CBSN

Washington Wrap

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

Nine Plus: Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware told CBS News' Face the Nation on Sunday that he's still thinking about running for president in 2004 but won't make his final decision until the fall.

Biden said those who argue the field is already too crowded and it may be too late to join the race "may be right. I've said from the beginning I'll make that decision in early fall. If it is true that that is too late, then so be it. I believe it will not be too late to make that decision." He cited Bill Clinton's entry into the '92 campaign in October of '91 as an example of why he could wait until fall and still be successful.

Meanwhile, another potential Democratic candidate, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, appeared at the Democratic Rural Conference in Lake Placid, N.Y., this weekend. Clark was not in the presidential candidates' forum but delivered the keynote address to the group.

Clark is even more tentative about his plans than Biden, but a Draft Clark group has produced a radio ad that began running on three New Hampshire stations and the Don Imus show on Friday. According to Hotline's Ad Watch, the spot features a man and a woman saying that none of the present candidates inspires them, so they create perfect candidate – a Rhodes scholar, first in his class at West Point, a business visionary – "in a word Wesley Clark."

Draft Wesley Clark.com spokesman Joe Hlinko said his group paid for the ad – "in the low thousands of dollars" – with contributions from the members of the committee and from the sale of t-shirts and other Clark apparel. They hope to expand the buy into Iowa, South Carolina and Michigan.

Maybe They Make Barbecue: Through the first four months of this year, more than 73 percent of the 38,000 donors to the National Republican Congressional Committee have failed to identify their occupation, reports Roll Call.

Campaign committees are required to obtain basic details about their contributors, including their occupation or employer, or they could face fines from the Federal Election Commission. But there's a loophole: As long as the committee uses its "best efforts" to get that info there's a good chance it's off the hook. And that's exactly what the NRCC says it's doing.

"We ask [for the details], people don't give it, we send a follow-up letter requesting the information," NRCC spokesman Carl Forti told Roll Call. Forti also claimed the committee has sent out 20,000 of those letters, though he refused to release an example of one to the newspaper.

In contrast, just 20 percent of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's 1,000 donors through April have left the occupation line blank. The DCCC says it's a been a bit more aggressive in filling in those blanks by following up "at least" with a phone call before it files with the FEC.

"The law is very clear. You've gotta make best efforts," DCCC spokesman Greg Speed said. "We obviously do a better job of it than the NRCC does.

Meantime, some culinary contributions to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., are under scrutiny because they haven't shown up on any state or federal disclosure forms, reports the Associated Press.

The owners of the Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q chain said they were just trying to help out Bush with $10,000 in time, food and materials for a Sept. 2002 campaign event in Florida; and Chambliss with $8,000 for similar goods at an August 2002 campaign event in Atlanta.

Under Florida law, the Bush campaign is required to disclose any donated services above $500 while Chambliss is required under FEC rules to disclose any donated services above $1,000.

"They've got a problem," said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. "Either it's a prohibited contribution from a restaurant or an excessive contribution from individuals. Either way, it's not a reported contribution."

Chambliss' campaign finance director Paige Perdue released a statement after the AP called about the donation. "A billing error regarding Williamson Brothers Barbecue has come to light, and that has been corrected," the statement said. Perdue said the campaign will mail out a check to the Williamsons soon.

Interestingly, the contributions came to light when Georgia Republican activist Briggs Goggans, who assumed the donations were reported, complained in a letter to Chambliss that the owners of the barbecue chain weren't able to get tickets to an October campaign event with President Bush, even after they had donated the $18,000 to Jeb Bush and Chambliss.

Political Weeks Past And Future: Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's ongoing feud showed no signs of slowing over the weekend at the Democratic Rural Conference meeting in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Dean and Kerry were two of just three Democratic presidential candidates who showed up for the forum at the Olympic Center. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio also spoke, but his two fellow longshots, Rev. Al Sharpton and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, did not. (Sharpton offered no explanation about his non-appearance after initially agreeing to attend; Braun cancelled at the last minute.) Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., spoke via video because the forum was on the Sabbath. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., sent a surrogate, Rep. Bob Etheridge of North Carolina.

The Albany Times-Union reports the Dean-Kerry spat du jour stemmed from Kerry's speech, in which he said: "The one thing this country doesn't need is a second Republican Party." Dean, speaking after Kerry, told reporters: "I heard he did a great job making my speech."

Dean also added, in his speech to the 1,000 Democrats, "I appreciate Sen. Kerry saying we don't need Bush Lite, and we don't … But, Sen. Kerry, we don't want Dean Lite, either."

Fight fans are looking forward to Thursday's "Take Back America" conference, organized by a group of progressive Democrats, where Dean and Kerry are both slated to speak.

The rest of the week ahead:

Mon. 6/2 – Kerry campaigns in North Conway, N.H.

Mon. 6/2 – Edwards campaigns in New Hampshire.

Mon. 6/2 – Lieberman meets with New York Democratic Assembly Caucus in Albany.

Mon. 6/2 – Braun attends inauguration of Dr. Susan Johnson Cook, the first female president of Hampton University's Minister's Conference in Hampton, Va.

Mon. 6/2-6/6 – Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., raises money in California. Pacific
Palisades on Monday, Long Beach and San Francisco on Tuesday. Closed-press health care discussion group on Wednesday at U.C.-San Francisco, followed by a media availability. Meet and greet with San Francisco-area Dems on Wednesday evening. Silicon Valley presidential forum breakfast in Menlo Park on Thursday, followed by a media availability and a fundraiser in Phoenix, Ariz.

Tues. 6/3 – Kerry speaks at "women's luncheon event" at the Yale Club in New York.

Tues. 6/2 – Dean campaigns in New York.

Wed. 6/4 – Dean speaks at Einstein College of Medicine graduation in New York.

Wed. 6/4 – Radio and T.V. Correspondents Association annual dinner in
Washington.

Wed. 6/4-6 – National Democratic Progressive Conference to Take Back America at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington. Among other speakers, Democratic presidential candidates Dean (Thurs. at 9 a.m.), Edwards (Thurs. at 10:20 a.m.), Braun (Thurs. at noon) and Kerry (Thurs. at 3 p.m.) are confirmed. Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., will appear via video at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Thurs. 6/5 – Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., speaks on the two-year anniversary of his departure from the GOP.

Thurs. 6/5 – Dean discusses health care plan at National Press Club in Washington at noon. Dean speaks to American Federation of Teachers Health Care/AFT Public Employees joint conference in Washington.

Fri. 6/7 – FEC will hear arguments on whether national party conventions can accept soft money.

Sat. 6/7 – Massachusetts Democratic Party convention in Lowell. Kerry among the speakers.

Sat. 6/7 – National Federation of Democratic Women Conference in Hartford, Conn. Braun speaks at 6 p.m.

Sat. 6/7 – Edwards turns 50 and will celebrate in Raleigh, N.C., with a pair of fundraisers.

Sat. 6/7 – Graham takes part in Sen. Tom Harkin's "Hear from the Heartland" series in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Sun. 6/8 – Edwards travels to South Carolina.

Sun. 6/8 – Dean, Graham, Lieberman, and Rev. Al Sharpton speak at the annual Vilsack-Pederson picnic in Iowa.

Quote of the Day: "Loyalty, a sense of humor, the ability to make campaign contributions." - Arnold Schwarzenegger on the characteristics he cherishes most in friends. The movie star and former bodybuilder is reportedly considering a California gubernatorial bid in 2006. (Vanity Fair, via New York Daily News)