Washington Prowler

Gun Control, Waxman-Style

The GAO's favorite customer. Plus: The GOP's elusive Florida.

By 6.20.03

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POP GOES THE WEASEL
Rep. Henry Waxman has been railing at the Bush administration for months, criticizing its war on terrorism, its lack of information sharing with Congress, the economy. So it shouldn't come as surprise that Waxman is doing his part to keep people working. Unfortunately for the American people, the jobs that he's creating are all at the General Accounting Office.

While the number and nature of requests that a congressman makes of the GAO are considered confidential, often times congressmen openly share their requests because it makes them like as if they were actually doing something. Waxman, though, isn't one of those. Nonetheless, every once in a while one of Waxman's wild-eyed conspiracy theory-based requests gets out.

For example, several weeks ago Waxman asked GAO investigators to give him a full report on the effect that toy guns have on children. Yes, toy guns. Precisely, Waxman wanted to know how many deaths each year result from toy guns.

"He's always sending these kinds of things over here," says a GAO staffer. "He's kind of become a one-man GAO project manager. We think that if he had his way, he'd have us all working for him. Actually, given the number of requests he makes to us, we probably do."

Waxman, according to the staffer, currently has at least 25 requests pending with the GAO. Most of them deal with various Bush administration actions -- or perceived actions in Waxman's mind -- that Waxman believes could potentially embarrass the administration once the reports were released.

CLOUDY SUNSHINE
Almost every political pundit in Washington acknowledges that Republicans are poised to solidify their Senate control in 2004, if certain political realities take shape. Two of those realities lie down south in South Carolina and Florida, where the decisions made by Sens. Fritz Hollings and Bob Graham to run for re-election could ensure a Republican sweep throughout the South next year.

There is no clear front-runner in South Carolina, but Republicans in Washington, and more precisely the White House, were hopeful of pushing a high profile candidate in Florida: Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez. So far Martinez has declined numerous entreaties from the White House to step up and run for what could be an open seat should Graham continue his presidential aspirations.

But earlier this week Martinez appeared to slam the door shut on any hopes of his running for Graham's seat, telling reporters in Florida that he had no interest in running for the Senate and wanted to focus on running for the governorship in 2006.

Martinez's decision, which could of course change, is the first setback for Senate Republican candidate recruiter Sen. George Allen, who along with Karl Rove in the White House was putting a full-court press on the HUD chief.

Martinez's candidacy would probably have insured a Senate pickup for Republicans. Given his popularity in Miami and Orlando, and his huge following in the Hispanic community, Martinez was also in a position to give him boss, President Bush, an added advantage in the presidential race in Florida.

Then there's also the money. Martinez would be able to raise money not only in state, but across the country, positioning himself as a potential Republican star for years to come. But Martinez, who came from Cuba as a young boy, probably understands that his options as a Senator are limiting, given that once in the Senate he has nowhere to go but back to Florida to run for the job he really wants.

Focus will now be on freshman Rep. Katherine Harris, who remains popular in the state and who like Martinez can draw on a national fundraising base for her campaign. There are already two candidates running for the GOP Senate nomination: U.S. Rep. Mark Foley and former Rep. Bill McCollum, who lost a previous Senate run in 2000. Few believe that McCollum can win statewide, and while Foley has been raising money in both Washington and Florida, questions about his personal life, which he declines to address, have begun nibbling at the corners of his campaign and are raising doubts inside the White House whether he's the strongest candidate to put forward for the job.

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