UPI's Capital Comment for Sept. 12, 2002

By United Press International  |  Sept. 12, 2002 at 2:38 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 (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.

Broadcasting blues -- New leadership is now in place at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the entity that oversees U.S. overseas broadcasting programs like the Voice of America. Tuesday night Ken Tomlinson, the former editor-in-chief of Reader's Digest and a former VOA director, was sworn in as the new chairman. Former Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Richard Bray, who is described as a "lifelong" Tomlinson friend, performed the ceremony instead of presidential counselor Karl Rove -- who we understand was originally penciled in for the job. Also sworn in for another term on the BBG was Westwood One radio network founder Norman Pattiz, the Beverly Hills billionaire who is credited with bringing the music of Brittany Spears, P. Diddy and Eminem to the Middle East through the VOA's new Radio Sawa. Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a longtime Pattiz friend administered the oath.

The relationship between Pattiz and Biden goes back at least as far as the Delaware senator's abortive run for president in 1988. According to the liberal investigative magazine Mother Jones, Pattiz, "Admitted to charges that he had skirted campaign finance limits by illegally offering to reimburse Westwood One employees who contributed to Sen. Joseph Biden's presidential bid." According to the magazine his company, Westwood One, paid a $75,000 fine for violating election laws.

The lame duck passes -- Up until this week, Congress was widely expected to come back after the November election for what is commonly known as "a lame duck" session. A number of appropriations bills have yet to pass and be sent to the president and, as of Monday, only two -- Defense and Military Construction -- were expected to hit the president's desk before the election (though not before the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1).

One of those leading the charge for a lame duck session was Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. Now Daschle has grown curiously quiet on the subject, suggesting, say other senators, that all pressing business can be finished before November. This will be a quite a feat as close to 100 separate pieces of legislation passed by the House await action in the upper chamber. In any case, some folks on Capitol Hill are linking Daschle's newfound silence on the subject of a lame duck session to the much-talked about idea that a GOP win in the Missouri Senate race would give the GOP a one-seat majority in November and December -- leaving the Republicans in charge of the committees and the Senate floor. One senator who declines to be named mused Wednesday whether this meant Daschle thought Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Mo., was likely to lose her re-election bid.

He's a spy type guy -- Former CIA Director James Woolsey is calling on the Bush administration to "urgently rethink" its energy policy if it is to succeed in the war on terrorism. Woolsey, who served as the first Clinton administration director of the intelligence agency, said the administration must take steps to reduce U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Woolsey says the federal government should: Encourage the use of more fuel-efficient hybrid cars; generate ethanol from biomass or waste; beef up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to 1 billion barrels; and help the Russians increase their oil production by 50 percent. "I have not been pleased with the president's energy policy, to put it mildly," Woolsey said. "I admire President Bush's effort in the fight against terror, but his energy policy goes against what he is trying to accomplish in that war."

Woolsey also said the United States must undermine the "tactical short-term weapon" possessed by Saudi Arabia, whose oil reserve capacity of 3 billion barrels a day was the "energy equivalent of a nuclear weapon" that could destroy western economies. Woolsey said that increases in the level of stockpiled oil, "would take away that Saudi weapon."

Can you beat this? -- Usually, appointments to federal advisory councils are honorary positions that attract little attention. In the case of the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women, two new appointees named by Attorney General John Ashcroft have liberal feminist groups up in arms. Ashcroft has named Nancy Pfotenhauer, president of the Independent Women's Forum, and IWF board member Margot Hill to the committee which advises the federal Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services on the enforcement of the Violence Against Women Act.

The appointments are not sitting well with the public policy groups who think the Violence Against Women Act is an adjunct of their efforts. The Feminist Majority Foundation's Margaret Moore says having the two women on the committee "send(s) a clear message that the administration has no intention of taking the fight against domestic violence seriously." The ire of these groups is prompted by repeated calls from the IWF over a number of years for reform of the act, which they argue often harms, rather than helps, families trapped in the cycle of domestic abuse.

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