Contemplating a Run for Office Can Complicate Television Reruns

By Chris Cillizza And Shailagh Murray
Sunday, July 15, 2007

Everyone knows summer television is lousy. Repeats dominate the airwaves as the networks gear up for the fall.

But, this summer, the rerun season carries with it some political intrigue. Why? Because NBC is preparing to air a series of "Law & Order" repeats featuring -- you guessed it -- Fred D. Thompson.

Hoping to avoid violating a Federal Communications Commission provision that would force the network to provide equal time to other candidates running for president, NBC chief lobbyist Robert Okun has reached out to the GOP presidential campaigns of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, among others, to inquire whether they would make a major issue out of Thompson being featured in reruns this summer.

Under the equal-time rule, if a network gives time to one political candidate, it is required to provide the same amount of airtime to his or her opponents. In other words, if Thompson appeared on a "Law & Order" episode for 10 minutes during prime time, NBC would have to give Thompson's rivals for the Republican nomination 10 minutes of prime time each.

"The equal-time requirement applies when the person has legally qualified as an official candidate in a relevant state -- for example, having his or her name formally approved to be on a state's primary ballot -- not merely when he/she declares his or her intent to run," an NBC spokeswoman said. "If Fred Thompson formally announces his intention to run for president, NBC will not schedule any further repeats of 'Law & Order' featuring Mr. Thompson beyond those already scheduled, which conclude on Saturday, September 1st."

All this may be much ado about nothing, however, because recent rumors have Thompson waiting until the fall to make his candidacy official, a move that would mean "Law & Order" lovers could get their fill of tough-talking District Attorney Arthur Branch all summer long.

Giuliani's Bench

Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) will unveil endorsements from a who's who of conservative judges and legal advocates during a midweek campaign swing through Iowa.

The "Justice Advisory Committee" will be chaired by Theodore B. Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general and a revered figure among conservatives.

Olson, who has known Giuliani since the two worked together in the Justice Department during the Reagan administration, said the former mayor's leadership qualities are what distinguish him from the field. "He takes strong positions; he believes in leadership," Olson said. "He doesn't vacillate because it is the popular thing to do."

Other prominent figures on the committee include Larry Thompson and Miguel A. Estrada.

Thompson is a former deputy attorney general, while Estrada rose to prominence in 2003 when his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was filibustered by Senate Democrats -- the first in a series of maneuvers in the chamber that led to a showdown over judges.

The announcement of the committee's formation is designed to coincide with a two-day swing by Giuliani through Iowa, a trip that will include his first trip to the Republican-heavy western part of the state. It is also designed to address voters' concerns about Giuliani's conservative bona fides. Judicial appointments are a touchstone for conservatives, and Giuliani is hoping that people such as Olson, Thompson and Estrada can reassure potential backers about his willingness to pick conservative judges.

Democrats' Iowa Presence

If January's Iowa presidential caucuses won't matter as much in the face of the Feb. 5 tsunami of voting, then someone forgot to tell the Democratic candidates.

Not only are the front-runners showering the state with visits but they are also establishing outposts throughout Iowa to ensure that activists have a home base in their own communities.

All told, the six leading candidates for the Democratic nomination have 79 field offices in Iowa, according to Carrie Giddins -- the indefatigable communications director of the state party.

Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) leads the way with a whopping 28 offices -- a testament to the grass-roots organizational strategy associated with Iowa state director Paul Tewes. Former senator John Edwards (N.C.), who many people believe must win in Iowa to have a chance at the nomination, has 15 field offices. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) checks in with 12, followed by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, with 11. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) has eight, while Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) has five.

How Not to Handle a Scandal

When Sen. David Vitter was implicated in the "D.C. Madam" prostitution scandal Monday night, the initial reaction from political pundits was a collective shrug.

It's Lou-is-i-ana, the chorus drawled. Plus, Vitter isn't up for reelection until 2010.

But then the case took a peculiar turn. Violating every rule of scandal management, Vitter headed not to "Larry King Live" but into hiding. Into the vacuum rushed sensational new rumors about the senator's past. The Times-Picayune of New Orleans published yesterday an interview with a former New Orleans prostitute who said Vitter had once been a regular customer.

A personal crisis that might have passed with one tearful news conference has now become a full-blown political storm. The state is buzzing with speculation that Vitter may be preparing to resign. Should that occur, it would fall to Democratic Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco to appoint a replacement and set a date for a special election, either in November 2008 or sooner.

The two top names circulating as possible Vitter successors: former senator John Breaux and Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon.

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