Saturday, December 5, 1998

Linda Lingle’s refusal
to top spending limit

THE reports are in on spending in the last election campaign. What do you know: Ben Cayetano spent a lot more in his successful bid for re-election as governor than his Republican challenger, Linda Lingle. Cayetano spent a Hawaii record $4.85 million, Lingle $3.2 million. Yet despite spending well over $1.5 million more than Lingle, Cayetano squeaked through with only 5,000 more votes than his opponent.

Lingle's report showed that her campaign had more than $470,000 in her treasury on election day. The disclosure prompted speculation that she might have defeated Cayetano if she had spent that money in the closing days of the campaign. In the last two weeks, Cayetano spent nearly $740,000 to Lingle's $440,000, outspending her by 67 percent. While the Cayetano camp was blanketing the newspapers and TV stations with its paid messages, Lingle could do little to match them.

Lingle explains that she was determined to abide by her pledge to respect the spending limit to qualify for state funding even though she had returned $136,000 to the state after inadvertently exceeding the spending limit for the primary election.

Four years ago the Cayetano campaign also exceeded the spending limit but found a pretext to avoid returning the state funds. This time the Cayetano people falsely claimed that Lingle had intentionally violated the limit.

It's hardly surprising that Cayetano collected and spent more on his campaign. That's been the story for decades here. The Democrats are the political establishment and they can count on the unions and the legions of business executives who do business with the state to fill their campaign war chests. Cayetano touts himself as an advocate of change but his financial support comes from the beneficiaries of the status quo.

What is surprising is to find a candidate with the integrity to stick by her vow to abide by voluntary spending limits after returning the state money that was tied to the limits -- even though that was not required by law and the decision may have cost her the election.


Breast implants

A court-appointed panel of scientists has concluded that there is no credible evidence that silicone-gel breast implants cause disease. That finding is likely to have a major impact on lawsuits against implant manufacturers.

The panel of three women and one man reviewed hundreds of studies of breast implants for the U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Ala., which is overseeing consolidated lawsuits against three implant makers. The report will guide the court in deciding what scientific evidence to allow in suits against Bristol-Myers Squibb, 3M Corp. and Baxter International. The findings are bound to affect lawsuits in other courts as well.

Plaintiffs' attorneys played down the significance of the findings, contending that future studies may yet find a link between implants and disease. They also noted that the panel did not address the consequences of gel implants that rupture.

However, the report clearly was a setback for attempts to extract damages from the manufacturers and should encourage plaintiffs to accept settlement offers. It also may provide confidence to implant recipients who have not sued but are worried about their health.

More than a million American women have received silicone-gel implants since they were introduced in the 1960s and hundreds of thousands have joined in class-action lawsuits against the implant makers. The Food and Drug Administration restricted use of the implants in 1992 because of health concerns.

The latest report, although authoritative, is not likely to end the controversy. The National Cancer Institute is now conducting a study of implant safety involving 13,500 women who received implants between 1960 and 1988 that could provide additional information. And implant opponents aren't giving up.

However, at this point the weight of the evidence seems to favor the conclusion that silicone-gel implants are safe.


Bill Bradley's bid

BILL Bradley's decision to form a committee to explore prospects for a presidential candidacy in 2000 is evidence that Al Gore will have to fight for the Democratic nomination. After gaining recognition as a star basketball player in both collegiate and professional ranks, Bradley served three terms in the Senate from New Jersey but did not seek re-election in 1996.

One of the most respected figures in Congress during his 18 years in the Senate, Bradley had a mostly liberal record but developed a reputation as an independent thinker. He was no cheerleader for the Clinton administration. This lack of ties to the White House could be an advantage in a battle with Vice President Gore if public opinion turns against the president.

Having spent two years away from the Washington limelight may have cost Bradley some name recognition. Moreover, in his last bid for public office, in 1990, he barely won re-election to the Senate in a battle with Christine Whitman, who was then little known although she subsequently was elected governor. That close call may have dissuaded Bradley from seeking the presidency in 1992, when he was far better known than the winner of the Democratic nomination, Bill Clinton.

Bradley isn't likely to be the only challenger to Gore. Other possible contenders for the nomination include House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri, Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone. Gore would have to be rated the favorite at this point, but there is a long way to go to the Democratic convention. Bradley's move suggests that Gore's nomination is far from being a cinch.

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