Capital Briefs September 18-25

PAUL FOR NO ONE: Calling the presidential elections this year a charade in which voters are faced with the “lesser of two evils,” Ron Paul recently announced that, to no one’s surprise, he is not supporting anyone for president. The Texas congressman, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for President this year, appeared at the National Press Club in Washington with three very different third-party candidates: Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D.-Ga.), the Green Party candidate, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin, and independent Ralph Nader. Paul, who was the Libertarian Party nominee for President in 1988, called on all three to bring their supporters together to vote against “the establishment candidates” and cited polls showing as much as 60% of Americans are unhappy with the choices of John McCain and Barack Obama. The McCain campaign has been working hard to get Paul on board, and Paul told reporters that McCain’s onetime campaign chairman, former Sen. Phil Gramm (R.-Tex.), had called him after the primaries to urge his support for the Arizonan.

MCCAIN, BUSH CLASH OVER COX: In a surprise statement that was upsetting to many conservatives, John McCain told an audience in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last week that the ongoing crisis on Wall Street is the result of “the Securities and Exchange Commission [keeping] in place trading rules that let speculators and hedge funds turn out markets into a casino.” Although it takes a majority vote of the five-member SEC to change any rules, McCain blamed its chairman, former conservative California Congressman Christopher Cox, and said that “If I were President today, I would fire him.” Cox has been working hard within the administration to hold down the scope and cost of the government intervention in the financial markets. In a subsequent interview with Business Week, McCain economic advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin said that the unusual vow to fire Cox is because “[i]t seems unlikely that adequate supervision has been taking place given what’s going on.” Holtz-Eakin also told BW, “He [McCain] said he would fire Chris Cox if he were President. He’s not President. I think it’s a straightforward extension of the examples he [McCain] gave [on] the overall failure in the financial markets that is directly under the portfolio of the SEC.” Capitol Hill veterans speculate that these unsubstantiated charges might well be payback by for the criticism Holtz-Eakin got from Rep. Cox for his failure fully to embrace dynamic scoring when he was head of the Congressional Budget Office. The White House is standing firm with Cox, however, and Press Secretary Dana Perino told HUMAN EVENTS: “Chairman Cox has the President’s confidence.”

? With the $85 billion price tag on the AIG bailout coming on the heels of a similar rescue of Bear-Stearns and reforms of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae quasi-government mortgage titans in the works, HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi last week asked the White House if they had an aggregate figure of what all the needed financial bailouts of troubled financial institutions would cost taxpayers. “I would refer you to the Fed or the Treasury Department for that — I don’t have it here at my fingertips,” Press Secretary Dana Perino told Gizzi. “And remember, these deals have been structured in a way that will help pay taxpayers back first. And we have wiped the shareholders out, we’ve replaced management, and we’ve only put taxpayer dollars at risk to the extent that we think we’ll be able to pay them back first. And the secretary of the Treasury and the Fed understand that that’s the President’s position and those are the deals that they have arranged.”

96, 122 AND COUNTING: That’s the record of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) for Fiscal Year 2008: 96 convictions and 122 indictments, and restitution of more than $3,160,000. Most of the cases acted on by the OLMS involved embezzlement of union funds. In a statement last week announcing the latest round of action in abuses of union funds, the OLMS cited its major cases. These included the August 4 sentencing in U.S. District Court of Esau Faaitiiti and Arthur Clark, past president and vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 12 (San Diego, Calif.) for making false statements and that of Boilermakers Local Lodge 523 (Sandersville, Ga.) former President James Kay for embezzling more than $16,000 in union funds. “Our investigations protect union members by punishing those who abuse their positions of trust,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Labor-Management Standards Don Todd, noting that his office has overseen the convictions of 900 individuals and restitution of more than $91 million since 2001.

TIGHTENING UP A LOT: That’s what the latest round of surveys show about the presidential election. With the Republican National Convention and John McCain’s tapping of Sarah Palin as a running mate now three weeks old, the latest Gallup Poll shows Barack Obama leading the GOP nominee by 47% to 45% nationwide. That was the first time since before the Republican convention that Obama led McCain in the Gallup survey. The Rasmussen Poll showed that McCain was still ahead, but only by a wafer-thin margin of 48% to 47%. According to the Reuters/Zogby poll, Obama holds a slim 47% to 45% lead over McCain among voters nationwide. 

IT’S ‘PATRIOTIC’ TO PAY MORE TAXES?: Blasting John McCain’s economic program as “the ultimate bridge to nowhere,” Joe Biden said last week that paying higher taxes would be “patriotic” for upper-income Americans. In explaining the economic plan he and Barack Obama are championing, the Democratic vice presidential nominee told ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” that people earning more than $250,000 a year would pay more in taxes. According to Biden, “We want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people.” As for those who would be hit with higher taxes, he said: “It’s time to be patriotic … time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to get America out of the rut.”