UPI's Capital Comment for Oct. 11, 2002

By United Press International  |  Oct. 11, 2002 at 9:19 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (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.

Just when you thought it was safe --- Foreign leaders and political supporters can be extremely generous -- as former President Bill Clinton already knows.

According to a congressional report released Wednesday, Clinton, while president, received lavish gifts that had not been heretofore revealed. The gifts were earmarked for his presidential library, putting them outside existing disclosure rules.

Rep. Doug Ose, R-Calif., announced their existence in a report summarizing the congressional investigation into the gift scandal that marked the former president's departure from office in January 2001.

Among the gifts are: a framed handwritten letter written by President Harry S. Truman, given by publisher Malcolm S. Forbes and valued at $90,000; A Cartier wristwatch, gold cufflinks with diamonds and emeralds, a Pakistani rug and two silk/wool shawls, given by Pakistani Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif and valued at close to $50,000; and a $40,000 glass eagle sculpture from P. Kelsey Murphy of the Pilgrim Glass Corporation. Ose instigated the investigation as part of an ongoing effort to reform the laws governing presidential gifts.

Book of the month -- The Eisenhower Lounge at the Capital Hill Club was jammed Wednesday night as a crowd gathered for a book signing with former Florida Secretary of State's Katherine Harris.

Harris, a relatively obscure statewide elected official until "the long count" at the conclusion of the 2000 presidential election, took three days off from her current campaign to hawk her book, "Center of the Storm" in Washington.

Those attending included GOP power couple Charlie and Judy Black, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., Mullings.com's Rich Galen and entertainer Pat Boone, as always nattily attired in his trademark white bucs.

The Republican Harris is the favorite to win election to Congress from Florida's 13th Congressional District, replacing retiring GOP Rep. Dan Miller.

Petticoat junction box -- The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, a trade industry group, has come out strongly against a new proposal to aid rural wireless carriers by expanding the bureaucracy of the Federal Communications Commission. Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., has put forward legislation to create a Rural Issues Advisory Board within the FCC to address telecommunications issues affecting rural America.

"You don't fix the problem of burdensome and unnecessary regulations by creating yet another cog in the regulatory wheel," CTIA President Tom Wheeler said. "The best way to expand wireless services for all Americans is to stop the headlong rush to impose unfunded mandates that dominate regulatory thinking today." The bill may also run into trouble among Terry's GOP colleagues, who became a majority for the first time in 40 years by, among other things, promising an end to unfunded mandates.

In at the beginning -- -- Friday is the birthday of one of America's founding heroes. Born in Poland in 1747, Casimir Pulaski was brought to America by Benjamin Franklin and, as an officer in the Continental Army under Gen. George Washington, organized and trained the American cavalry for their battles against the British. One of his students was "Light Horse" Harry Lee -- who is likely not as well-known for his own exploits as he is for being the father of Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate army during the Civil War. Pulaski is a hero to the more than 9 million Polish-Americans who are celebrating October as Polish-American Heritage Month. The nation honors him with a statue in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House.

Raise the bar -- Make the number of seats the GOP needs to win this fall two -- if they want to take back control of the Senate. In an interview this week on Inside Politics, Rhode Island Republican Sen. Lincoln Chaffee told CNN's Jonathan Karl that he might consider crossing the aisle after the election if the chamber is tied 50-50.

Chaffee said he would "Cross that bridge when we get to it. Have some discussions with the White House. We can't be intimidating moderates out of the party." He would not rule out a party switch though he admitted that would be a very difficult decision for him to reach.

Giant killer? -- One political consultant who is sure to get a lot of attention after November is Bill Pascoe, campaign manager for New Jersey GOP Senate candidate Doug Forrester. Pascoe, who started his political career as an Africa policy analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, is getting credit in some quarters for being the mastermind behind the ethics attack that drove Sen. Robert Torricelli's, D-N.J., down in the polls and out of the race. And it's not the first time.

In 2001, Pascoe was campaign manager for Jersey City, N.J. Mayor Bret Schundler, the underdog in the Republican primary. Using similar slash-and-burn tactics, Pascoe was able to drive the GOP frontrunner, acting governor and state Senate President Donald DiFrancesco out of the race at the last minute.

Schundler handily defeated the party's designated replacement for DiFrancesco, former GOP Rep. Bob Franks, in the primary only to lose the gubernatorial election to Democrat Jim McGreevey.

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