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Soldiers of Fortune
Public Campaign, the D.C. interest group that brought Arizona last fall's successful "Clean Elections" initiative, has released a list of the biggest gun lovers in Congress--elected representatives who sock away the most cash from the gun lobby.

Why is the Flash not surprised to see J.D. Hayworth on the list?
It's slightly ironic that Hayworth is a certified gun lackey; he frequently acts as though he's been repeatedly shot in the head.

The District 6 rep, a Republican who says or does nothing without first consulting the John Birch Society, ranks No. 7 among Second Amendment wing nuts on Capitol Hill, raking in $80,808 from gun-lobby sources during the 1997-98 bribery, er, campaign-finance, cycle.

Public Campaign took out full-page ads in the New York Times and Roll Call to publicize its list of the top gun-money grubbers.

That list is led by Senator Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican who received $197,175 in gun-lobby largess.

Again, the Flash is not surprised, considering that Bunning, the only member of Congress ever to throw a perfect game in the major leagues (as a Philadelphia Philly), was also notorious for throwing lots of beanballs. (The Flash is not making this up.)

Senator Fred Thompson, a Tennessee Republican, was second on the list, cashing in to the tune of $192,704. Thompson has on occasion played lucid people in the movies, including In the Line of Fire. (Again, true.)

Hey, now, quit making fun of people from Kentucky and Tennessee. They need guns to shoot squirrels. Elsewise, they'd starve.

"All the soul searching following the horrible tragedy at Columbine [High School] has missed one of the essential elements of the problem--easy access to guns," says Ellen Miller, director of Public Campaign. ". . . it is no coincidence that those who benefit most from gun money are the ones talking the least about curtailing the access our children have to guns."

Since 1991, the group says, the gun lobby has spent $15.5 million funding federal candidates and political parties.

"The National Rifle Association and the gun industry get what they want from Congress because of the millions of dollars they give to candidates, or spend on their behalf," Miller says. "Until we get special interest money out of our politics, we will not get sane gun laws in this country."

Hanoi Jane?
Big Red, as the Wonk column prefers to call her, has struck a blow for government secrecy.

Yes, Governor Jane Dee Hull, that paragon of open government, vetoed a bill that would have given citizens the right to speak at meetings of their elected representatives.

That's right. State Representative Tom Freestone sponsored the bill to strengthen the Open Meetings Law after learning that one Tucson school district would not let citizens address the school board because its attorney decided that the only things that could be discussed during such meetings must be listed on the meeting agrenda.

In her veto "message," Hull says that she rejected the bill because it wouldn't apply to legislative committees. Freestone and the Arizona Newspaper Association say otherwise. Both are upset that Big Red has bollixed much hard work with dubious justification.

Freestone says he'll reintroduce the bill.
Interestingly, at press time, Freestone tells the Flash that the Attorney General's Office was announcing indictments of officials from several state school districts, including the district that refused to hear its own constituents.

At the risk of sounding preachy, allow the Flash to remind one and all that open government and public disclosure are the most potent antiseptics.

Service Clubbed
Tom Bearup considers it an encouraging sign that he's been receiving enthusiastic receptions at Republican committee meetings and other stops on his waaaay early campaign for sheriff. (The primary election isn't even until September 2000.)

The Flash has another explanation for Bearup's momentum: Sheriff Joke Arpaio has worn thin on a public that's had enough of his incompetence and bluster.

A few years ago, for example, it would have been inconceivable that the Kiwanis Club of Phoenix would have included the following description of a Bearup speech, which appeared in its April 6 newsletter:

"He [Bearup] has set out to knock over an icon, the toughest sheriff in the country and the most popular elected official in Arizona. Tom Bearup says he was Sheriff Joe's closest friend for five years, but it all fell apart when, he says, he became convinced the integrity of the office was being compromised.

"That was the nicest thing he said. The details were blistering, from Joe Arpaio's training 'to be a professional liar' and telling Tom his biggest problem was 'you don't know how to lie,' through weird stories of paranoia, gross incompetence and a vendetta of criminal harassment. . . . Now he [Bearup] wants to rescue the Sheriff's office from what he says is a terrible travesty of injustice, inefficiency, dishonor, corruption and malpractice. The thing of it is, Tom Bearup came across as completely believable."

Ouch. Bad enough federal indictments may be looming for the Jokester. But to lose the Kiwanis faithful? That's gotta hurt.

Johnny No Ronnie
What's this? A panning of John McCain by the premier sentinel of the Beltway Media, who collectively have lavished mindless adulation on Arizona's presidential wanna-be?

Improbable as it seems, Washington Post reporter Roxanne Roberts failed to treat McCain with the customary Beltway reverence when covering the American Conservative Union's "Conservative of the Century" award dinner.

Ronald Reagan was honored as the 20th century's foremost conservative, but since he's incapacitated by Alzheimer's disease, Humble John accepted on Reagan's behalf.

McCain's speech to the elite of the nation's Republican conservatives was something less than the eloquence of the honoree, leaving Roberts, and the audience, unimpressed and literally unmoved.

"And then came the speeches," Roberts wrote in the Post. "Many, many speeches. Serious, earnest speeches unburdened by humor or brevity.

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"When a bona fide conservative war hero like McCain fails to get a rise out of a conservative audience, you know this is a tough crowd," she wrote.

Then, using her own version of unsuccessful Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen's memorable retort to GOP veep candidate Dan Quayle, reporter Roberts wrote of the audience reaction to McCain:

"They knew Ronald Reagan, and McCain is no Ronald Reagan."

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