WASHINGTON, July 19 (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.
Even more gall -- The race for Minnesota's new 2nd Congressional District is heating up as a Democrat activist has filed to run under the "No New Taxes" party banner. On Wednesday, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that the activist, Minnesota Sierra Club Statewide Secretary Sam Garst, "cheerfully admitted that his candidacy was designed to draw votes away from Republican John Kline to help Democratic Rep. Bill Luther." According to the paper, Luther campaign manager Bob Decheine endorsed the idea, saying Garst "called me and told me what he was planning, and I encouraged him to do it." Garst, whose Plymouth, Minn., home is not even in the district is drawing fire from the Republicans for what they are calling a dirty trick -- an opinion at least one state political analyst endorses. "This is a low point, deliberately misleading voters," Carlton College Political Science Department Chairman Steve Schier said. "It's simply dirty."
... Or forever hold their peace -- The Massachusetts legislature used a procedural maneuver to kill a ballot question that would the state constitution to ban civil unions. Though the opponents of the putting the question on the ballot lacked the votes to defeat the measure, on Wednesday they were able to muster sufficient support to adjourn the legislator's constitution convention indefinitely, preventing a vote on final approval of the initiative from taking place.
Question supporters gathered 130,000 signatures -- twice as many as required -- to get the amendment on the ballot in November 2004. Supporters argue that gubernatorial politics played a role in the move. Senate President Thomas Birmingham -- whose bid for the Democrat gubernatorial nomination is lagging in spite of a recent endorsement by the state's AFL-CIO -- led the opposition to putting the question before the voters, calling it "wrong headed" and "wrong hearted."
Wham! -- On Thursday the AFL-CIO began running ads against six House Republicans, attacking them for having supported the White House on the issue of trade promotion authority. The six are: Robin Hayes of North Carolina; Chip Pickering of Mississippi; John Shimkus of Illinois; George Gekas and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania; and Nancy Johnson of Connecticut. Four of the six -- Pickering, Shimkus, Gekas and Johnson -- are in general election match ups against Democrat incumbents and all six represent districts with strong labor voter blocs.
You can't pick your friends -- While campaigns cannot always control who supports them, there are always one or two supporters or endorsers who can end up giving everyone a serious case of heartburn. In the case of Martha Fuller Clark, a Democrat who is running for the open New Hampshire 1st Congressional District seat, the Bromo-Seltzer must have been arriving by the truckload this week after it was revealed that she had been singled out for favorable mention by a senior official of the Communist Party USA.
Writing in a January 2002 election report that was posted on the CPUSA Web site, Joelle Fishman, the chair of the political action committee of the CPUSA writes of Clark's appearance at "the NorthEast Action conference 'Fulfilling Democracy's Promise Voting Rights in the Northeast -- Strategies for Change.'"
"The attendance was a broad, multi-racial cross section of labor and community organizing plus an array of national speakers... A Congressional candidate played an active part in the conference, Martha Fuller Clark, who, if elected will be the first woman from New Hampshire to serve in Congress," Fishman, who attended the conference as the party's representative, wrote. Clark is running as an anti-tax, pro-business conservative Democrat -- and while no one is suggesting she is some kind of secret communist sympathizer -- there are people in New Hampshire who are wondering why she was playing "an active part" in a conference composed of "a broad, multi-racial cross section of labor and community organizing plus an array of national speakers including Richard Womack of the AFL-CIO... "
Or can you? -- According to the liberal group Common Cause, the Big Five accounting firms and their trade group have given more than $1.3 million to the members of congress and senators named to the conference committee to reconcile House and Senate versions of accounting oversight and corporate accountability bills. Of the 23 House members chosen as conferees, 21 of them received a total of $893,519 in contributions. "These donations come from the people who profited while millions of Americans lost investments, jobs and pensions. The accounting industry gave this money to escape legitimate oversight and stop the federal government from looking after the public interest," a spokesman for the group said.
How I spent my summer vacation -- The American Conservative Union is sponsoring another of its Public Policy Boot Camp training seminars during the August congressional recess. The program, designed "to educate candidates for a conservative future," will be meeting Aug. 18-20 in Arlington, Va. Interested parties are asked to email Khouston@conservative.org.
The favor of a reply is requested -- PhRMA, the trade association for the pharmaceutical industry, is firing back at Families USA over its report slamming the industry on the amount is spends on advertising and promoting drugs. Richard Smith, a PhRMA vice president, accuses Families USA of "using WorldCom accounting" and says "The only way the group can get a number for promotion that is higher than pharmaceutical R&D spending is to disguise the operating costs of running a business in their figures."
According to Smith, "PhRMA member companies spent $30.3 billion on new drug research and development. In contrast, according to IMS Health, the industry spent about $9 billion on promotion to consumers and doctors and about $10 billion on free drug samples. When Families USA attacks our promotional spending, they are really attacking the $10 billion in free drug samples that we give away each year to doctors who often use these free medicines to help needy patients. That's not very family-friendly," Smith said.
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