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Washington Wrap

Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker and Steve Chaggaris of The CBS News Political Unit have the latest from the nation's capital.

Bush-Cheney '04 Staff Takes Shape: President Bush's re-election team continues to take shape with Friday's announcement of several key hires.

Ken Mehlman, the former White House political director and campaign manager, announced that his deputy for campaign operations will be Kelley McCollough, who'll be moving from the RNC where she was regional political director for the South and director of political education. McCullough also worked at the White House for Mehlman as associate director of political affairs and as Alabama director for Karl Rove + Co. from 1997 to 2000.

Matthew Dowd, the president's pollster and senior adviser to the RNC, will become senior strategist. Dowd worked in the first Bush campaign as director of polling and media planning. He's a former Democrat who worked on Lloyd Bentsen's 1988 vice-presidential campaign.

The communications director will be Nicole Devenish, who's moving over from the White House, where she's been running the media affairs office, which deals with regional press. Devenish used to work as press secretary for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Terry Nelson will be the campaign's political director. Nelson has been deputy chief of staff and director of political operations for the RNC, and did stints as political director and field director for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

On the legal side, Thomas Josefiak will be general counsel. Josefiak has worked at the RNC since 1992. Before that, he was a commissioner of the Federal Election Commission since 1985. He was FEC chairman during the 1988 presidential campaign. Ben Ginsberg will be chief outside counsel – the same job he held during the 2000 campaign and the Florida recount.

Brazile Goes Ballistic: A cost-cutting/reorganization plan by the financially strapped Democratic National Committee that was to include the dismissal of ten African-American employees was nixed when one of the party's most-powerful African Americans, Donna Brazile, protested.

Brazile raised a ruckus when she learned all ten of the employees whose jobs reportedly were in jeopardy are black. She said the list included several longtime and low-paid employees. Brazile, who runs the party's Voting Rights Institute, told the AP: "I'm just outraged … They started reading me the names and I said, 'Oh, oh -- they're all black.' I went through the roof."

The plan was also condemned by a several other "prominent black leaders" including Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas and DNC executive committee member Minyon Moore, according to the Washington Post.

Jim Mulhall, the DNC communications director, said Brazile had received inaccurate information and that no final decisions had been made. "There was total miscommunication up and down the line," he told The New York Times. Mulhall also said the DNC, with a total staff of 100, has hired five blacks recently and that 30 percent of the staff is African American and 10 percent is Hispanic.

Brazile said she spoke with DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe about the possible firings and that he said he'd not signed off on the plan and was not intending to.

"This would have been a very tragic situation," Brazile told the Times. "I'm grateful."

Every (Income) Taxpayer Wins: On the day The New York Times reported that the tax plan signed by President Bush left out millions of low-income families from a child tax credit refund, the Bush-Cheney '04 re-election campaign boasted in an e–mail that "every taxpayer wins" with the plan.

The e-mail reads: "The tax relief that starts in July of this year will inject billions into the economy, creating jobs and spurring investment." It also gives examples of how "millions of Americans win with the President's" tax cut.

But, as the Times reported Thursday, a late-night change during Congressional negotiations last week eliminated an additional $400 in the child tax credit for millions of families with incomes between $10,000 and $26,625.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president would have supported the additional credit if it was in the bill but added that the change was made to benefit those who actually pay taxes – hence "every taxpayer wins" – not people who are exempt from them.

"Does tax relief go to people who pay income taxes and forgive their income taxes, or does it go above and beyond the forgiving of all income taxes, and you actually get a check back from the government for more than you ever owed in income taxes?" Fleischer asked Thursday.

Democrats on Capitol Hill aren't buying it, however, with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., going so far as to ask the president to work with Congress to correct it.

"The obvious solution to this problem is to immediately pass correcting legislation that restores accelerated refundability of the child credit and pays for the added cost by reducing the bill's tax breaks for the very wealthy by a corresponding amount," wrote Daschle.

The Democratic presidential candidates are jumping all over the tax cut issue as well, with Rep. Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean both vowing to repeal all of Mr. Bush's tax cuts. Sen. Bob Graham said yesterday he'd repeal this latest tax cut package, calling it "irresponsible." Sen. John Kerry would eliminate tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans saying hey're "inappropriate and unconscionable at a time when we have all these needs before us."

Meantime, Sen. John Edwards isn't calling for a repeal of the tax cuts, but did say this week "the bill the president signed is chock full of gimmicks, tilted to favor the wealthy and guaranteed to take us back to the bad old days of enormous federal deficits."

Sunshine Squeeze: Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is asking the state legislature to resolve the question of whether to reinstate primary run-off elections in 2004. If they do, there will be statewide primaries in June instead of September.

According to the Miami Herald, Bush says the reason he wants this resolved is to give county officials more time to prepare for the election in order to avoid another fiasco. But an early primary would also force Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bob Graham to file for re-election by early March, possibly before the presidential question is settled. Graham has given mixed signals about whether he plans to run again. If he decides to give up his seat, it would have a "trickle down" affect on a number of potential candidates who are looking at the Senate race.

Yesterday, Graham blasted the Bush administration for holding secret information that the "public has a right to know" on the budget deficit, energy policy and judicial nominee Miguel Estrada. And he continued his demands that they release the joint congressional report he co-authored on America's response to terrorism before and after Sept. 11, 2001.

"There has been a Nixonian stench to the continued practice of putting the American people in the dark," he said in a conference call with reporters according to the AP. Jim Dyke, RNC spokesman shot back, "Senator Graham might want to spend less time on conspiracy theories and more on developing positive policies."

At a fundraising lunch in West Palm Beach, Graham also questioned U.S. intelligence gathering on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. "If we don't find those weapons, the fundamental reason that this war was justified will have been undercut," he said. He said questions have been raised about British intelligence as well and hoped "an inquiry by the Senate Intelligence Committee into the matter would reveal why the information was inadequate."

Quote of the Day: "Let me put it this way: Nobody behaved like a Deke." - author Scott Armstrongon, on Yale's well-behaved class of '68 at White House reunion last night (Washington Post).