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Washington Insight

March 02, 1995|DREX HEIKES and RONALD J. OSTROW

CORPORATE SPIES: With worries mounting over foreign spying against U.S. business, the FBI is pushing for a law to clarify its legal authority in that realm. The bureau now pursues thieves of business secrets through laws barring wire and mail fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property. To erase doubts about FBI jurisdiction, many prefer a federal statute outlawing theft of intellectual property--the object of most economic espionage. Businesses are expected to welcome the idea, but some may have doubts. That's because the law wouldn't just curb espionage by foreign interests. It could apply to any American company whose spying benefits its foreign operations.

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COOKIE MONSTER: What drives peripatetic House Speaker Newt Gingrich? The Georgia Republican provided some insight during his college course. "People who are truly successful have some internal technique of maximizing the good luck and minimizing the bad luck," Gingrich said in a lecture. "I was dramatically shaped by my grandmother and my aunts, because they convinced me there was always a cookie available. Deep down inside me, I'm 4 years old, I wake up and think, 'Out there, there's a cookie.' Either it can be baked or it's already been bought, but it's in a jar . . . somewhere. . . . And so that means when you open up the cupboard and the cookie isn't there, I don't say, 'Gee, there's no cookie.' I say, 'I wonder where it is.' "

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TIMING, TIMING: Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach) hasn't been too happy with the Securities and Exchange Commission lately--and now the chill is mutual. Cox has been irritated that SEC officials are dubious about elements of his legislation to make it harder for investors to file fraud lawsuits. The SEC made a peace offering last week, inviting Cox to discuss the bill with its consumer affairs staff. All went well until afterward. Cox stepped into an SEC hallway and told reporters that a House oversight subcommittee, of which he is vice chairman, might hold hearings about a meeting last spring between SEC staff members and Orange County's then-Treasurer Robert L. Citron. The SEC has been criticized for not taking action after that meeting. SEC officials have replied that it yielded no indication of fraud and that the commission has limited authority over local governments. Hearings about that meeting might be a good idea, one SEC official said. But it "was just unbelievable," he sputtered, that Cox would choose that time and place for the announcement.

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CLINTON VS. GORE: Just suppose Vice President Al Gore wakes up one morning, decides his boss is a dead duck and decides to challenge him in the 1996 primaries. Would Democrats buy it? No way, says a new national survey from Ed Sarpolus, a Democratic pollster. By 63% to 27%, Democrats say they would stick with President Clinton. What of California Gov. Pete Wilson's chances? The survey says just 7% of Republicans backed Wilson as the party's nominee, compared to 19% for Texas Sen. Phil Gramm and 54% for Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas.

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