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Washington Insight

May 16, 1994|PAUL HOUSTON and ROBIN WRIGHT

RACING THE ELECTORAL CLOCK: Democratic leaders are in a sweat trying to get a campaign finance bill passed by early summer, before election-year pressure forces changes that lawmakers would find even more odious. House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said House and Senate leaders believe that they can wrap up informal talks on a compromise measure this week, clearing the way for rapid final approval. But a threatened GOP filibuster in the Senate could sabotage the plan. . . . Negotiators have had the most trouble with proposals to curb political action committees and to give public subsidies to congressional candidates who agree to spending limits. The Senate-passed bill would ban PACs; the House would allow PACs to continue giving candidates up to $5,000 per election. A compromise cap may be $4,000. . . . Foley suggested that leaders have agreed to slap a steep registration fee on PACs to help fund the campaign subsidies.

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IRONY IN YEMEN: War is often punctuated with strange footnotes. To wit: A group of 200 former Palestinian guerrillas were in Yemen, training for a new role as police officers after years of war with Israel. But when civil war erupted, they suddenly had no place to go. For days, as Westerners, Saudis and others fled the country, everyone, including the United States, refused to help the Palestinians get out. The new peace officers eventually escaped to Egypt when Saudi Arabia changed its mind and provided assistance, according to diplomatic sources.

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DITTO IN TUNISIA: If that weren't irony enough, consider this recent episode involving Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization. . . . First, some background: Richard Nixon was the President who with his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, banned all U.S. contacts with the PLO--a policy that lasted two decades. Under the circumstances, Arafat might have been the unlikeliest person in the world to feel any grief about Nixon's death. Yet in the midst of all the final negotiations for a Palestinian entity in Jericho and the Gaza Strip, he took time out to go to the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia and sign the condolence book for Nixon. "With all our heartfelt condolences to President Clinton and the American people on the death of President Nixon," Arafat wrote. "From myself, personally, and the Palestinian people." . . . After signing the book, he went upstairs to chat with Ambassador John McCarthy. Many State Department officials are astonished.

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TIMES CHANGE: In the 1992 elections, no one more than Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) took advantage of--and benefited from--Anita Faye Hill's sexual harassment charges against conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The liberal Boxer was strongly sympathetic to Hill's allegations, pressing for high-profile Senate hearings and building her campaign around the brouhaha. . . . Now though, with Paula Corbin Jones accusing the President of sexual harassment, Boxer is taking a lower profile--a mere one-liner in which she says the "proper forum" for Jones' charges is the judicial system. . . . On May 28, Boxer, a staunch Clinton ally, will attend the White House wedding of her daughter, Nicole, to Anthony Rodham, a brother of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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