UPI's Capital Comment for April 16, 2003

April 16, 2003 at 2:41 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 16 (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.

That's the Chicago way...

Few people are mourning the decision by U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., to forgo a bid for a second term. Fitzgerald, the only Republican to enter the Senate in 1998 by beating an incumbent Democrat, got off to a rocky start from which he never recovered. A number of polls had Fitzgerald as a weak candidate for re-election, the weakest, in fact, among the entire 2004 GOP Senate slate.

If that were not enough, U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., who served as chief of staff to House Republican Leader Bob Michel before being elected to Michel's seat when he retired, has been engaged in an ongoing effort to recruit a primary challenger to Fitzgerald, an effort that reportedly had the support of U.S. House Speaker Denny Hastert, also of Illinois.

Fitzgerald's decision to walk away from an almost-certain loss may help put the seat back into play. The Democrats have not settled on a candidate and may yet have to endure the same kind of bruising primary that has cost them dearly in previous general elections. The problem, of course, is that you cannot beat someone with no one and, with the state Republican Party in disarray after being shut out of almost every statewide office in the 2002 elections, the list of potential candidates may be rather short.

Two names that have popped up are linked to the party's most successful past. The first is former two-term GOP Gov. Jim Edgar, who left office while still popular with the voters. The problem is that Edgar has twice before refused GOP entreaties to run for the U.S. Senate and may not be willing to make the bid.

Another name floating around is that of former GOP Gov. Jim Thompson, Edgar's immediate predecessor. Generally more liberal than the moderate Edgar, Thompson led the state from 1977 to 1991, making him the longest serving governor in state history. In addition, Thompson re-burnished his credentials with organized labor, an important part of the Illinois electorate, by leading an investigation into Enron-style corruption inside ULLICO, the union life insurance company.

Either man would be a strong candidate and their presence on the ticket would likely keep the GOP from tanking in the 2004 elections in what was once a key presidential state for the Republicans.

Moving target...

CNN's great experiment, the hourlong, live audience "Crossfire," may be coming to an end. The network has announced that morning anchor Paula Zahn is being given a new 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. show, "American Evening with Paula Zahn," and that, to make room for it, "Crossfire" is being moved to 4:30 p.m. and cut back to 30 minutes from the full hour.

New horizons...

The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, a think tank located in Washington, has selected "Why Democracy and Why Now?" as the theme of its fourth annual conference, set for May 16 and 17 at the Wyndham Washington Hotel.

Among the topics tentatively scheduled for discussion are the role of women and gender in the governance of Muslim states and a critical assessment of Islamic resources and their appropriateness for building democratic institutions. Also on tap is a keynote address by Lorne Craner, U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, who is scheduled to speak at the Friday night dinner.

Middle-of-the-road tax cuts...

The Republican Main Street Partnership, a coalition of moderate GOP elected officials, is pushing hard for a $350 billion economic growth package they helped craft. While considerably less than what the president asked for, it has some elements worth noting.

Among the tax-reduction bills the partnership would like to see enacted in the current Congress are: legislation by Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Ill., to eliminate the marriage penalty; a permanent research and development tax credit along the lines of what has been proposed by Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn.; legislation to increase expensing for small business similar to that put forward by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; and the Homeland Investment Act by Rep. Phil English, R-Pa., which encourages U.S. corporations doing business overseas to reinvest foreign dividends into research and development by providing a one-year tax incentive.

"Several of these proposals are excellent candidates for that package because they would give the economy a quick shot in the arm," Main Street Executive Director Sarah Chamberlain Resnick said. In addition, the group says it will support efforts to provide additional relief from the Death Tax and expedite the income rate reduction from President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax package.

You can make book on it...

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, is hosting a book forum featuring The Economist's Adrian Woolridge, speaking about his new book "The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea." The book recounts the history of the company, defining it and detailing its evolution and symbiotic relationship to Western society. The forum begins at noon on April 22 with a luncheon to follow.

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