John McCaslin

The winners are ...

It's almost time for Washington and Lee University's 100th-anniversary mock convention, which means it won't be long before we know who will win the 2008 presidential primaries.

Seriously, the mock convention boasts an accuracy rate so high that it has only been wrong once since 1948. It was Harry Truman who once said, "This is a real convention."

"The convention started in 1908 after William Jennings Bryan spoke to the Washington and Lee student body," Jacob Geiger, convention press chairman, tells Inside the Beltway. "Past speakers include Harry Truman, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter."

This year's keynote speaker will be 2004 Democratic presidential candidate and retired Gen. Wesley Clark, whose kickoff address is set for 8 p.m. May 25 on Lee Chapel Lawn.

Fore!

Hardly a day goes by that the president of the United States doesn't send an official message to Congress. White House messengers used to race their horses down Pennsylvania Avenue and up Capitol Hill to deliver the latest word from the president.

These days, presidential messages don't rely on horsepower of any kind, as each are sent to Congress electronically, which makes them easier for us to retrieve.

Yesterday, for instance, President Bush wished to assure Congress that in accordance with the provisions of the Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act of 1999, four items approved for export to China would "not" be detrimental to the U.S. space-launch industry, nor would the material measurably improve the missile or space-launch capabilities of China.

The items: a four-axis filament winding machine for China's water-purification and treatment industries; a computer-control system to upgrade the winding machine; an isostatic press for manufacturing automotive spare parts; and last but not least, a machine to be used in the production of graphite-and-glass composite golf clubs.

Welcome as skunks

If you didn't hear, it's "Whistleblower Week" in Washington.

Actually, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, kicked off the unprecedented observance highlighting the courage and patriotism of whistleblowers, who often risk their careers to expose fraud, waste and abuse in order to protect Americans and their taxpayer dollars.

Mr. Grassley has always appreciated whistleblowers, conducting extensive congressional oversight into virtually all aspects of the federal bureaucracy from information supplied to him by the leakers.

"Only whistleblowers can explain why something is wrong and provide the best evidence to prove it," he says. He credits whistleblowers for uncovering the infamous $700 toilet seats purchased by the Pentagon, for instance, and more recently for explaining how the Food and Drug Administration missed the boat and approved Vioxx.

But "the grandfather of all whistleblowers," Mr. Grassley reveals, is Ernie Fitzgerald, a Defense Department auditor of about 30 years who once noted that "for committing truth," whistleblowers "are about as welcome as a skunk at a Sunday afternoon picnic with the bureaucracies they are within."

Normandy invasion

Don't look now, but Francis X. "Finn" Wentworth Jr., the former president and chief operating officer of the holding company of the New York Yankees, New Jersey Nets and New Jersey Devils, is busy buying up Washington.

Not to worry, Mr. Wentworth isn't purchasing the Washington Nationals, Wizards and Capitals. Rather, the co-founder and managing principal of Normandy Real Estate Partners has acquired numerous large office complexes on Capitol Hill (the 12-story Capitol Place III, one block from Union Station), in Arlington (Quincy Crossing near the Pentagon), in the high-tech corridor surrounding Tysons Corner (Northridge I, home to Time Warner Cable and the Small Business Administration) and Chantilly (Stoneleigh I and II in Westfields).

Normandy, it turns out, owns one of the largest diversified portfolios in the Boston-to-Washington corridor. Headquartered in Morristown, N.J., it has offices in Boston, New York and Washington.

The company caught our eye being listed as one of the sponsors of the 18th annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Real Estate Games, to be held June 14 on the American University campus. More than 1,300 local commercial real-estate representatives participate in the Olympic-style competition, last year raising $386,000 for diabetes research.


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

Be the first to read John McCaslin's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.