House GOP Leaders Abandon Bush on Dubai

In a closed-door meeting Tuesday of the top House Republican leadership, the consensus was that President Bush had gotten himself in deep trouble on the Dubai ports management deal and he was on his own to try to save it.

Rep. Tom Reynolds was particularly adamant in separating House Republicans from presidential wreckage on the ports affair. As the current chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Reynolds is responsible for election of enough Republican candidates to retain control of the House.

A footnote: Treasury Secretary John Snow was on the phone last week asking for advice on how to solve the Dubai problem from senior Republican members of Congress who had not come out publicly against the ports deal.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, usually identified as a San Francisco liberal, has moved to the right of President Bush and the Republicans in proposing to relieve the Sarbanes-Oxley regulatory legislation’s financial drag on corporations.

Bush and Pelosi are each pushing a "competitiveness agenda," but only the Democrat’s plan addresses Sarbanes-Oxley, the hurriedly drafted 2002 act intended to weed out corporate corruption. Pelosi is proposing "specifically tailored guidelines" to make sure that Sarbanes-Oxley requirements are "not overly burdensome" on small companies.

Bush’s "competitiveness agenda" does not mention Sarbanes-Oxley, reflecting the administration’s negative response to pleas from business for regulatory relief. Rep. Michael Oxley, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee who retires from Congress at the end of this year, has opposed any change in the statute that bears his name.

The pro-abortion rights Republican Majority for Choice (RMC), running ads in Pennsylvania newspapers seeking a Republican primary candidate against anti-abortion Sen. Rick Santorum, includes the state’s other GOP senator, Arlen Specter, on its advisory panel.

The ad does not mention Santorum by name, but there is no question of the target when it attacks "candidates who claim to be Republicans but instead use the party to further their own personal or religious agenda." In requesting "real Republican" Senate candidates, the RMC attacks the GOP’s "drift toward extremism." The deadline for a candidate to file is Tuesday, March 7.

Specter, a pro-choice Republican, promised to support Santorum’s re-election campaign this year. In 2004, Santorum endangered his own political base by supporting Specter in the Republican primary against a serious conservative challenger. Specter told this column that his "advice was neither solicited nor given on the ad" and that re-electing Santorum remains his top priority for 2006.

While their husbands work on lobbyist reform, wives of Republican members of Congress are soliciting corporate representatives in Washington for big bucks. The lure is getting a photo with Laura Bush at the 98-year-old Congressional Club’s April 27 luncheon.

A letter faxed to major Republican contributors cites a $5,000 price for two lunch tickets, plus a photo opportunity with the first lady and a listing of the company’s name in the event program. Twelve such tickets can be purchased for the bargain price of $50,000.

Although political contributions are not tax deductible, the letter suggests the contribution "may be treated as an advertising or business expense," and therefore could be written off.

In his struggle for election to a 12th term in his Houston area congressional district, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is spending heavily to identify his voters, much as the Bush-Cheney campaign did in 2004.

The political world was shocked when the latest filings showed that DeLay and his Democratic opponent, former Rep. Nick Lampson, had about the same amount of money in cash on hand (just over $1 million). However, DeLay already has poured about $1.5 million into the district, outspending Lampson by better than five to one.

If DeLay was spending all that money to raise a net $1 million, it would be cause for his concern. But the indicted former Republican leader is using the money to identify all of his November voters at this early stage, which may be unprecedented for a House race.