Honoring the rebel

Robert Novak
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Posted: Dec 06, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, who led conservative rebels against President Bush's Medicare bill, will deliver the keynote address at the 2004 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington -- an honor accorded to Bush stalwarts the past three years.

Vice President Dick Cheney delivered the keynote in 2003, then-Republican National Chairman Marc Racicot in 2002 and then-Republican National Chairman (and Governor of Virginia) Jim Gilmore in 2001. Next year, CPAC also will honor Pence and 24 other House Republicans who broke party ranks to vote no on Medicare.

A footnote: Eight of nine lobbyists who had confirmed contributions for a Pence fund-raiser canceled when the congressman opposed the president on Medicare. Pence instructed aides not to show him names of the canceled donors.

BUSH VS. BUSH

Mel Martinez will resign as secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this week to run for the U.S. Senate from Florida at the repeated urging of President George W. Bush. But the president's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is against clearing the way for Martinez in the Republican primary.

White House aides want other candidates to drop out and give Martinez a clear shot at the Senate now that Democratic Sen. Bob Graham has announced his retirement. Martinez is widely considered the strongest Republican candidate as a Cuban-American, the former chief executive of Orange County (Orlando) and a Florida State University alumnus.

However, Gov. Bush has praised candidates "who had the courage to run when Bob Graham was still in the race." The officially neutral governor is close to one candidate, State Sen. Dan Webster.

MEMO OUTRAGE

Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, demanding an investigation of how Republicans recently obtained Democratic staff memos, used Republican intercepted memos earlier this year to oppose confirmation of Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor as an appellate judge.

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who has expressed outrage over leaks of Democratic communications, in July applauded leaker Kelly Foradori as a "whistle-blower." A former staffer for the Republican Attorneys General Association, Foradori gave Senate Democrats memos and call sheets highlighting Pryor's role in raising funds for the organization. These documents were to buttress the Democratic argument that Pryor is too political to be a judge.

The Democrats also used a purloined Republican e-mail describing plans for the 30-hour Republican marathon in the Senate that protested blockage of judicial confirmations.

EDWARDS COMEBACK

Sen. John Edwards, whose presidential campaign was largely given up for dead a few weeks ago, will be revived in the opinion of Democratic insiders if he finishes no worse than third in the Iowa caucuses Jan. 19.

With former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Rep. Richard Gephardt in a close battle for first in Iowa, Edwards is trying to move past Sen. John Kerry into third place. That conceivably could position him to be runner-up to Dean in New Hampshire. Edwards then could become the candidate of establishment Democrats fighting to block Dean's nomination.

Edwards began to blossom as a presidential candidate after he announced on Sept. 7 that he will not seek a second Senate term in North Carolina next year.

LOBBYISTS FAIL

President Bush's decision to pull back from steel tariffs was made in the face of a massive campaign by the Stand Up for Steel Coalition to retain them. The organization hired Republican super-lobbyists Charlie Black, Wayne Berman and Texas-based Tommy Loeffler.

The steel industry's successful effort to impose the tariffs in March 2002 was led by the current chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie. His lobbying firm, Quinn and Gillespie, is still used by Stand Up for Steel.

A footnote: Barbara Comstock, who until recently was Attorney General John Ashcroft's spokeswoman, has registered as a lobbyist for Northpoint Technology. The firm, which has five listed employees, is seeking access to the communications spectrum without a public auction.