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Washington Wrap

Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Alex Hahn and Joanna Schubert of The CBS News Political Unit have the latest from the nation's capital.



Kerry Seeing Red?: Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., tells the Boston Globe that he might consider tapping into his wife's fortune to compensate for the possibility of a $200 million fundraising juggernaut by President Bush.

Kerry said if Mr. Bush manages to actually raise $200 million - nearly double the record amount he pulled-in in 2000 – the Republican Party would show "it is prepared to bargain off, auction off, use the political process to service their special interests."

"If they want to spend $200 million from their very wealthy and specialized interests, I think it would become a major issue about the kind of government we have in this country and where we're going," Kerry said Tuesday.

When Kerry refers to the "very wealthy," he could be referring to his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, the widow of Pennsylvania GOP Sen. John Heinz, and heir to the eponymous ketchup fortune estimated at $550 million.

Kerry and his wife have said they would not tap into the Heinz fortune unless either one was personally attacked during the race. The Globe reports that yesterday, Kerry seemed to equivocate a bit on his previous plan to avoid self-financing the race.

"I'm going to, as I've said all along, I'm going to reserve, I don't have any special plans right now," the Globe's Glen Johnson reports.

Could the quote about Kerry in yesterday's New York Times by an unnamed senior Bush adviser – "He looks French" - be the kind of personal attack that could open the Heinz catsup coffers?

Kerry, laughing, said, "It means that the White House has started the personal politics of destruction, that's what it means, but it's fine." (Was that a laugh, or a chuckle?)

Mrs. Heinz Kerry said the pique reminded her of "kids on a playground, and they don't know what to say because they don't have the thought process defined or the language." Asked if she felt the barb was a reference to the French opposition to the war against Iraq, and therefore an attack on her husband's patriotism, Heinz Kerry said: "They can't take him on patriotism, that they can't do. And I guess if they want to call the French 'not manly,' I don't know, but they have to deal with the French on that."

We're not sure if this means the ketchup money will start flowing soon. But, just to be safe, Kerry backers might want to start slathering extra helpings of Heinz 57 on their freedom fries to help the cause.

Answering the Call?: Since Illinois Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald's surprise announcement last week that he will not be seeking re-election, the hunt has been on for the ideal replacement candidate. The Chicago Tribune reports that the White House has finally settled upon former GOP Gov. Jim Edgar as the best alternate for next year's U.S. Senate race.

President Bush telephoned him and "did encourage Gov. Edgar to run for the Senate," White House spokesman Scott McClellan explained. The Republican Senatorial Committee has also made efforts to recruit Edgar and expects that he will make a decision in the next few weeks.

Edgar, 56, has been described as a social moderate who supports gun control and abortion rights. He was a popular governor and has been cited for always seeing things from both sides of the political spectrum.

"I'm very flattered by a lot of the confidence that people have shown in me. But I also know in politics, you're a lot stronger before you announce that after you announce," said Edgar.

A spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party acknowledged that, "right now everybody's just wanting to see what former Gov. Edgar does. We're just kind of in a standstill right now," Roll Call reports.

Edgar and his wife, Brenda, have me with officials of the national Senate GOP organizing committee as well as with strategist Carter Hendren, who served as Edgar's campaign manager during his first run for governor.

"It's a tough decision because it would be quite a change in what Brenda and I have been doing. But also, these are unique times when I think people have to think about making some sacrifices and being willing to do things that maybe there weren't planning to do," Edgar said.

Sharpton and Lieberman Fess Up: Rev. Al Sharpton, who gets audiences laughing by bragging that he's the presidential contender who's been arrested the most, has decided to go straight with the FEC and yesterday declared himnself an official candidate.

Sharpton has claimed he's merely been "testing the waters," which exempted him from having to file quarterly financial reports. However, for months he's been appearing in candidate-only forums at the DNC, Building Trades Union and Children's Defense Fund. Stanley Schlein, a lawyer for the Sharpton campaign, told the AP yesterday that Sharpton had raised about $30,000 before March 31 and about $70,000 since then, and would file a report with the FEC next week.

The FEC could fine Sharpton if they decide he violated the rules. However, Schlein told the Washington Post that he had numerous conversations with the FEC since questions surfaced last week and "no one raised an issue of impropriety."

The IRS gave another Democratic White House hopeful, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., a wrap on the knuckles for underpaying his 2002 income taxes. Lieberman and his wife paid a $739 penalty for underpaying $16, 377 on their income of $334,395 the Hartford Courant reported.

Lieberman initially refused to release his tax returns to the press. Yesterday, the campaign relented and invited reporters to come to the headquarters and review them. Hartford Courant's David Lightman wasted no time checking them out.

Bye-Bye Bob: Former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., has dropped out of Georgia's 6th District congressional race, leaving the seat in the heavily Republican district up for grabs.

After his defeat by 30 points to another incumbent, Rep. John Linder, in last year's GOP primary, Barr announced that he would run for Republican Johnny Isakson's open seat. But a source told Roll Call that "[Barr's] heart's not in it." He's apparently enjoying his life working for the NRA, ACLU and CNN.

For the moment, GOP state Sen. Robert Lamutt is the only candidate. But another Republican, state Senate Majority Leader Tom Price, is expected to announce his candidacy after the Legislature adjourns on Friday.

Quote of the Day: "Rick is a consistent voice for inclusion and compassion in the Republican Party and in the Senate, and to suggest otherwise is just politics." --Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., coming to the defense of Sen. Rick Santorum. (Frist press release)

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