Beltway Beat: Not your money

Posted: Mar 22, 2002 12:00 AM
April 15 is just around the corner, reminds reader John Cameron. "Did you ever notice," Cameron says, "if you put the two words 'THE' and 'IRS' together it spells 'THEIRS'?" YOUTHFUL INDISCRETIONS Just when we thought the country was steering toward the right, Harper's Index reports that 30 percent of first-year U.S. college students in 2001 embraced "liberal" or "far-left" politics, compared with 21 percent in 1981, the year President Reagan took office. MARCH MALAISE You may have read about Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's new Web site (, designed, as one Republican leader puts it, to shield the South Dakota Democrat from charges that he hasn't passed a comprehensive energy package and myriad bills already acted on by the House of Representatives. "Daschle would be better served - as would the American people - if he spent more time addressing the 50-plus bills on his desk and less time fueling his political ambitions," says Republican Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas. "Now that Daschle is online, when the House sends another piece of legislation to the Senate, it could announce, 'You've got bills!' "In the spirit of March Madness, perhaps the Senate should install a shot clock to ensure timely action." THE REST OF THE STORY In its investigation of Pentagon credit card abuse, the General Accounting Office has uncovered a particularly disturbing case involving a woman named Tanya Mays, who before her promotion - yes, promotion - was assigned to the Navy Public Works Department in San Diego. Mays, according to the GAO, used Uncle Sam's purchase card for a Christmas shopping spree, running up a bill of $11,551 at Macy's, Nordstrom's and Circuit City. She didn't stop there, buying gift certificates worth $7,500, a Compaq computer, an Amana range, groceries and clothing - all on the taxpayers' dime, um, dollar. Next, she used her Pentagon travel card to buy airline tickets for her son that cost $722. In fact, purchases were so easily certified for payment by her Navy supervisors that when the time came for Mays to leave her Navy post, she kept her card and rented herself a car, the GAO said. And what became of this shopaholic? "Miss Mays has not been asked to repay the money she allegedly stole," an astonished Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said this week. "No disciplinary action has been taken. In fact, she was moved to a bigger job and given a promotion in October 2001. She is now assigned to the Army's top-level financial management office in the Pentagon, and I am told she is in charge of cash integration." BROKEN SYSTEM A frustrated immigration-law judge recently made a point of contacting Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican he knew to be an outspoken critic of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. What the judge got off his chest is frightening, particularly in the wake of September 11. "Every single day," the judge is quoted as saying, "I bring the gavel down and order someone to be deported, and some of these people have made threats against the United States. Every day, they walk out of my courtroom and they walk right back into American society." Tancredo couldn't believe his ears. The judge, who requested anonymity because he continues to serve on the bench, told the congressman: "Oftentimes, the INS comes into the courtroom and they are supposed to be the prosecutor in the case, but they act as the defense attorney. I know that there are thousands, I think hundreds of thousands, of people who have been allowed to essentially walk, people that I and my colleagues have ordered to be deported for various reasons who are still simply out there." Tancredo inquired how many. "I've done some preliminary checking here," the judge said, "and I think there are at least 200,000." The congressman immediately hung up and dialed the INS for verification. To his surprise, they reported that anywhere from 200,000 to 250,000 persons that immigration-law courts had ordered "deported" were still living in the United States. Tancredo suspected there were more. INS Commissioner James W. Ziglar had just finished giving a speech in the House when the congressman approached him and asked if he knew a more exact number. According to the congressman, Ziglar replied: "I don't know. I don't know anything about that." He did his best to find out. Testifying later under oath in Congress, the INS commissioner identified 314,000 persons who had been ordered deported but still remained here. (A subsequent independent report put the number as high as 425,000 in the five years since 1996, which the congressman says is as far back as records go.) "But (Ziglar) is the guy that told me he did not know (the deportee problem) even existed," Tancredo points out. "So why would we feel comfortable in listening to him tell us what the real numbers are, when he did not know that (the INS) even had a problem? This is the head of the agency." On a lighter note, the congressman is now proposing that the new logo for the INS, "something that should be on all of their documents, on the top of everything they send out, the logo ... for the INS should simply be a person shrugging their shoulders." PASS THE TWEEZERS Last week's false report of foot-and-mouth disease in the United States is estimated to have cost livestock producers as much as $20 million, and that has one U.S. senator up in arms. Here's what happened: The Department of Agriculture inspects cattle lots each week for a variety of symptoms that could spell ill health for animals moving to market. Last week, a USDA inspector spotted a bruise in the mouth of a cow and sounded alarm bells from livestock markets - causing cattle prices to tumble $4 per hundred pounds - to Capitol Hill. But wouldn't you know, the cow didn't have dreaded foot-and-mouth disease. It had simply been munching on a prickly weed. "We simply cannot tolerate the possibility that panic will engulf the financial and commodity markets every time a steer bruises its mouth eating a thistle," says Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, D-N.D. "Some common sense is in order here."