, the Washington Post, and the New York Times lead with the failure in the Senate of the Feingold-McCain campaign reform bill, which would have barred the national political parties from trafficking in “soft money.” The Los Angeles Times goes with the federal indictment of eight California corrections officials suspected of conspiracy and cover-up in connection with various improprieties concerning inmates, including a suspicious death.
The Feingold-McCain defeat came Thursday at the hands of a Republican-led filibuster. This was, in the words of USAT, “nearly a replay” of the bill’s fate last fall. The repetitive outcome, showed, says the paper, that a year of publicity about the excesses of political fund-raising had “failed to change a single senator’s mind.”
The bills’ opponents, led by Sen. Trent Lott and Sen. Mitch McConnell, argue that new fund-raising limitations amount to an infringement on free speech. But McConnell gives away the game in telling the NYT that three groups that provide what he calls “valuable grass-roots support” (=soft money) had strongly opposed the reform bill. The three: the National Rifle Association, the Christian Coalition, and the National Right to Life Committee. The Times goes on to point out that while for the past year, Senate Republicans had put the spotlight on President Clinton’s more unseemly fund-raising efforts, they have fiercely resisted any legislative fix that would cancel their fund-raising advantage, which USAT spells out: $40.2 million in soft money, compared to the Democrats’ $33.3 million. The WP and NYT both report that Democrats intend to run on the issue in the fall congressional elections. Everybody quotes Sen. John McCain’s reason for believing that eventually, public pressure for change will increase: “There will be more scandals, more indictments and more people going to jail.”
There’s another LAT front-page story about jail abuses: the L.A. City Sheriff’s department is investigating the possibility that beatings of accused child molesters were allegedly encouraged by deputies working in the men’s central jail and resulted in at least one homicide.
Meanwhile, the NYT reports that the federal government on Thursday formally took over the prosecution of police officers implicated in the brutal attack last summer on Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. Conviction on the federal civil rights charges could mean sentences of up to life in prison. The five officers charged pleaded not guilty and remain free on bond.
The same picture of a jubilant Oprah Winfrey celebrating a federal jury’s finding of no liability in her mad cow trial runs on the fronts of each of the four dailies that use photos. The caption and headline writers join the fun: “Jurors: no beef with Oprah” (USAT), “Savoring Victory” (LAT) and “Next On Oprah: Freedom Of Speech” (WP).
The lead NYT editorial observes that Washington is now “enthralled by the idea that James Bond methods can remove Saddam Hussein from power,” and points out that a tonic for that idea is found in the recently released internal CIA report about the Bay of Pigs failure. Both cases, says the Times, represent overly optimistic expectations that entrenched dictators can be toppled by small acts of insurrection.
The Wall Street Journal reports that HarperCollins, owned by Rupert Murdoch, was to have published the memoirs of Chris Patten, last British governor of Hong Kong, but the two have parted company. The paper quotes people familiar with the situation as saying that Murdoch had balked at printing passages critical of the Chinese government. The WSJ points out that Murdoch has a track record of using his media empire to advance his interests in China. For instance, in 1994, his News Corp. dropped the BBC from the collection of channels it beams into China because the Chinese didn’t like the BBC program on Mao.
The WP’s “Reliable Source” column says that yesterday, reporters covering the Food and Drug Administration received an official e-mail from the FDA press office that was.a long list of Clinton sex jokes. (We’re assuming about, not by.) The agency is “looking into it.”
According to the USAT “Snapshot,” fully 62 percent of members of the U.S. college class of 2001–which the paper notes, includes Chelsea Clinton–would not ever consider doing what either of their parents do for a living.