went on to beat Dickey in the general election. If this was an inducement for Smith to switch parties and challenge Ross as a Republican, it didn't work. The deadline to file as the candidate of a political party was April 2, 2002.

Green gains -- Environmental activists are quietly cheering the progress of the Community Character Act through the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The act provides for federal reimbursement of up to 90 percent of the costs to localities incurred by efforts to change or impose zoning regulations in an effort to slow or control development and growth. The "smart growth" idea, a cornerstone of former Vice President Al Gore's campaign for president, appears to be taking root in Congress even without Gore implanted in the White House.


Hold your coat, don't forget your hat... -- In New York, a newly released poll from the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute shows that former Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo's comment disparaging Gov. George Pataki role's in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attack has damaged his bid to become governor.

Cuomo, who is bidding for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, said Republican Pataki "held the leader's coat" while New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani rallied the city after the Sept. 11 terror attack. The poll of 1,046 registered New York voters, conducted between April 23 and 29 found that 67 percent of respondents disagreed with Cuomo's view of Pataki's role. It also found that Cuomo's unfavorable rating rose 10 points in one week -- to 28 percent -- while his favorable rating dropped to 15 percent, down five points.

When one door closes, another door opens -- The 11 teenage Congressional pages who Roll Call Daily says were dismissed from the program for problems related to marijuana use and possession do not have far to go before they find another internship opportunity. Nick Thimmesch, communications director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, tells Capital Comment, "NORML is offering internships to those House pages who are over 18 years of age who were dismissed for allegedly using marijuana. NORML pledges to honor their zero intolerance policy on marijuana use by adults."


Have one on us -- The Sierra Club, the environmental group, is praising the Hawaii state legislature for passing the first deposit bottle bill in 20 years. Hawaii becomes the 11th state to require a five-cent deposit on plastic, glass, and aluminum beverage containers at the time of purchase. "Passing the bottle bill is a major victory," Jeff Mikulina of the group's Hawaii chapter said in a statement. "Hawaii is paradise. We want to keep it that way. With shrinking landfill space and an economy that is dependent on a clean environment, the bottle bill makes sense,"

It was bound to come to this, sooner or later -- The passage of an Oklahoma state House plan to redraw the state's U.S. congressional district lines could force all candidates to run statewide in an at-large fashion. The legally permissible but constitutionally dubious proposal was put forward in an effort to break a logjam that has thus far prevented the state, which loses one of its six congressional seats to reapportionment, from finalizing a map. The Democrats control the state legislature, but GOP Gov. Frank Keating has committed to veto any plan that places more than one incumbent into each of the state's five remaining districts. The sixth incumbent, Rep. Wes Watkins, R-Okla., is retiring. The rest of the delegation is split 4-to-1 Republicans over Democrats.


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