Reach out

John McCaslin
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Posted: Aug 05, 2004 12:00 AM

The Beltway Beat has confirmed that an "incident" is under investigation at the Alexandria Detention Center involving accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui and his reported use of a personal cell phone belonging to a jail employee.

A source close to the Alexandria Sheriff's Department tells this column that he was told yesterday that the phone belongs to a sheriff's deputy who has guarded Moussaoui, the so-called "20th hijacker" being held under otherwise-tight security.

"He (the deputy) is accused of allowing Moussaoui to use his cell phone to make personal calls," says our source, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "The guard is being questioned as we speak."

Alexandria Sheriff's Capt. David Rocco confirmed late yesterday that "the incident is under review," but he wouldn't say what the incident was.

Ironically, attorneys for Moussaoui filed a court motion in 2002 objecting to the "overly restrictive" conditions at the Alexandria jail. Among other demands, they asked he be allowed greater telephone access to his attorneys.

'PIE WAGONS'

On second glance, USA Today didn't care too much for a conservative columnist's rant on last week's Democratic powwow in Boston. But Democrats don't mind publishing what the newspaper tossed away.

"During the Democratic National Convention week, USA Today hired Republican columnist Ann Coulter to write a daily column on the convention happenings," the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's Ann Lewis now writes.

"However, after reading her first submission, USA Today decided against publishing the column, stating it wasn't funny and not usable. After reading excerpts from the column, I can see why.

"I've been a woman in politics for a while, and I'm just not quite sure where she was going with this one: 'My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call women at the Democratic National Convention.'"

TISSUE, PATRICK?

We've just finished reading "The Meaning of Is: The Squandered Impeachment and Wasted Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton," authored by the one-time senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, former Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican.

During the House debate on impeachment, writes Barr, now a political analyst for CNN and contributing editor of the American Spectator, things started to take on "surreal overtones."

"One of the oddest moments occurred . . . adjacent to the House chamber, after making an argument in favor of impeachment in which I quoted John F. Kennedy," the former congressman recalls. "At the time, one of the many lesser Kennedys who populate Washington - in this case young (Rhode Island Rep.) Patrick Kennedy, nephew of the former president - was hanging around the room.

"Patrick was one of those pompous characters you encounter frequently in Washington who completely personifies the phrase 'snot-nosed rich kid.' An admitted cocaine user, he made at least one trip to rehab before his family bought him a congressional seat in Rhode Island by spending a phenomenal amount of cash in this small state.

"Patrick - outraged that I had dared to quote his uncle in support of impeachment - came running across the room, yelling that I was a 'racist' who 'lied' and was therefore not allowed to quote JFK. I reminded Patrick that House rules forbade this kind of behavior and - in a moment of self-indulgence - called him a 'young man.'

"'I am a duly elected representative who can say what he wants,' the young Kennedy shot back.

"'I am duly impressed,' I responded, before he stalked away."

WISE IRISHMAN

"I am having fun listening to Teresa Heinz Kerry. The Democrats muzzled Hillary Rodham Clinton in '92 after the 'baking cookies' remark, but I don't think John Kerry will be able to do so with his meal ticket. When I was growing up, I had friends who wanted to marry girls with some wealth, but my dad, a wise old Irishman, told me: 'No one works harder for his money than the man who marries it.'"

- Irish-American Republicans founder and co-chairman Frank Duggan.

GEORGIA ON HIS MIND

Mikhail Saakashvili, the 36-year-old American-educated lawyer who led Georgia's "Rose Revolution" last November that ousted former Soviet strongman Eduard Shevardnadze, was to arrive in Washington on Thursday to address the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The new president, who pledged to end corruption in Georgia and unify a fractious region, enjoys strong backing from the Bush White House. Yet, his popularity at home is showing signs of waning.

There have been repeated reports of human rights violations in the country, including the torture of political prisoners. Sulkhan Molashvili, ex-chairman of Georgia's Chamber of Control, the government's top auditing institution, says he was subjected to electric shock. And just last week, the 36-year-old ex-governor of Kakhaberi village, Roland Kakhidze, died in government custody.

Kakhidze had been arrested in early June on charges of possessing drugs, which fellow party members say were planted by police during a search of his home.

"Death of Kakhidze is a stigma of shame for the Georgian authorities," said Levan Berdzenishvili, a member of the opposition Republic Party.

Meanwhile, the International Press Institute, a global network of editors in more than 120 countries, condemned a recent police raid on the independent newspaper Georgian Times. Management at the paper maintains the raid is part of a deliberate campaign to exert political pressure on the publication, while the government says it is investigating financial irregularities.

Finally, on the verge of invading breakaway South Ossetia, where blood already has been spilled, Saakashvili was forced to cut short a recent visit to Israel. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones arrived in Georgia last Friday to discuss South Ossetia with Saakashvili.

Next stop after Washington? A more tranquil Georgia - and the city of Atlanta - where Saakashvili will receive an American Bar Association award for "leadership in legal reform."

CARELESS CARLOS

"Carlos - for future reference, should one of your staffers call our campaign looking for Richard's schedule, you might want to tell them not to use the campaign's phone. When we get a call from someone claiming to be a supporter who wants to attend an event, but the caller ID reads 'Erskine Bowles,' it's kind of a giveaway."

- Note written by Doug Heye, spokesman for the Rep. Richard Burr for Senate campaign in North Carolina to a Bowles campaign spokesman. Burr is facing former Clinton aide Bowles, a Democrat, for the Senate seat now held by Democratic vice-presidential contender John Edwards.

LEFT CONSPIRACY

Pundits tell us this is one of the most important presidential elections in our lifetime. And so-called "527 groups" are doing all in their power to influence the outcome.

Some background: 527 groups are tax-exempt advocacy organizations, funded by soft-money contributions, that influence federal elections through voter-mobilization efforts and the issuance of ads either touting their candidate or criticizing the opponent. Regardless, the majority of 527s are required to file expenditure reports with the Internal Revenue Service, and is the ink ever-revealing.

A recent panel sponsored by the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet - held at George Washington University and titled "The Changed Landscape of the 2004 Election: The New Role of the Internet" - featured among its speakers Larry Purpuro, founding partner of Rightclick Strategies, an online solutions developer.

We'll let the transcript speak for itself:

Purpuro: "If you look at the list of all 527s to date, the top 20, 18 of them are clearly left of center. Two would arguably be on the Republican side. . . . If you've looked at their expenditures, the top 20 committees alone have spent almost $100 million as of the last reporting requirement, which is no small piece of change."

NEW McCASLIN BOOK

Fans of this column may enjoy my new book, "Inside the Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops and Shenanigans From Around the Nation's Capital." You can purchase it through BarnesandNoble.com.