Would-be Giuliani

Posted: Aug 24, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- James Comey, the new U.S. attorney in New York City named by President Bush, is viewed in the capital's GOP circles as an ambitious politician trying to parlay the prosecutor's office into elective office, in much the way that Rudolph Giuliani did. In contrast to low-profile predecessor Mary Jo White, the 41-year-old Comey made worldwide headlines by accusing an alleged Russian mobster of conspiring to fix Olympic figure skating competition. Shut out of the Enron prosecution, Comey won Justice Department approval to go after Mississippi-based WorldCom. Comey has not pleased Republican lawyers by insisting that accused corporate executives who had surrendered voluntarily be manacled and perform a well-photographed perp walk. However, the spectacle was enjoyed by the prosecutor's boss: George W. Bush. SIMON'S TROUBLES The adverse publicity of laying off 25 campaign staffers was another wound to Republican Bill Simon's troubled campaign for governor of California, but insiders say the political neophyte's mistake was using hired workers instead of volunteers from the beginning. Simon's campaign payroll exceeded 100, compared to about 30 by Democratic Gov. Gray Davis (who had use of public employees). With $5 million cash on hand for Simon compared with Davis's $32 million, the Republican candidate had insufficient funds to meet his payroll and still respond to the governor's attacks. A footnote: A jury's fraud judgment against William E. Simon & Sons could be overturned by a judge who agreed Wednesday to review the case. It may be too late to reverse the devastating political damage to Simon's candidacy, however. KANSAS DILEMMA Kansas Gov. Bill Graves, a liberal Republican, faces a conflict between his desire to join the Bush Cabinet and his unhappiness with the GOP nominee to succeed him as governor. When Graves finishes eight years as governor next January, he will come to Washington to head the American Trucking Association. But capital sources say he will stay close to the telephone, anticipating a call from George W. Bush asking him to be secretary of transportation. The problem is that Graves has not endorsed conservative Treasurer Tim Shallenburger, who won the primary for governor in the ideologically divided Kansas Republican Party. Bush can hardly name anybody to his Cabinet who is staying neutral in a tough partisan contest in his own state between Shallenburger and Democratic State Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius. CIVIL LIBERTIES VOID Republican civil libertarians are concerned about the depletion of their meager ranks in Congress by the defeat last Tuesday in the Georgia primary of Rep. Bob Barr, following the retirement of House Majority Leader Dick Armey. Armey and especially Barr have been rare Republican voices questioning Attorney General John Ashcroft's methods fighting terrorism. In fact, Barr's public criticism of Ashcroft may have hurt him in the Republican primary against Rep. John Linder. A footnote: Linder's victory keeps in Congress a leading national sales tax advocate. With Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, he is co-sponsor of the "fair tax" (abolishing the federal income tax and replacing it with a sales tax). COLORADO CONTEST Republican national strategists have added first-term Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado to the list of most endangered GOP incumbent senators even though the most recent polls show him still leading his Democratic opponent, former U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland. The latest public poll, conducted Aug. 1-11 for KCNC-TV and the Rocky Mountain News, reflects a 42 percent to 34 percent lead for Allard. The last Democratic survey, taken for Strickland a week earlier, gave Allard a 3-percentage point lead. Nevertheless, GOP strategists fear an unpleasant surprise in Colorado. A footnote: The most vulnerable GOP incumbent is Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire against Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, though he trails in the Republican primary against Rep. John E. Sununu. Sen. Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas, facing Democratic State Atty. Gen. Mark Pryor, is considered the only other seriously challenged Republican senator.