Hil­lary backed lab of donor; Wat­son gave to cam­paign

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jim McElhatton

Law­mak­ers, in­clud­ing Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, have taken thou­sands in cam­paign cash from an em­bat­tled No­bel-prize win­ning sci­en­tist while ear­mark­ing fed­eral money for his New York lab.

Mrs. Clin­ton and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, also a New York Demo­crat, re­quested a $900,000 ear­mark in June for the Cold Spring Har­bor Lab­o­ra­tory, where James D. Wat­son served as chan­cel­lor be­fore re­sign­ing two weeks ago af­ter apol­o­giz­ing for com­ments that sug­gested that peo­ple de­scend­ing from Africa aren’t as in­tel­li­gent as those from Europe.

Fed­eral cam­paign fil­ings show that Mr. Wat­son has do­nated more than $70,000 to can­di­dates and their po­lit­i­cal causes, in­clud­ing a to­tal of $3,000 to Mrs. Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign on May 17 and June 25. Two days later, a Se­nate com­mit­tee re­port showed that Mrs. Clin­ton and Mr. Schumer ear­marked $900,000 for the lab.

The ma­jor­ity of Mr. Wat­son’s do­na­tions over the years have gone to Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Demo­crat, who has re­ceived more than $30,000 from the sci­en­tist, records show. Mr. Harkin is chair­man of the Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee on la­bor, health, hu­man ser­vices and ed­u­ca­tion.

Phillippe Reines, a spokesman for Mrs. Clin­ton, yes­ter­day re­ferred all ques­tions about the ear­mark to Mr. Harkin’s of­fice but added that there was no con­nec­tion be­tween po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions and the ear­mark.

“One thing had noth­ing to do with the other,” he said.

Mrs. Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign has re­turned nearly $1.3 mil­lion to hun­dreds of donors since July 1, in­clud­ing more than $800,000 tied to dis­graced one-time fugi­tive Norman Hsu. The to­tal fig­ure is more than triple the re­turned do­na­tions for the rest of the Demo­cratic field com­bined.

A spokes­woman for Mr. Harkin on Oct. 29 said the ear­mark is not likely to move ahead, partly be­cause of the furor over Mr. Wat­son.

“There will be an over­all re­duc­tion in ear­marks from the Se­nate bill as we go to con­fer­ence, and it was jointly de­cided by sen­a­tors that in view of re­cent news, this project should not be in­cluded,” said Harkin spokes­woman Jen­nifer Mullin.

She said that Mr. Harkin has “his­tor­i­cally been a sup­porter” of the lab but that po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions played no part in the de­ci­sion to ear­mark funds.

“The chair­man’s sup­port for spend­ing in his bill is based on merit,” she said. “He has been par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in the lab­o­ra­tory’s work in­ves­ti­gat­ing the prob­a­bil­ity of ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion to­ward can­cer in women and the pos­si­ble ge­netic un­der­pin­nings of autism.”

Mes­sages left for Mr. Wat­son at the lab were not re­turned.

Mr. Wat­son won the No­bel prize in 1962 for co-dis­cov­er­ing the struc­ture of DNA. For nearly 40 years, he worked at the lab and helped trans­form it from a “small fa­cil­ity” into “one of the world’s great ed­u­ca­tion and re­search in­sti­tu­tions,” ac­cord­ing to the lab’s an­nounce­ment of Mr. Wat­son’s re­tire­ment two weeks ago.

Ear­lier this month, Mr. Wat­son told the Sun­day Times that he was “in­her­ently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” be­cause “all our so­cial poli­cies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the test­ing says not re­ally.” He also told the Lon­don news­pa­per that al­though he be­lieved in racial equal­ity as a goal, “peo­ple who have to deal with black em­ploy­ees find this not true.”

Al­though he mostly sup­ported Democrats, Mr. Wat­son gave $2,500 to the Repub­li­can Lead­er­ship Coun­cil in 2003 and $1,000 to the New York Repub­li­can Fed­eral Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. He also gave more than $8,000 to Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, New York Demo­crat, who helped se­cure a $1.5 mil­lion ear­mark for the lab last year.

The Se­nate ear­mark to the Cold Spring lab was di­rected for women’s can­cer re­search. Mrs. Clin­ton and Mr. Schumer made a sim­i­lar $900,000 ear­mark for the lab in 2006.

This year’s ear­mark was one of 403 spe­cial-in­ter­est spend­ing pro­vi­sions that sen­a­tors have in­serted into the 2008 bud­get of the Health Re­sources and Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion (HRSA), a fed­eral agency charged with pro­vid­ing health care to the poor and unin­sured.

Ear­marks are a way for law­mak­ers to fund spe­cial-in­ter­est projects. Of­ten re­ferred to as “pork,” the prac­tice has at­tracted crit­i­cism from gov­ern­ment watch­dog groups.

Les­lie K. Paige, spokes­woman for Cit­i­zens Against Gov­ern­ment Waste, said there’s noth­ing in the law that pre­vents ben­e­fi­cia­ries of ear­marks from do­nat­ing cam­paign money to politi­cians re­spon­si­ble for fund­ing the projects.

“It’s com­pletely le­gal, but it can make tax­pay­ers cyn­i­cal,” she said.

Ear­marks re­cently sur­faced as an is­sue in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. A television ad by Repub­li­can Sen. John McCain chided Mrs. Clin­ton for ear­mark­ing $1 mil­lion for a mu­seum in New York on the Wood­stock con­cert, which the Se­nate later killed.

Among other HRSA ear­marks, Repub­li­can Sen. Arlen Specter of Penn­syl­va­nia was re­spon­si­ble for 74 of the 403 Se­nate ear­marks, al­though most were small grants — in the $100,000 range. Mr. Specter’s of­fice de­clined to com­ment other than to for­ward a copy of a Se­nate speech ear­lier this month in which he states that “health is our No. 1 as­set.”

Ear­lier this month, The Wash­ing­ton Times re­ported that sen­a­tors have ear­marked more than $40 mil­lion through HRSA to fund health care projects at univer­si­ties and col­leges they’ve at­tended.

But a re­cent pro­gram as­sess­ment by the U.S. De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices and the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get has raised ques­tions about past years’ con­gres­sional HRSA ear­marks, which more than dou­bled from 451 in 2003 to 932 in 2005.

“Ear­marked projects of­ten serve lo­cal in­ter­ests and do not ful­fill na­tional pri­or­i­ties or needs,” the as­sess­ment stated. “The HRSA ear­marks awarded to univer­si­ties or other re­search in­sti­tu­tions are not based on sci­en­tific merit or any com­pet­i­tive process.”

Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton

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