UPI's Capital Comment for May 10, 2002

By United Press International

WASHINGTON, May 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.

Dropped -- The Federal Elections Commission, it was learned Wednesday, has voted not to pursue a complaint filed against the Bush presidential campaign regarding $2.5 million in ads run against Ariz. Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary.


The ads, paid for by two Texas brothers named Wyly under the name Republicans for Clean Air, criticized McCain's record on the environment. The Arizona senator's presidential campaign complained to the FEC that the spots violated campaign contribution limits and were, in essence, an unreported contribution to Bush. FEC attorneys said that the ads did not expressly advocate the election or defeat of McCain or Bush so could not be considered a contribution to the Bush campaign. The commission, evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, voted 3-to-3 on the recommendation, ending further action. An affirmative vote of at least four commissioners is required before a case can move forward. The commission's vote on the matter was taken in January but only disclosed this week


One order of crow please -- Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon, a Democrat who once did media work for fellow Democrat Ann Richards, whom Bush beat in 1994 to become governor of Texas, is in a bit of hot water over at the White House. A story in the Washington media helpfully explains that McKinnon and his wife had made thousands of dollars in contributions to Democrats running for office in Texas in 2002.

This did not go down well with some Republicans, as McKinnon continues as an outside adviser to Bush. The contributions were made to three candidates who were longtime and personal friends of McKinnon for whom, he says, he had previously done work. Going down particularly hard is the contribution to former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk's U.S. Senate general election campaign. Kirk is running against State Attorney General John Cornyn, and Republicans see the contest as important to the fight for control of the Senate -- and as a battle between Bush Republicans and Daschle Democrats. To them, McKinnon chose the wrong side.

But to other Texas Republicans, this is much ado about nothing, the Texas way of doing things. One GOP consultant with Texas ties suggested that, in much the same way that President Bush has tried to run his administration, you work with everybody because character and shared values mean more than party label most times.


For his part, McKinnon acknowledged the politically embarrassing aspect of the disclosure -- but said he had apologized to folks inside the White House and he would also be apologizing to the president.

Nothing to sneeze at -- Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, the former GOP governor of New Jersey, is getting the Children's Allergy, Immunology and Respiratory Foundation's 2000 Gift of Breath award for "her commitment to asthma prevention and raising awareness that the environment may be the first line of defense" against this respiratory disease that affects so many children.

Right to carry -- The Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest law enforcement labor organization, is praising the introduction of bipartisan legislation that would exempt qualified active and retired law enforcement officers from state and local prohibitions on the carrying of concealed firearms.

The FOP says, if enacted, the new law would allow off-duty and retired law enforcement officers to carry their firearms, even when traveling outside their home jurisdiction. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced the bill jointly in the Senate, where it's known as the Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act. "Right out of the gate, this bill has strong, bipartisan support," FOP National President Steve Young said. "We've earned that support because this isn't a firearms issue, it's an officer safety issue. And after Sept. 11, it became a critical public safety issue."


Continuity in government -- The White House issued a plethora of memos to various executive departments agencies Thursday further explaining their order of internal succession.

In the U.S. Department of Transportation, for example, during any period when the secretary and immediate subordinates already authorized to take control have "died, resigned, or otherwise become unable to perform the functions and duties of the office of secretary," a hierarchy of lower-ranking subordinates has been put in place to assure the continued functioning of the department.

Those officials, who must also be "eligible to act as secretary under the provisions of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, until such time as at least one of the officers mentioned above is able to perform the functions and duties of the office of secretary are, in order: the associate deputy secretary of transportation; the under secretary of transportation for security; the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration; the Federal Aviation Administration regional administrator, Southwest region; and, finally, the Federal Aviation Administration regional administrator, Great Lakes region."

Well, it's some consolation anyway -- For the second time in the 2002 election cycle, a congressional Democrat has been defeated in a party primary. Rep. Tom Sawyer of Ohio, a 16-year veteran of Capitol Hill, was defeated in his bid for renomination by State Sen. Tim Ryan. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, praised Ryan on his victory. As to the Democrat he defeated, Lowey said, "Tom Sawyer served the voters of Ohio well, and we will miss him."


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