Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Torricelli Won't Talk About Funds

By Christine Haughney
Wednesday, October 23, 2002; Page A10

Two weeks shy of Election Day, Sen. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.) has not said how much of his $5.1 million in campaign funds he will give to Frank R. Lautenberg. But Democratic Party insiders say that Torricelli, who dropped out on Sept. 30 after an ethics scandal, will leave little for his replacement in the race after he pays legal bills and sets up a political action committee.

"It's just completely up in the air," one adviser close to the negotiations said yesterday. "It's not going to be the whole chunk of change."

Sources close to Torricelli told the Bergen Record the senator will spend more than $3 million on campaign expenses and legal bills and more than $1 million to start a PAC. The remaining money will go to the Lautenberg campaign.

"The senator has said he wants to be as helpful as possible," Debra DeShong, a Torricelli spokesperson, said in an interview. After leaving the race, Torricelli spoke once with Lautenberg about how he would help his campaign. But they did not discuss amounts, DeShong said.

Some Democrats have deplored the delay, blaming Lautenberg's and Torricelli's stormy relationship when they both were senators.

Lautenberg still can rely on money Torricelli had helped raise for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "The DSCC will be spending a considerable amount of money on the New Jersey Senate race," said Tovah Ravitz-Meehan, DSCC spokesperson.

Still, Lautenberg seems to be doing all right without the money. A Quinnipiac University poll showed him leading Republican Doug Forrester 52 percent to 43 percent. A similar poll gave Lautenberg a 4-percentage point advantage on Oct. 7.

A poll by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University showed Lautenberg leading 47 percent to 39 percent.

Mont. Senate Hopeful Rejoins Race

Mike Taylor is back. Sort of.

The erstwhile Republican Senate candidate, who abandoned his long-shot bid to unseat Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) after Democrats aired a controversial ad against him, announced yesterday that he is getting back in the race.

But he won't be running any television commercials. Or issuing any news releases. And he isn't even all that concerned with winning. Rather, Taylor is hoping to help increase turnout for other GOP candidates and to help draw attention to the evils of political mudslinging. "I want to save democracy from the smear campaigns," Taylor said.

The Republican quit the race two weeks ago, after state Democrats aired a television ad that suggested he was corrupt and, his supporters say, gay. Taylor had lagged badly behind in the polls and in fundraising -- the ad, presumably, was the last straw.

But his name was never stricken from the ballot, since he quit after the state deadline for changing the ticket. There was speculation that his party might attempt to replace him, as the Democrats replaced Sen. Robert G. Torricelli in New Jersey. But no other candidate stepped forward, leaving Taylor to reclaim his candidacy and his newfound cause.

"This is not about the Senate seat, this is about all the different races down the ballot where these kind of tactics are coming into play," his spokesman said.

Pa. Candidate Passes on Money

It's been a cash-poor campaign for Betsy Helsel, a registered Republican and the Democratic candidate for the Pennsylvania state house's 143rd District.

But she has not asked for and has not received any money from the Democrats. "We're really raising all of our money from the community," she said. "I wouldn't take it from the Republican Party either, until we have some substantial campaign finance reform."

Helsel, a second-term Plumstead township supervisor, lost the GOP primary to the incumbent, state Rep. Chuck McIlhinney. But she won a write-in campaign designed by the district's Democrats. She said, however, she would remain a Republican.

"I'm a very independent Republican and people know I how I deal with the issues," she said, noting her positions on the environment and women's issues mirror Democratic views.

Democrats have included Helsel in get-out-the-vote efforts, handing out her campaign fliers and mentioning her name during phone drives. "They're giving people resources, which is the best thing we can get," said Helsel.

Staff researcher Brian Faler contributed to this report.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Ex-Cons Say They Want to Vote

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

WASHINGTON — Ex-convicts in the United States are fighting state restrictions that will effectively prevent 3.9 million people with a felony conviction from casting a vote in the November elections.

Several states have made recent changes to their laws that make it easier for ex-cons to vote. Connecticut, Texas, New Mexico, Maryland and Delaware will allow nearly 500,000 felons to vote this November.

But former inmates said that varying laws in each state could end up taking away restored rights.

Speaking at the National Symposium for Felony Disenfranchisement Monday, Thomas Johnson said his voting rights were restored in one state following his imprisonment, but denied to him when he moved to another state.

"I've changed my life and I'm a productive citizen, yet I feel that I'm without citizenship," said Johnson, 54, who served time in New York for selling crack cocaine and carrying a loaded handgun. His rights were restored in New York, but when he moved to Florida and tried to vote, he was told he would have to apply for clemency if he wanted to cast a ballot.

"I said, 'What for? I've never committed a crime in Florida,'" said Johnson, who is now the executive director of House of Hope, a program helping ex-cons get housing, jobs and counseling in Gainesville.

Each state makes its own laws regarding voting privileges for inmates and for those who have already served their time in prison.

Only Maine and Vermont allow inmates convicted of a felony offense to vote. Eighteen states take away voting rights for inmates convicted of any crime. States' laws regarding whether inmates get their rights back after serving time run the gamut.

A felony crime includes murder, rape, larceny and drug offenses.

Not everyone believes that states should be attacked for allowing those convicted of these crimes to participate in the process. Todd Gaziano, director of the Heritage Foundation legal and judicial studies department, said allowing inmates and felons to vote dilutes the vote of law-abiding citizens.

"It helps prevent dilution of the vote of law-abiding citizens who are in high-crime neighborhoods where law enforcement issues are of a particular importance," he said. "It's part of the original punishment. It's not arbitrary. It's on the books."