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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.

Kerry Chimes In On Iraq: Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in Lebanon, N.H., on Wednesday, accused President Bush of breaking his promise to build an international coalition to remove Saddam Hussein from power and then waging a war based on questionable intelligence, the Associated Press reports.

"He misled every one of us," Kerry said. "That's one reason I am running for president."

Kerry was referring to two pieces of intelligence information that Mr. Bush used to rationalize attacking Iraq: alleged attempts by Iraq to buy nuclear material in Africa and Iraq's ability to strike the U.S. with long-range missiles carrying biological or chemical weapons. Both pieces of intelligence now appear inaccurate. Kerry also called for a congressional investigation into the possible intelligence failures.

"I will not let him off the hook throughout this campaign with respect to America's credibility and credibility to me because if he lied, he lied to me personally," Kerry said.

But Kerry, who backed the war while criticizing Mr. Bush for his diplomatic efforts (or lack thereof) leading up to the conflict, said he was not sure if it was too early to conclude whether or not war with Iraq was justified, the AP reports. But, he added: "I'm glad Saddam Hussein is gone."

Kerry became the latest of the Democratic aspirants to criticize the president on the war. Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio have been particularly vocal on whether the now-questionable intelligence reports might have been manipulated by the administration.

The incoming RNC chairman, Ed Gillespie, accused Kerry of flipping on the issue, pointing out that last Sunday Kerry said it would be "irresponsible of me to draw conclusions prior to all the evidence being on the table," and yesterday joining the chorus of anti-war Democrats to "appeal to the most liberal wing of his party."

Kerry got some good news on his Granite State standing in a new poll from American Research Group of likely primary voters. The survey found that he has the support of 28 percent of voters, compared with 18 percent for Dean. In previous polls by the group, Dean and Kerry were statistically tied. Kerry's current lead is his largest over Dean since January, when he had a 12-point advantage.

What Do We Do Now?: The New York Times reports that the New York Host Committee has raised $60 million of the estimated $64 million it pledged to pay for the Republican National Convention, slated to take place Aug. 28 to Sept. 2, 2004 in New York.

Some of the city's highest-profile millionaires and billionaires have made pledges, including David Rockefeller, Citigroup CEO Sanford Weill, Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson and real estate magnate William Rudin. Mayor Michael Bloomberg threw in $5 million of his own money.

The $64 million will pay for expenses such as renting out and furnishing Madison Square Garden and transporting delegates around the city. The city has agreed to pay $27 million for police, fire, emergency services and insurance. The host committee also has arranged commitments from several hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria, to provide first-class rooms for delegates and guests at reduced rates.

The federal government provides another $14 million to both parties to help with expenses like producing the party platform and organizing the actual convention program, including video props. That money is not included in the GOP's $91 million figure.

The Democrats won't say how much they've raised so far but concede they have a way to go. "We have raised some percentage of that figure," DNC spokesperson Debra DeShong told CBS News.

There could be a wrinkle, however, according to campaign fundraising experts who say the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law – currently awaiting oral arguments before the Supreme Court in September – bans the kinds of donations made by the host committee. The law banned large, unregulated donations, known as soft money, in federal campaigns.

The FEC is expected to rule this summer on whether contributions to the convention host committees fall under the ban, although the Times reports that few political observers believe the FEC will "turn off the spigot for 2004."

Money Doesn't Always Buy Victory: The Federal Election Commission released their final analysis of spending in the 2002 congressional races Wednesday, and while the overall numbers aren't record-breaking, it did show that huge spending doesn't equal success.

The total spent by House and Senate candidates in primaries and the general election in 2002 was $936.3 million, down from the record $1.05 billion in the 2000 cycle.

Digging into the numbers a little deeper reveals that most of the top spenders are losers.

That's not meant as an insult; of the top-five-spending candidates in both the House and Senate, there was only one winner, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C.

In the House races, West Virginia Democrat Jim Humphreys spent a record $8,150,237, mostly his own money, only to receive 43 percent of the vote against Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V. Capito was ranked 21st among House candidates, spending $2,530,078.

Rounding out the top five House spenders (all losers): Florida Democrat Wayne Hogan, who spent $4,659,352 and received 40 percent of the vote against Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.; Texas Republican Thomas Reiser, who spent $4,538,270 and obtained 43 percent of the vote against Democrat Chris Bell; Georgia Democrat Roger Kahn, who spent $4,215,536 and got 48 percent against Republican Phil Gingrey; and Florida Democrat Harry Nathan Jacobs, who spent $3,989,408 to receive 38 percent of the vote against Republican Tom Feeney.

The top winning House candidate ranked sixth overall: incumbent Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., who spent $3,752,161 to defeat Democrat Jim Maloney. And the top winning non-incumbent was ranked 11th overall: Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla., who spent $3,293,690 against Florida Democrat Jan Schneider.

On the Senate side, Dole was the top overall spender, and the only winning candidate in the top five, spending $13,735,220. She defeated Democrat Erskine Bowles, who was ranked number two among Senate candidates, having spent $13,306,317.

Rounding out the top five for Senate candidates were the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., who spent $12,617,876 and died in a plane crash shortly before the election; former Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Mo., who spent $12,293,579 and received 48 percent of the vote against Republican Jim Talent; and New Jersey Republican Doug Forrester, who spent a total of $10,606,843, only to get 44 percent of the vote against Frank Lautenberg.

Grand Old Nader: Liberal crusader Ralph Nader, who earned the wrath of many Democrats who blame him for Al Gore's narrow defeat in the 2000 election, is thinking about another bid in 2004 possibly as a Republican, the AP reports.

In 2000, Nader ran as a Green Party candidate, taking some typically Democratic voters with him. Now, the Green Party is considering backing the Democratic nominee and Nader says the Democrats are punishing him by leaving him out of progressive strategy meetings.

"Even … when they have gatherings on specific issues that I have worked on, they don't invite me," the 70-year old consumer activist said.

"He is despised by some parts of the Democratic party," said Bob Borosage, who heads the liberal Campaign for America's Future. "The party bitterness towards him is pretty deep." Nader has been equally critical of the Democrats, whom he accuses of giving in to President Bush's conservative agenda.

Nader and the liberal Democrats are united on one issue: defeating George W. Bush in 2004. If the Green Party rejects his candidacy, Nader says he might run as an independent or even as a Republican, anything to give Americans a choice.

"Wouldn't that be interesting? A Republican run," he said.

Quote of the Day: "That's why I approved this message." --Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean in his new ad using the newly mandated, though awkward sounding, disclosure language in his Iowa TV ad.