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Washington Calling

Musical chairs ... West Wings meet ... vanishing nonprofits
Scripps Howard News Service


September 02, 2006

WASHINGTON -- As a prime motivator to get out the vote, both the red and blue ends of the political spectrum are pointing to the congressional power shuffle to come if Democrats take back control of Capitol Hill.

The Christian Coalition of America sees peril, and sees promise, in the fact that some of the more liberal Democratic lawmakers in Washington would ascend to pivotal committee chairmanships if seniority is used to decide such posts.



Among the ascensions in the Senate: Ted Kennedy, of Massachusetts, would lead the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; Carl Levin, of Michigan, would head Armed Services; Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, would run Judiciary, and John Kerry, of Massachusetts, would lead Small Business.

In the House: George Miller, of California, would be education committee chairman; John Conyers, of Michigan, Judiciary; Charles Rangel, of New York, Ways and Means; David Obey, of Wisconsin, Appropriations; and Barney Frank, of Massachusetts, Financial Services.


TV's "West Wing" met the real West Wing when former "WW" star Rob Lowe, accompanied by his two kids, happened to be dining at the same New Orleans restaurant as President Bush and N.O. Mayor Ray Nagin the other day. Asked by the White House press pool if he had anything to say to the two political powers dining in a nearby room, Lowe demurred. "I only play somebody smart enough to ask those questions," said Lowe, in town to film a TNT cable network Christmas movie called "A Perfect Day."


One of the only two announced Democratic candidates for president, former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel, apparently surprised himself by polling better than the other Dem officially running, Sen. Joe Biden, of Delaware. "Out of office and out of the spotlight for over 25 years ... (and) running on limited resources," Gravel still managed to "show surprising strength," with 4.9 percent support in a poll in which the top candidates got no more than 15 percent, his campaign crowed.

But it actually wasn't Gravel-the-man so much as Gravel-the-biography who scored so well in a Zogby poll that rated candidate support based on their bios instead of their names. Gravel, an ex-Alaska lawmaker, made his name opposing the Vietnam War.


The Iraq war apparently is hell on ears. The Marines Corps has seen hearing-disability cases rise by 90 percent and the Army by 26 percent in the past three years, demonstrating the damage done by close proximity to roadside bombs, artillery blasts, helicopter-rotor noise and other ear-unfriendly noises. The Army says it's close to shipping new, $2,000 ear devices that fit comfortably but do not block out the natural noises that can warn a soldier of trouble.


In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the Internal Revenue Service hustled to grant tax-exempt status to 303 nonprofit groups seeking to collect charitable donations. According to a new study by The NonProfit Times publication, more than one-third now can't be located and are assumed to have gone out of business.



"On any given night, I can't get my family to decide where to eat, let alone get a community to respond to a natural disaster." - Army Lt. Gen. Russel (cq) Honore, who directed the early government response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans last year.


E-mail Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanL(at)
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Ketchikan, Alaska