AN EXPENSIVE DATE
Fox News host and former Gov. Mike Huckabee threatened to cancel his October 27 appearance at the Upstate Multi-County Committee of the New York State Conservative Party annual dinner if the Conservative Party didn't tamp down criticism of Huckabee's refusal to endorse Conservative Party congressional candidate Doug Hoffman, who is in a neck and neck campaign against liberal Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava. Both are running for the 23rd Congressional district seat vacated by Rep. John McHugh.
Huckabee, who according to Upstate Committee sources is receiving a five-figure fee in excess of $20,000 for his appearance, has refused to personally endorse Hoffman, who is pro-life and signed the "no-tax" pledge in August before his announced candidacy, and has informed Hoffman that HuckPAC will not support him either. Some Conservative Party officials believe Huckabee's fee is intended for his PAC. Ironically, the dinner is held to honor conservatives who exemplify conservative principles.
Huckabee, and his daughter, Sarah, who runs HuckPAC, were said by upstate Conservative Party sources to be upset that word was leaked last week that they were lobbying Hoffman to attend the event but were refusing to endorse the candidate either personally or through the PAC. "They said the governor might say nice things about [Hoffman], but would not endorse," says a party official. "They also said if our discussions were made public they might cancel, because it was embarrassing that they were being put in an uncomfortable position. But they are making money off our party, I don't understand why they can't support our highest profile candidate right now, too."
Polls show Hoffman either tied with or within the margin of error of Scozzafava, both of whom trail the Democrat in the race. Huckabee's actions are seen by conservatives as bolstering Scozzafava, who is pro-choice and only signed the "anti-tax" pledge last Thursday after National Republican Congressional Committee staff promised her former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich would endorse her. After she signed the pledge, Gingrich endorsed her on Friday morning. Gingrich had attempted to stay out of the race, but according to NRCC sources only endorsed after Scozzafava signed the pledge, and after weeklong pressure from NRCC chairman Rep. Pete Sessions. The RNC, alarmed by the strength of Hoffman's candidacy in the polls, is said to have committed $100,000 to Scozzafava's campaign, which at one point last week had less than $10,000 on hand.
A former Huckabee presidential campaign source says another reason Huckabee has thus far refused to support Hoffman is that Hoffman was first endorsed by the Club for Growth. "Had Hoffman come to the governor first, before going to others entities for support, things might have been different," says the former aide. "This is all about who is going to help in 2011 and 2012 for the presidential race."
During the 2008 primary season, Club for Growth targeted Huckabee for running deceptive ads about his fiscal record as Arkansas governor. During the primary season, Huckabee attempted to portray himself as a fiscal conservative, when in fact he had increased sales and gas taxes and supported state taxes on beer, cigarettes and nursing home beds.
Huckabee, however, has supported candidates also endorsed by Club for Growth. For example, both Club for Growth and Huckabee's PAC are supporting the candidacy of Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio, who is challenging Gov. Charlie Crist -- the difference being that Rubio endorsed Huckabee in 2008.
"Hoffman made his choices on who he would seek help from," says the former Huckabee aide. "He's a man who holds political grudges, anyone who's worked with him long enough has seen it. Club for Growth is not an organization he particularly wants to work with." Apparently, even if it means nursing this grudge will provide aid and comfort to liberal candidates, not to mention an additional seat to Democrats in Congress.
AN OBAMA TIGER'S ARREST
The White House was tipped off by the Department of Justice on Thursday about the Friday arrest on insider trading charges of Obama and Democratic National Committee fundraiser and hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam, who was also a major U.S. supporter of a Maryland-based charity that supported the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an organization that is on the U.S. State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organization list.
Rajaratnam was arrested for his role as founder of the Galleon Group, and was allegedly involved in what DOJ officials say was the largest-ever hedge-fund insider-trading case. DOJ sources say that its investigation of Rajaratnam had nothing to do with his ties to the Tamil Tigers or other pro-Tamil organizations he may have supported.
"It was clear that the White House might have to answer some questions about Rajaratnam when the arrest was made on Friday. This was nothing but a courtesy, a head's up," says a Department of Justice source. "He was a major supporter of the President. People were bound to ask."
Rajaratnam donated tens of thousands to the Democratic National Committee, personally "maxed out" to both Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2007 and Barack Obama's presidential campaigns in 2008, and raised more than $100,000 for Obama through his Wall Street and Sri Lankan-American connections, according a DNC source.
According to DNC sources, Rajaratnam sought opportunities to press the issue of the Tamils, an ethnic group that makes up about ten percent of the population in Sri Lanka. Sinhalese are the largest ethnic group on the island nation, making up about four-fifths of the population. Tamils have waged a bloody, anti-government terrorist campaign against the Sinhalese majority for years. Earlier this year, the Sri Lankan government announced that it had defeated the LTTE. In the past, Tamil organizations have also been represented by prominent Republicans, who have lobbied on their behalf.
Apparently, Rajaratnam and his fellow Tamil donors had some success. The Obama State Department, including former Sri Lankan ambassador and current assistant secretary of state Robert Blake, as well as United Nations ambassador Susan Rice, have attended meetings with pro-Tamil organizations, and Blake has made a number of supportive statements to enhance the Tamils standing, which have been used for fundraising purposes by the groups.