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Washington Wrap

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



Pelosi Says No, But Her Colleagues Say Maybe: Uncertainty reigns after a federal three-judge panel struck down parts of the campaign finance reform laws, but Roll Call reports that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said House Democrats will not seek soft-money contributions. While the McCain-Feingold law awaits a Supreme Court decision or a stay on the federal court ruling, there is concern that the six party committees might be operating under different rules.

Pelosi is the first Congressional leader to declare that her caucus will abide by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act until the courts make a final decision. She said, "I hope the court will grant the stays so that everybody is operating under the same rules. But whether they are or not, we will be."

Although Pelosi said she discussed the soft-money ban with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Senate Democrats have not made a firm decision on what they would do if the requests for a stay on the federal court ruling were rejected. For now, DSCC spokesman Michael Siegel says Senate Democrats will continue operating under BCRA.

DCCC Chairman Robert Matsui said, "It would be foolhardy for any of the six committees to begin soliciting soft money or figuring out a way to avoid the initial legislation. My belief is that until we have something more definite, we will abide by the current law."

But if the Republicans start raising soft money and the courts deny a stay, Matsui says the conversation will be re-opened. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas, said, "We shouldn't be raising soft money while it's on appeal. But if the Republicans started, then we'd have no choice. One senior Democratic official told Roll Call, "If they don't get a stay, then we will raise soft money. There is no doubt about that."

The soft-money ban has been tough for both parties, but the regulation hurts Democrats in particular because they typically receive fewer hard money contributions. This year the Democrats have struggled to keep up with Republican fundraising totals and Pelosi said that they would have to raise $100,000 per day for the 2004 election.

Pelosi will publicly endorse Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., for the presidential nomination, but Pelosi says it will be in name only. She says her "night job" will be raising money to put the Democrats back in the majority in 2004 and that she'll be too busy to take an active part in Gephardt's campaign.

Simmering In The Sunshine State: In another poll in Florida, the Miami Herald reports that Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., may not be quite as electable as he claims.

In a head-to-head matchup between Graham and President Bush, the senator would lose Florida 52-43 percent, if the election were held today. However, that's a bit better for Graham than the poll done by Mason Dixon just before Graham's official announcement last week showing Mr. Bush leading Graham 53 per cent to 38 percent.

Meantime, Graham is hammering the Bush administration about what he calls a "cover- up" of the joint inquiry into why September 11 happened.

"This administration has probably been one of the most secretive administrations in American history," Graham said Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation. "And one of the areas over which they have thrown a particularly heavy blanket has been information about terrorism, including terrorism of the United States."

"I think what they are shooting at is to cover up the failures that occurred before September the 11th, even more so the failure to utilize the information that we have gained to avoid a future September the 11th," Graham added.

As Graham concentrates on his presidential run, several candidates are angling for his Senate seat, which is up in 2004. Republican Rep. Mark Foley and former GOP Rep. Bill McCollum, are both currently running, while another GOP congressman, David Weldon,says he's "looking at" running. Weldon will have a lot of catching up to do, money-wise, if he plans to run. Currently, he has $159,000 on hand while Foley has around $1.7 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. McCollum reportedly has around $300,000 in the bank.

Graham said last week that if there are any Democrats interested in running for his seat, by all means, they should feel free to get their campaigns up and running.

When asked directly if he plans to run for re-election to the Senate, Graham responded: "I'm not running for president to be running for president. I'm running for president to be president."

Sad Mother's Day for the Gephardt Family: Loreen Gephardt, the 95-year-old mother of Democratic Rep. Dick Gephardt, died on Friday night of a heart ailment in south St. Louis County. Mrs. Gephardt moved to Iowa in 1987 to help her son's last presidential run and she was with him when he formally announced his candidacy this February.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1976 she called Gephardt the morning he was to announce for mayor and told him that the paper was reporting U.S. Rep. Lorene Sullivan wasn't planning to run for re-election. He changed his mind and that day filed for Congress instead.

She told the paper that she never pushed her son into politics but that "the hand of God" played a role. She said she didn't guide her sons' career choices and "always felt that they were happier doing what they wanted to do."

Gephardt talks about his parents a lot on the stump and singles out his mother as an example of how government programs like Medicare impact real people. "She's had a stroke but she's as bright and smart as I am," he said. "And she would not be here without Medicare."

Political Week Ahead: It's looking like the political world won't see a Bob Jones University sequel this year, even though at least one Democratic presidential candidate is offering to challenge the conservative South Carolina school's controversial stands on issues from the Catholic Church to inter-racial dating. (Bob Jones U is not particularly high on either one.)

George W. Bush caught flak in 2000 for speaking at the school, where Attorney General John Ashcroft also received an honorary degree.

Sen. John Kerry's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said last week that if invited, the Massachusetts senator would "challenge the university on some of the beliefs it has that don't belong in our society." But Bob Jones University spokesman Jonathan Pait told the AP that Kerry – or other Democrats who might be thinking the same thing – should not hold their breath for an invitation.

"Why would we invite someone to come and speak for the purpose of re-enforcing the misrepresentations that have been generated about us," Pait said.

Pait also said that "not many" of the Democrats running for president "share our ideology." Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, he said, "would be the closest."

The rest of the non-Bob Jones week ahead:

Mon. 5/12 – Former Gen. Wesley Clark campaigns (?) in Manchester, N.H.

Mon. 5/12 – President Bush sells his tax cut plan in Omaha, Neb.

Mon. 5/12- Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., speaks to Oklahoma Democrats.

Mon 5/12 – Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., attends his mother's funeral in Missouri.

Tue. 5/13 – President Bush sells his tax cut plan in Indianapolis and visits
Missouri to survey tornado damage.

Tue. 5/13 – Howard Dean unveils health care plan at Columbia University in New York.

Tue. 5/13 – Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Ct., campaigns in New York.

Wed. 5/14- Dean meets with supporters in Portland, Ore., and campaigns in Seattle.

Wed. 5/14 – Kerry campaigns in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He'll be in Omaha, Neb., earlier Wednesday.

Thurs. 5/15 – Kerry campaigns in Des Moines and Sioux City, Iowa. In Des Moines, Kerry will unveil his health care plan.

Thurs. 5/15 – Democratic Leadership Council strategy session in Washington.

Fri. 5/16 – Kerry campaigns in Denison, Carroll and Boone, Iowa.

Fri. 5/16- Dean will have events in Iowa.

Sat. 5/17 – Kerry gives graduation address at Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H.

Sat. 5/17- AFSCME of Iowa Presidential Town Hall Meeting in Des Moines. Dean, Sen. John Edwards, Gephardt, Sen. Bob Graham, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun and Rev. Al Sharpton will attend the forum in person. Kerry will participate via videophone from New Hampshire. Lieberman will give a taped message.

Sat. 5/17-5/18 – Dean to do two Jefferson-Jackson Dinners, one in Ohio and one in Indiana. Returns to Iowa on Sunday morning, where he'll take part in Sen. Tom Harkin's "Hear from the Heartland" series in Davenport, Iowa.

Congratulations to CBSNews.com!: CBSNews.com has won the EPpy award in the "Best Overall Network TV/Cable-Affiliated Internet Service" category. The EPpy Awards competition, sponsored by Editor & Publisher and MediaWeek magazines, honors excellence in online work by media companies.

Quote of the Day: "I wouldn't mind having sex with Ellen Tauscher. But I'm afraid that it would be like a praying mantis deal and she'd bite my head off when we were done." -- Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., at Blumenauer's Comedy Night, making a "joke" about his fellow U.S. representative. (Roll Call).

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