FOCUS ON THE FAMILY’S FRED FOCUS
Members of the influential social conservative coalition, the Arlington Group, are attempting to unspool the Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson‘s motivations for leaking an e-mail to the Associated Press that essentially reiterates the same lack of support for former Sen. Fred Thompson that Dobson expressed more than five months ago.
Last spring, Dobson told U.S. News and World Report that he didn’t believe Thompson was a Christian, setting off a firestorm among Christians around the country. Dobson later apologized to Thompson, asking that the correspondence be kept in confidence. But according to a former Thompson associate, the Dobson camp immediately leaked the private letter, as well as the private letter Thompson passed on to Dobson.
“This is a Dobson media play, plain and simple,” says the former Thompson aide. “It’s his M.O. He wasn’t honest with Thompson back then, he’s been disingenuous about this for months and has made little to no effort to speak to Thompson.”
Now some members of the Arlington Group, of which Dobson is a founding member, are wondering if Dobson and his organization might not be doing for another presidential candidate what many believe Dobson did for Jack Abramoff‘s lobbying firm back in 2002, when Abramoff in e-mails to cohort Ralph Reed was pressing for Dobson to attack Haley Barbour, whose lobbying firm had signed up a competing Indian tribe to the one that Abramoff was supposedly helping. Dobson has denied any involvement or contact with Abramoff.
“But in the back of people’s minds, there’s always been some doubt,” says a current member of the Arlington Group. “With Jim there is always a political angle to what he does, and in this political cycle, a lot of us are sensing that he feels like he’s out in the cold. He wants to be a kingmaker, but there isn’t a top tier candidate he can get behind. At least not yet.”
Assumptions in the Arlington Group are that Dobson, as well as others, may be pushing support for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is not considered a top tier candidate at this time. Dobson previously appeared to be providing support for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
“There is always [former Massachusetts governor Mitt] Romney,” says another prominent Arlington Group member. “But if Dobson can’t support Thompson, there’s no way he could possibly rationalize supporting Romney. At least Thompson has the consistent voting record to back up his claims.”
APPEASING AL QAEDA
Word out of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency is that the State Department has put the kibosh on attempts by both departments to ramp up their use of disinformation on al Qaeda, Hamas and other radical Islamic websites around the world.
“The official line is that the State Department believes that a number of American citizens visit those sites, and we would essentially be perpetrating propaganda on them,” says a CIA source. “We thinks it’s a bunch of b.s.”
Over that past year, radical terrorist groups have dramatically increased their use of Internet sites to foment anti-American feelings and acts. Al Qaeda alone, according to a National Security Council source, has issued more than 70 videos thus far this year, and operates multiple websites from various parts of the world.
“We see a number of opportunities to capitalize on their presence on the Web,” says the CIA source. “We really think we could do some damage and create confusion, but we’re being blocked. It’s unbelievable that we can’t get cleared to do this kind of work.”
UNTAXING THE INTERNET
Senate majority leader Harry Reid has not been having a good month. First, he gets outflanked by the White House on Iraq deployment and policy. Now Sens. John McCain and John Sununu have outflanked the Democrats on the Internet Tax Moratorium.
The ITM is set to expire on November 1st, which would then allow about 15,000 state and local taxing authorities to place new taxes and fees on people’s access to the Internet and Internet-based services, like e-mail, instant messaging, video downloads, even VoIP calls.
“Estimates put the total level of taxation at between $3 billion and $4 billion a year in new taxes on consumers,” says a staffer on the Senate Commerce Committee. “This would be the first broad-based tax on consumers since the Democrats took control of Congress. And Democrats probably thought they could get away with it because all they had to do was sit on their hands and let the moratorium expire on Halloween night.”
But McCain and Sununu, who both support making the tax moratorium permanent, chose to put up a more public fight.
On Thursday afternoon, the two held a press conference calling on the Democrat-controlled Congress to act. But the two didn’t notify Reid or the Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye.
According to a Reid leadership aide, the Senate leader became concerned that Democrats would take a hit for the tax increase. Just before the press conference he put out a statement supporting extension of the ITM, but leaving it ambiguous as to whether it should be permanent of not. Inouye, sent out an even more lukewarm statement after the press conference.
“The reality is some folks just assumed that the ITM would be extended,” says a House Republican leadership aide. “Now we have to put the pressure on these folks.” (The Internet Tax Moratorium has been extended on two different occasions since it was signed into law in 1998.)
One concern: the House bill must clear the Judiciary Committee chaired by the Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). “We don’t know what his thinking is right now,” says the House leadership aide. “He’s been supportive in the past, but the bill seems stalled there right now.”
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