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



DeLay Speaks: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Tex., admitted that his office did contact the Justice Department and the FAA in the search for the Democratic state legislators that went on the lam two weeks ago.

DeLay said he called Justice on May 12 - a day after the 51 Dems bolted from Austin to avoid voting on a GOP-backed congressional redistricting plan - "to ask about the appropriate role of the federal government in finding Texas legislators who have warrants for their arrest and who have crossed state lines," according to the Associated Press.

On the same day, DeLay said he had a staffer call the FAA to find out where former Texas House Speaker Pete Laney's plane was, reports the Austin American Statesman.

"I was told at the time that the plane was in the air coming from Ardmore, Oklahoma, back to Georgetown, Texas. And I relayed that information to [Texas House Speaker] Tom Craddick."

Craddick denied any knowledge of why the trooper made the call. "I don't know who contacted who," Craddick told the Houston Chronicle.

Democrats – in Texas and in the U.S. House – have lambasted DeLay for his alleged role in the state-level battle and have repeatedly accused him of using his federal position to find the Texas Dems.

Meantime, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge indicated for the first time that his department is investigating a phone call from a Texas state trooper, who was looking for the Democrats, to a federal homeland security agency.

Ridge was asked at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing why he's not releasing an audiotape of the call in which the trooper told the Department of Homeland Security's Air and Marine Interdiction Center that Laney's plane was missing and may have went down. The call prompted a search for the plane.

"This could now be a criminal investigation," Ridge told the panel. "The tapes are part of the evidentiary chain and are not for public review."

Pioneers Are Soooo 2000: If you want to impress your friends and colleagues on the golf course and in the boardroom this year, don't bother crowing about your status as a "Pioneer" for President Bush's re-election campaign. The Pioneers - Republicans who volunteered to raise at least $100,000 each for Bush's 2000 primary campaign – are out of vogue. This cycle, GOP fund-raising hotshots will be called the "Rangers" – and their required tallies will be $200,000, the Associated Press reports.

Bush raised more than $100 million for the primary race in 2000, and is expected to raise far more this time, in part because McCain-Feingold double the amount individuals can contribute to federal campaigns to $2,000. Estimates of what Bush will raise for '04 have ranged from $170 million to over $200 million.

The Rangers – who share the same name as the professional baseball team that Bush co-owned in the early 1990s – will be a smaller, more elite group than the Pioneers, whose membership was more than 200. The dreary old Pioneers will still be around for 2004, and will only have to meet the $100,000 threshold.

Online Windfall for Dean: Vermont Gov. Howard Dean announced that his campaign has raised $1 million through the Internet, the AP's Sharon Theimer also reports. Dean is the first Democratic wannabe to announce passing the million mark on the Web. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., raised $450,000 online through the end of March, Theimer reports. Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi said the Internet donations have tended to be smaller – under $100 compared to $168 - than other forms of contributions like direct mail and fundraising events.

Raising money online is cheaper than doing so in-person or through the mail, says UVA's Larry Sabato. Direct mail solicitations, for example, costs almost as much to send out as they end up bringing in. "There's almost no overhead with Internet fund raising," he told the AP.

Dean's campaign also uses the Internet to rally supporters. In particular, the website www.meetup.com has a Dean supporter section with 25,000 people signed up at 250 chapters nationwide. The groups meet once a month to rally and raise money. This month alone, the AP reports, there have been 225 meetup meetings for Dean supporters. The campaign sent a representative to about 180 of them, Trippi said.

Busy Weekend: The U.S. Senate's Friday morning 51-50 passage of the $330 billion tax cut threw several Democratic presidential hopeful's schedules into disarray. Even the man who cast the tie-breaking vote – Vice President Dick Cheney – had to cancel making the commencement speech at Louisiana State University because of the vote. (Cheney's wife, Lynne, substituted for the vice president.)

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, scheduled to go to New Hampshire on Friday, had to send his wife, Elizabeth, in his place. Edwards will make it to the Granite State on Saturday, with stops Manchester, Nashua Salem and Portsmouth. On Memorial Day Monday, Edwards travels to Phoenix where he will meet with veterans.

Sen. Bob Graham of Florida canceled a Friday visit to Concord, N.H., because of the vote, but will be in Keene and Hanover on Saturday. Graham heads to South Carolina on Sunday and Monday.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., canceled a health care speech slated for Friday morning in Manchester. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Ct., also canceled a New Hampshire visit on Friday. Lieberman will be in Iowa on Sunday and Monday.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, meanwhile, campaigns away in Iowa on Friday and Saturday and in New Hampshire on Sunday.

Quote of the Day: "There are no more strip clubs in New York." – Andrew Giuliani, 17, explaining why he and 30 of his Dad's closest friends held a bachelor party for the former New York mayor at Yankees Stadium. Rudy Giuliani will marry his longtime girlfriend Judi Nathan at Gracie Mansion on Saturday. (New York Post)

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