UPI's Capital Comment for Feb. 25, 2003

Feb. 25, 2003 at 3:07 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (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.

The end of an era ...

The New York State Liberal Party, the longest continually existing third party in the nation, has closed its doors. In a letter posted on its Web site dated January 2003, the party says the headquarters on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan has been closed and that the party has ceased raising money.

Under New York law, a political party qualifies for continuing recognition if its gubernatorial candidate polls in excess of 50,000 votes in the most recent election. The endorsed candidate in the 2002 gubernatorial election, former U.S. Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo, only polled around 16,000 votes, causing the party to lose its automatic ballot access.

Cuomo, who had campaigned for the nomination of both the Liberal and Democratic parties, withdrew from the race before voters went to the polls.

"The State Policy Committee," the letter says, "decided to face the inevitable" and terminate operations though plans exist to keep the Web site active through the year.

The closure marks the end of an illustrious political tradition that began in 1944 as a reaction to the Tammany bossism of the New York State Democratic Party. An impressive list of candidates, Democrats and Republicans, also carried the Liberal banner in the general election because, under New York law, cross endorsements are permitted.

Among the more notable winning candidates are former Gov. Mario Cuomo, former U.S. Sens. Herbert Lehman, Robert F. Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and New York City Mayors Fiorello H. LaGuardia, John Lindsey and Rudy Giuliani. Former New York Republican Sen. Jacob Javits also held the line in his 1980 election bid after he lost the GOP nomination to Al D'Amato.

The letter says the party may reappear in some form and that "a clearing-house for political news from across the state" will continue on the Web site but, for now, the party has officially ceased to exist.

Singing the blues ...

U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., wants to know why the GRAMMY Foundation of Santa Monica, Calif., the non-profit arm of the Recording Academy -- sponsor of the prestigious Grammy Awards -- got an $800,000 grant for music and arts education programs as part of the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill recently passed by Congress and signed into law by the president.

The foundation exists "to bring national attention to important issues such as the value of music and arts education and preserving our rich cultural legacy for future generations." Its work is widely praised and former U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley says, "The GRAMMY Foundation (is) opening up new opportunities in education for America's young people."

Flake agrees the group's mission is a noble one but he still wants to know why U.S. taxpayers have been put in the position of kicking in money for a foundation tied to an industry full of multi-millionaire executives and recording artists.

"Norah Jones won a handful of Grammy awards for a song called 'Don't Know Why,'" Flake says. "I think that could probably describe a lot of taxpayers trying to figure out why their tax dollars are going to the Grammy Foundation."

Breaking down barrios to ownership ...

The Latino Coalition, which monitors federal, state and local public policy initiatives for their impact on the U.S. Hispanic community, is holding a Small Business Economic Conference in Washington beginning Tuesday. The conference brings together Latino small business owners from all across the United States to Washington where they will discuss "ways to stimulate the economy and protect and improve the environment for growth and prosperity in our business community," TLC President Robert Deposada said. Among those who have confirmed as speakers for the event are U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.; U.S. Small Business Administration head Hector Barreto, U.S. Housing Secretary Mel Martinez, and the Hon. Alberto Gonzales, the White House legal counsel.

'Round and 'round they go ...

Former Federal Election Commissioner Karl Sandstrom, a Democrat, has joined the Washington office of the Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie. Sandstrom, a Democrat appointee to the commission, repeatedly came under fire at the end of his tenure. He repeatedly voted with the three Republican members of the FEC as the commission was engaged in the rule-making process made necessary by the McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan law that imposed new regulations on campaign contributions and spending. Sandstrom, whose term had expired, remained a commissioner until his successor, Democrat Ellen Weintraub, was appointed.

According to the National Journal, a weekly magazine covering events in Washington, Sandstrom will now be "of counsel" to the firm's Washington office -- which specializes in election law and is home to Bob Bauer, considered by many to be the best Democrat election law attorney in Washington.

It is worth noting that Weintraub, Sandstrom's replacement on the commission, also has a Perkins Coie affiliation. Before being named to the commission Weintraub, who was recently elected chairman of the FEC by her colleagues, was also "of counsel" to the firm and a member of its Political Law Group.

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