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Taxing Terry McAuliffe

The Democratic Party showed Washington its sense of humor by naming Terry McAuliffe to lead the Democratic National Committee. He hasn't disappointed. He continues making us want to laugh.

Start with the concept that the nation's biggest bloviators for "campaign finance reform" picked as their top dog one of the country's most notorious soft money abusers. Consider that the same party whose congressional investigators are breathing heavily over teapot tempests like Karl Rove's tardy stock sales is led by a man who's seemingly always in the shadows of sleazy schemes like the illegal DNC-Teamsters fundraising swap that killed union boss Ron Carey's career.

Still the laughs keep on coming. You know that the news-challenged dog days of August have arrived early when McAuliffe can get reporters to give serious coverage to his latest goofball theory, namely that Republicans are using tax rebate checks as campaign documents.

The checks carry the words "Tax Relief for America's Workers." McAuliffe calls that a "Republican campaign slogan." Furthermore, he insists, "The Federal government is not the Republican Party's political toy, and checks from the U.S. Treasury should not be used as political props."

Was the news drought so horrendous that supposedly sober news outlets like the Associated Press and the New York Times had to treat McAuliffe's latest dud grenade as newsworthy? Perhaps they first should have checked their own archives for the phrase "Tax Relief for America's Workers." In all of the coverage over the many months of the nearly never-ending Campaign 2000, neither outlet reported the Bush campaign or the Republican Party ever used these words together as a slogan. Look at any national news outlet, from the Washington Times to Newsweek to CNN, and you won't find a single example of these words being used by the GOP. Oops.

That's not to say that the Republicans aren't going to raise Washington rooftops underlining to voters that they were the ones who spurred this lovely little - and it is little - boomerang back to the people who pay Washington's mega-bills for the rest of the country. But in real America the words "Tax Relief for America's Workers" are about as outrageous as Campbell's advertising their product as a can of soup.

How silly McAuliffe's charge is. By his logic, the Republican Party should demand that the name "Social Security" be stricken from everybody's cards and checks, since that was an obvious Franklin Roosevelt political slogan.

But McAuliffe's charges are also ridiculous on an entirely different level. The Democrats' entire way of political life is defined by creating more and more government benefits, and then milking more and more beneficiaries for votes. Yet here is the leader of the Democratic Party, whose slogan could be "Better Governing Through Creating Dependency," seriously charging - I am assuming he's serious - that another political party is using government checks as a political prop. Democrats ought to be laughed off the stage for suggesting somehow that Republicans are improperly doing something that is the left's political bread and butter.

Reporters are wasting space suggesting that blandly promotional words on a tax refund check are a scandal. And here's the truly astounding point: they're doing it while ignoring a real scandal regarding the tax cut issue.

Isn't it more outrageous that proponents of the tax cut had to fight through an array of liberal groups who take millions of tax dollars and then use them to lobby against tax cuts? A few weeks ago, the Cato Institute released a paper by John Samples, Chris Yablonski, and Ivan Osorio exploring this wretched phenomenon. The trio found that members of the "Fair Taxes for All Coalition," led by People for the American Way and the American Federation for State, County, and Municipal Employees union, received an astounding $618 million in federal grants since 1996.

The Cato report argued that "public subsidies for anti-tax cut advocacy distort democratic processes in two ways: First, they bias the political process toward the recipients of subsidies. Second, they induce demands on government that would not exist without the subsidies." A familiar alphabet of liberal groups from NOW to the NAACP augmented their annual incomes with federal money, and then turned around to deny their subsidizers any tax cut.

Isn't this a wee bit more newsworthy than five words on a tax rebate check? It ought to get more media play than McAuliffe's ludicrous check-slogan charges.