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The Right's Counteroffensive Against DeLay Critics

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By Mike Allen
Sunday, May 22, 2005

"The sharks are circling," says the ad, showing an underwater view of an approaching fish with jaws at the ready. "The media, the liberals, they're in a frenzy. Last year, they went after President Bush. . . . Now, they're after Tom DeLay and the free-market values he defends."

The spot, which began last week in Houston and on national cable television, is the conservative answer to liberal ads that have run in the districts of potentially vulnerable House Republicans, calling on them to distance themselves from Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).

The ad, imploring viewers not to "let 'em take a bite out of Tom DeLay and the president's free-market agenda," was placed by the Free Enterprise Fund, which was founded by Stephen Moore, who also started the Club for Growth and is moving to the Wall Street Journal as an editorial writer. The Fund's new president is Mallory Factor, who is the founder of a merchant bank and was a Ranger, part of the elite class of Bush campaign fundraisers.

DeLay backers said they felt vindicated last week by an article in the Houston Chronicle reporting that Ronnie Earle, the Texas district attorney who is leading an investigation of a political group founded by DeLay, had been the featured speaker at a Democratic fundraiser.

The majority leader's advisers have long said that Earle, a Democrat who served in the Texas House, has partisan motives. The newspaper said Earle helped generate $102,000 for Texas Values in Action, a Democratic political action committee.

"This case is not just about Tom DeLay," Earle said at the event. "If it isn't this Tom DeLay, it'll be another one, just like one bully replaces the one before."

In Reid's Back Yard

Progress for America, the well-funded nonprofit group that launched a nationwide field organization to build support for President Bush's Social Security plan, said it has bought $50,000 in time on Las Vegas TV stations through Tuesday to call attention to the description of the president that Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) delivered on May 6.

"Harry Reid calls President Bush, quote, 'a loser,' " the announcer says. "Reid calls Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan 'a hack.' . . . Is this the same Harry Reid we've come to know? What ever happened to Harry?"

Progress for America has also been promoting Bush's judicial nominees, and it reported that in the week ending May 18, it completed calls to 68,250 constituents in nine key states and patched through 17,211 calls to key senators. The group said in a report to board members that it has generated 271 television stories and placed 394 radio interviews since April 15.

N.Y. Race Heats Up

In a new manifestation of the advantages of celebrity, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has discovered that she can get out-of-state donors to come to her, instead of the more traditional route of going to them. Clinton's message is that her political energy is focused on winning reelection in New York next year, not on any possible national race, so she is not in the market for publicity about trips to, say, Iowa. Voilà. A group of Hawkeye State donors will come for dinner at her Washington mansion at some undisclosed future date, just as supporters from California and Massachusetts have done, her aides said. The proceeds will go to Friends of Hillary, her reelection PAC.

Clinton has gingerly begun taking a few trips to swing states, including a trip to Wisconsin on April 29, to keynote the Wisconsin Women in Government annual recognition dinner, and to Cleveland, on April 30, to keynote the Legal Aid Society dinner.

A possible Republican opponent, Edward Cox, a son-in-law of Richard M. Nixon, plans to announce this week that he is forming an exploratory committee, an adviser said. Cox has a logo, a fundraiser, a pollster, a direct-mail firm and a strategist. He soon will add a Web site, a communications director and a political advertising firm. He plans to begin traveling throughout New York in June, the adviser said.

A biography of Cox being distributed to party leaders, reporters and potential donors says that, over three decades, he "has met with the heads of state and senior government officials from more than 20 countries" and "understands the need for America to maintain a strong and decisive foreign policy."

Dean's All the Talk

Robert D. Novak wrote in his syndicated column last week that the scheduled appearance of the loose-lipped Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, on NBC's "Meet the Press" today "is unsettling for the party faithful."

On Friday, the party blast e-mailed a note to supporters urging them to watch the broadcast. The e-mail included a link to the network's "Find 'Meet the Press' in your area" list, and to a party form with the heading, "Tell Us What You Think About Howard Dean's Appearance on Meet the Press."

McCain's Life in Pictures

Lawmakers say negotiations to avert Tuesday's showdown over judicial filibusters conceivably could go late into Monday night. One of the leaders in the search for a deal, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has a previous commitment. He is to be the guest of honor at the A&E Television Networks premiere of "Faith of My Fathers," based on the memoir by McCain and Mark Salter. The film stars Shawn Hatosy and Scott Glenn. It is to be shown on television a week later, on May 30, Memorial Day.

Quotable

"Politics can be defined as the process of determining who gets what, when and how."

-- House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), at a Social Security hearing on Thursday.

Staff writer Charles Babington contributed to this report.


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