Keeping Mark Foley

Robert Novak
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Posted: Oct 07, 2006 12:01 AM
Keeping Mark Foley

WASHINGTON -- Disgraced former Congressman Mark Foley had two excellent job offers in the private sector this year when Rep. Tom Reynolds, National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, talked him into seeking a seventh term.

Although Reynolds says Foley was merely deciding whether to run again, the talk in Republican circles on Capitol Hill was that he was ready to leave Congress. His inappropriate e-mails to a former page were known to the Republican leadership late last year. The 16th congressional district was considered so safely Republican that any GOP candidate could carry it but now likely will be lost with Foley still on the ballot.

A footnote: Pollster John Zogby last week found no landslide effects of the Foley scandal. Democrats did lead the Reuters/Zogby polls in 11 out of 15 key House districts held by endangered Republicans. Democrats may have to win all 15 of those districts to be assured of ousting Republicans from House control. Democratic leads shown by Zogby were generally not of landslide proportions, and there was no immediate upsurge in Democratic strength as news coverage of the scandal intensified.

SHIELDED EARMARKS

Sen. Ted Stevens, considered the Republican king of pork, just before the pre-election congressional recess killed a requirement for the Defense Department to evaluate unauthorized earmarks imposed by members of Congress on the Pentagon.

Freshman Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma had won Senate passage of the "report card" as part of the Defense appropriations bill. The evaluation would show that the military really does not want most of the estimated $8 billion in earmarks added by Congress this year.

However, Stevens succeeded in stripping the reform from the final version of the bill before it was signed by President Bush. Coburn intends to try to pass the report card as a freestanding bill during the lame-duck session following the election. Coburn has shown no hesitation in challenging Stevens, the Senate's president pro tempore and senior Republican.

SANTORUM'S DILEMMA

Sen. Rick Santorum, facing an uphill struggle for re-election in Pennsylvania, has politely declined an offer to campaign for him by a favorite of Christian conservatives, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas.

Santorum's conservative base has been shaky since he vigorously supported moderate Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 Pennsylvania Republican primary against conservative Rep. Pat Toomey. Brownback's presence in the state could help there, but it also could buttress Democratic attacks that Santorum is the candidate of the religious right.

Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, still trails Democratic State Treasurer Bob Casey and will have to mount a late drive to save his seat. Polls continue to show Casey with a substantial lead and Santorum stuck at around 40 percent.

SOCIAL SECURITY POLITICS

Two moderate former Democratic congressmen -- Tim Penny of Minnesota and Charlie Stenholm of Texas -- are spearheading a campaign against organized labor's determination to fight any reform of Social Security.

The labor-sponsored Americans United to Protect Social Security has pressed Democratic candidates for Congress to join "a golden promise" against anything approaching President Bush's proposed Social Security reform.

A Sept. 26 "For Our Grandchildren" letter, signed by Penny and Stenholm, rejects the argument that Social Security does not need fixing. They contend its "financial outlook is deteriorating." While not advocating specific options, they call for bipartisan reform.

PARTY MAN LUGAR

Sen. Richard Lugar, the 74-year-old Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, will still be campaigning in Indiana from now until Election Day even though he lacks a Democratic candidate opposing his re-election.

Lugar let associates know last week that he will be on the road trying to save three incumbent Republican congressmen from defeat in the Hoosier state: Reps. Chris Chocola, John Hostettler and Mike Sodrel. All three are widely considered destined for defeat, which would make Indiana a major Republican disaster area for the 2006 elections.

The five-term senator will also be campaigning to retain the endangered Republican majority in the state legislature.