Sunday, March 05, 2000

CAPITOL INSIDER


McCain could get Bush's war chest

BY MICHAEL HAWTHORNE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Texas Gov. George W. Bush tried to shrug off a question last week about $5.2 million raised by his supporters that could end up helping his rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

        Mr. Bush's campaign and state parties in Ohio and 19 other states banded together late last year to raise money for the general election. At the time, Mr. Bush's allies didn't think they would have to contend with a strong challenge from Mr. McCain.

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        Most of the $800,000 raised in Ohio for the 1999 Victory Fund came from Mr. Bush's friends in the Cincinnati area, who were able to legally circumvent federal election law even though most of them already had given the maximum $1,000 contribution to the Texas governor's campaign.

        None of the Ohio donors to the victory fund has given money to Mr. McCain's presidential campaign.

        Donors are limited to giving a total of $25,000 to political parties and candidate committees in a calendar year. But the money they gave directly last year to Mr. Bush's campaign didn't count against their 1999 limit because Mr. Bush is a candidate in 2000.

        As a result, donors were free to give up to $25,000 each to the victory fund in 1999, providing a cache of cash for the presumptive general election campaign against Vice President Al Gore.

        But what if Mr. McCain ends up winning the GOP nomination?

        “The presumption is whoever the nominee is will need help from the parties,” Mr. Bush told Ohio reporters after a campaign stop in suburban Columbus last week. “That's OK if he's the nominee — he's not going to be — because I would want him to win.”

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        No matter where Gov. Bob Taft goes in Ohio, he makes a pitch for his No. 1 issue: improving the reading skills of youngsters.

        He recently took the same message to Washington and persuaded the National Governors Association to adopt the Ohio Reads program and other reading efforts as the organization's official literacy policy.

        “There is no education effort more important that equipping our children with the ability to read and write well,” Mr. Taft said in a prepared statement.

        It's also important because soon most Ohio fourth-graders must pass a reading test to advance to fifth grade.

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        This space often recounts the musings of Senate President Richard Finan on everything from tax policy to the length of women's pants. But the Evendale Republican isn't alone in making his opinions well known through a weekly column.

        Mr. Finan's former Senate colleague and occasional nemesis, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, also regularly distributes personal opinions that might pop up in conversations at diners or coffee shops.

        In his latest column, Justice Pfeifer uses a recent divorce case the court decided to weigh in on Fox's Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire show.

        “If this television event didn't sound the death knell for western civilization, then it at least got the bell ringer on his feet and warming up,” he wrote.

        “Am I just being a crotchety old (geezer), hopelessly mired in a past that only looks better from the view of the present?” he asked. “Maybe. But in the court business we too often see the dark side of marriage; after the wedding dresses have been tucked away, after the dreams of a life together have been dashed, replaced by the cold reality of an acrimonious split.”

        Michael Hawthorne covers state government for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He can be reached at (614) 224-4640.

       



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