Concert Update

John McCaslin

3/28/2008 10:44:02 AM - John McCaslin

/> Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign says it "has complied with the law" with regard to a fundraising concert that Sir Elton John is scheduled to perform April 9 in New York City on behalf of the Democratic candidate.

The statement was issued after Inside the Beltway yesterday questioned whether the senator from New York and the British pop-music star were violating the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), which aims to "minimize foreign intervention" in U.S. elections by establishing limitations on foreign nationals.

The FECA "prohibits any foreign national from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly. It is also unlawful to help foreign nationals violate that ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them. Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment.


"There are a series of advisory opinions issued over the years surrounding situations kind of like this, but not exactly like this," FEC spokesman Bob Biersack said Wednesday. "That's the problem with an advisory opinion: They're not the same, but they do provide some sense of where the commission stands."

Yesterday, Mr. Biersack called attention to an FEC opinion from 2004 (No. 2004-26) that dealt with a Guatemalan national who became engaged to a U.S. congressman and sought guidance on volunteering for his election campaign. In that case, the FEC ruled that Zury Rios Sosa could be involved in campaigning for Rep. Jerry Weller, Illinois Republican, provided she not be compensated or else help manage or participate in decisions of the campaign committee.

By contrast, a 1981 FEC decision prohibited a foreign national artist from donating his services in connection with fundraising for a U.S. Senate campaign.

"Since 1987, the FEC has consistently held that foreign nationals may volunteer their time for campaigns on an uncompensated basis," Mrs. Clinton's campaign said in its statement. "Elton John is simply volunteering his uncompensated time to appear at the concert."

Mr. Biersack says a complaint would have to be filed with the FEC before the commission would consider issuing an advisory opinion specifically on the Elton John concert, and even then it would remain confidential until completed.

Island for misfits

"It is a distinct honor to have another former member of Congress within the Libertarian Party," said former Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, after former three-term Alaska senator and more recently Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel jumped from his party's ship this week.

Mr. Gravel contends a commitment to freedom and peace "can't be found in the two major parties that control the government and politics of America."

As for Mr. Barr, he concluded that Republicans "lost their core principles."

Pizza party

We see where Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, will throw more of his weight behind Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, whom he has endorsed for president.

The congressman once made headlines by remarking that if he were Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's brother he would have punched her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in the nose for hooking up with Monica Lewinsky. He will appear at Generous George's Positive Pizza and Pasta Place on April 6 to explain how Mr. Obama can win the White House and Democrats can increase majorities in Congress come November.

Organizers of the Obama event also are aiming to hear from Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine via a conference call. The governor endorsed Mr. Obama more than a year ago.

Grab your camera

If you haven't noticed by the increase in tourist traffic, the 2008 National Cherry Blossom Festival begins tomorrow and lasts through April 13, with the festival's parade set for April 12, between Seventh and 17th streets Northwest.

All told, more than 3,700 cherry trees are beginning to explode in color around the Tidal Basin, in East Potomac Park and on the Washington Monument grounds. The blossoms are expected to remain in peak bloom through Thursday, which is average compared with other years.

Unseasonably warm or cool temperatures, notes the National Park Service, have resulted in blossoms reaching peak bloom as early as March 15 (1990) and as late as April 18 (1958).