Estate tax politics

Robert Novak
|
Posted: Sep 03, 2005 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Two freshman Democratic senators who indicated opposition last year to the current estate tax when they won seats previously held by Republicans are now listed as opposing even an imposition of cloture on repeal this coming week.
 
During the campaign, the National Black Chamber of Commerce had gotten the impression Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois opposed the "death tax." Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado in his campaign favored a $10 million exemption of wealth subject to the tax, up from the $1 million in permanent law. Obama and Salazar now are listed by supporters of repeal as voting "no" on cloture but "in play."

 If all 55 Republican senators vote for cloture as expected, five Democrats will be needed to reach the necessary 60 votes. Repeal supporters currently list only four Democrats voting "yes."

HAWAII'S GOP ADVOCATE

 Benjamin Ginsberg, who long has represented the Republican Party nationally in legal disputes, is listed as a registered lobbyist to pass the bill giving native Hawaiians tribal status. The bill is opposed by Republican leaders and might be vetoed by President Bush if it passes.

 The Washington law firm of Patton Boggs has received an estimated $780,000 from the Hawaii state government's Office of Hawaiian Affairs for lobbying the bill. Ginsberg is one of six Patton Boggs lawyers listed on the registration form. National counsel to the Bush-Cheney campaign, Ginsberg played a key role in the 2000 Florida recount.

 Hawaii political leaders, including Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, support the legislation. However, polls show two-thirds of the state's residents are opposed.

GREENSPAN'S SUCCESSOR

 The White House has quietly passed word to anxious members of the financial community that it will not seriously consider picking a successor to Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chairman until 2006.

 That could mean Greenspan's 18-year tenure at the central bank will be extended briefly beyond his scheduled departure date next Jan. 31. Or, it might just be a way for presidential aides to get Fed-watchers off their backs.

 The Bush White House is adept at keeping secret top presidential appointments until they are officially announced. Financial insiders, however, note that President Bush shows a high regard for Ben Bernanke, who recently resigned as a Federal Reserve governor to head the President's Council of Economic Advisers.

SEN. CORZINE'S FRIEND

 Labor Department officials will take a close look at disclosure forms submitted by Carla Katz, president of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1034 in New Jersey, because it might reveal a payment from her former boyfriend, Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine.

 Corzine, a multi-millionaire former investment banker, provided a $470,000 no-interest mortgage loan to Katz. He canceled the debt and turned it into a gift late last year when he announced his candidacy for governor of New Jersey. The CWA later endorsed Corzine. Local 1034 members are public service employees.

 Corzine did not include the loan-gift to Katz in his Senate financial disclosure on grounds it was a personal transaction. However, it may be included by Katz in the LM-30 disclosure forms for the last five years that she must submit to the Labor Department under new, more rigorous standards.

UNIONIZED BAGGAGE SCREENERS

 In the latest skirmish over unionization of homeland security workers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has taken a neutral position in a case before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over whether privately employed baggage screeners can be required to join unions.

 The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has written President Bush protesting the TSA's position, contending it "represents a fundamental shift in the Bush administration's policy." Union membership was a contentious issue when the Homeland Security Act passed in 2002.

 Steve Maritas, director of organizing for the Security, Police and Fire Professionals, has said the NLRB ruling regarding the baggage screeners "could really change a whole industry" and open the door for "more national security workers to unionize."