UPI's Capital Comment for Oct. 18, 2002

By United Press International  |  Oct. 18, 2002 at 3:32 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (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.

Battle royal -- Senate Democrats are weighing in on behalf of Maura Harty, President George W. Bush's nominee to be the new chief of consular affairs inside the U.S. Department of State. The nomination was controversial even before it was announced, thanks to reporting by National Review magazine's Joel Mowbray whose articles allege that failures inside the office of consular affairs may have contributed to Sept. 11 terrorist attack on New York and Washington. Harty, Mowbray's reports claim, has similar policies to the woman she has been tapped to replace and, as such, is not he person to lead efforts to reform the office. That, coupled with repeated allegations that Harty was less than helpful to families seeking to be reunited with minor children who had been abducted and taken overseas, was enough to get at least two Republican senators to put a hold on the nomination. Now, according to sources on Capital Hill, the Democrats are upping the ante, placing holds on several other State Department nominees that will not be removed unless Harty is confirmed. All this reflects a growing opinion inside Republican circles that Secretary of State Colin Powell is not doing a good job of minding the store and is letting the career Foreign Service officers inside the department make too many key personnel decisions.

Political inversion -- The House of Representatives left town Wednesday without moving ahead on an anticipated tax bill. The reason, say some insiders, is that Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., chairman of the tax-writing Committee on Ways and Means, wanted to take up a bill that would punish -- in some cases retroactively -- American companies that had decided to reincorporate outside the United States by imposing a new tax on them. These companies have been a political football this cycle, with Democrats claiming they are taking jobs out of the United States while fleeing the burden of their fair share of taxes.

Republicans counter that these inversions, as they are known, are being undertaken because the United States has the 4th -- and soon to be 2nd -- highest corporate tax in the world and because the United States taxes companies based on their worldwide operations rather than regional activities -- the basis of corporate taxes in most other industrialized countries do. The alternative, the GOP says, is for these same companies to be bought out by foreign-owned firms -- reducing the revenue to the U.S. government -- or for them to close and throw thousands of American's out of work.

Members of the Republican conference decided that taking up the issue so close to an election was sure to be a loser for somebody, so they left town without doing anything. Credit for killing the effort, insiders said, should go to the members of the House Republican Study Committee, a group of conservatives who are, on principle, opposed to any new taxes.

A dish best served cold -- The children of retiring U.S. Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., have thrust themselves into the race to succeed him by sending what has been described as "an angry letter" to voters, urging people to vote against the Democrat's nominee, state Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza.

Cardoza is a former staffer and protégée of Condit's who nevertheless challenged him in the party primary after the congressman became hopelessly entangled in the mystery surrounding the disappearance and murder of Washington intern Chandra Levy.

Addressed to "Friends, neighbors and fellow Democrats," the one-page letter dated Oct. 10 began arriving in mailboxes Wednesday. It accuses Cardoza of betraying their father by challenging him in the March primary. "If this district elects Dennis Cardoza, it will elect someone who cares about one thing: Dennis Cardoza," the letter says. "He is neither Democrat, Republican or independent, but an opportunist that would use anything or anyone to get elected." A Cardoza aide blasted the letter as "riddled with false accusations." Up until now, Condit, who received 38 percent of the vote in the March primary, and members of his family had been silent about the race to take his seat in Congress.

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