Today's Papers

The Future of Family Feuds

The Los Angeles Times leads with a local story: A study shows that California’s high-tech boom is disproportionately benefiting the rich and, consequently, widening the state’s income gap. The Washington Post leads with a preview of the upcoming Supreme Court arguments over the constitutionality of state statutes that guarantee visitation rights to grandparents. The LAT’s off-lead concludes that the case, Troxel vs. Granville, will define the government’s future role in family affairs. The Troxels, assisted by governmental groups and the AARP, argue that courts should be allowed to mandate grandparental visitation rights to protect the welfare of minors. Their son’s widow contends that court-mandated visitation infringes on parental privacy. Her position is echoed by traditional religious groups and civil libertarians.

The New York Times leads with Democratic worries that the Republican Party will enjoy as much as a four-to-one soft money spending advantage in the coming election. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Sen. Robert G. Torricelli projects that the Democrats will raise less than $30 million. Torricelli says the GOP could garner $200 million. The Democratic National Committee’s campaign purse is currently one-fourth the size of the Republican Party’s roughly $10 million war chest. The DNC’s failure to amass cash is attributed to its lack of a finance chair, donors’ doubts about the party’s presidential prospects, and the dissipation of President Clinton’s fund-raising power. Party patriarchs fret that Republicans will bury Democratic candidates under an avalanche of expensive TV ads. The Times points out that the Democrats’ public pouting could be an attempt to stimulate fund raising.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is flush with cash, reports the Post in an inside item. The DCCC enters 2000 with more money than the Republican Congressional Committee. House Democrats collected more than $33 million in 1999 and still have $19 million left. House Republicans raised $48 million but spent all but about $10 million.

The NYT and the Post front John McCain’s release of more than 500 letters that he sent to federal agencies under the jurisdiction of a committee he chairs. A reefered piece in the LAT emphasizes that the document dump is an attempt to defuse the controversy over McCain’s efforts on behalf of campaign contributor Paxson Communications. McCain, who received $20,000 and the use of a corporate jet from Paxson affiliates, encouraged the Federal Communications Commission to issue a ruling on the company’s acquisition of a broadcast station. The Post underscores that McCain also intervened to assist BellSouth, which contributed plane rides and $60,000 to his political fortunes.

“Generally the letters simply urged speeded-up action rather than any specific outcome,” according to the WP. (Chatterbox argues that there is nothing wrong with a senator urging an agency to act promptly.) McCain claims only 15 letters sought help for entities that contributed more than $2,000 to his presidential coffers, but the Times points out that the campaign’s count may exclude letters written to aid Senate campaign contributors and lobbyists. A Post piece reports that most voters are unaware of the recent hullabaloo over regulatory correspondence.

A NYT front-pager explains why the Y2K threat fizzled. The World Bank and the State Department forecasted significant disruption in countries like Russia, but the experts prognosticated on the basis of poor data. They underestimated last-minute preparations and overestimated “technology dependence.” A WP “Outlook” piece attributes the undue unease to good old-fashion fear of technology.

A LAT front-pager laments the explosion of test-gaming by privileged college-bound kids. The number of students who enjoy “special accommodations” on the SAT, including extra time, rose by more than 50 percent in “recent years.” Most of the growth in learning disability adjustments, which schools approve based on a doctor’s note or psychologist’s recommendation, comes from ritzy prep and public schools. “Hundreds and perhaps thousands” of kids are taking advantage of the system.

The Times fronts Manhattan’s latest absurdity–co-op pet vetting. The luxury apartment market is so overheated that dozens of co-ops have begun to screen the pets of potential owners. Boards evaluate pet size, pedigree, training, demeanor, and appearance. Real estate agencies prepare dog biographies for board evaluation. Owners administer Valium to calm their canines before co-op scrutiny.