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Arlen Specter's in a bit of hot water

| Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006

These are not the best of days for Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter.

Not only does his good buddy and fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum continue to trail his Democrat opponent, Bob Casey Jr. , in the polls. Specter also was forced to acknowledge last week that the FBI is investigating whether one of his aides illegally helped her lobbyist husband get federal money for his clients.

Specter provided The Associated Press with a letter the FBI sent to his office in August stating staff member Vicki Siegel Herson is under investigation for allegations that first surfaced in a USA Today report in February.

According to USA Today, Specter helped direct $48.7 million in spending over the past five years to clients of Michael Herson. At the time, Vicki Siegel Herson was Specter's legislative assistant for appropriations.

Specter has said the institutions that ultimately got the money were represented by people not associated with Herson. The senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee has denied violating Senate ethics rules.

DON'T FORGET TO REGISTER. Political candidates should always remember to register every conceivable Internet domain containing their names and the offices they are seeking.

Just ask Republican U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood of Lackawanna County.

Sherwood gained notoriety last year when reports surfaced police had investigated a 2004 altercation in his Washington apartment between the congressman and his mistress, Cynthia Ore.

Criminal charges were never filed, but Ore later filed a lawsuit -- eventually settled for an undisclosed sum -- alleging that Sherwood had choked her.

Sherwood's dwindling number of supporters in his race against Democrat Chris Carney might go to the www.sherwoodforcongress.com Web site thinking they would find information on how to contribute to the campaign.

Nope. The domain name was registered by an anonymous Carney supporter.

It contains a link to the police report filed in connection with the Ore incident -- facetiously dubbed "the final back rub." Another link will take you to Ore's entry on the Wikipedia Internet open-source encyclopedia.

Yet another link lets you rate Ore's appearance on the Hot or Not Internet site.

The anti-Sherwood site also contains a "Kid's Corner," which states:

"Hey kids, Don Sherwood is an awesome role model. He is a powerful guy in Washington, D.C., where power makes it totally OK to hurt people sometimes. It's true. Ask your parents."

In retrospect, Sherwood probably wishes he had made the effort to purchase the sherwoodforcongress name before someone else did.

BIG BLACKTOP DROP. Pittsburgh's street paving program appears to be a bit on the selective side.

Eyebrows were raised in Stanton Heights, for example, when one of the few thoroughfares in that neighborhood recently resurfaced was Fairfield Street.

Among Fairfield Street's residents is a woman named Ruth Zober . If the Zober name seems to ring a bell, it's probably because Yarone Zober, her son, is Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's newly appointed chief of staff.

Just down the street from Ruth Zober lives Bill Klimovich. He happens to be the assistant director of environmental services in the city public works department -- you know, the department that oversees the street resurfacing program.

We're fairly sure Fairfield badly needed repaving, and we're equally certain Zober and Klimovich living on the street had absolutely nothing to do with it being resurfaced. What do you think we are, cynics?

A HIGHLY BENIGN WHINE. Diana Irey didn't like the message. So of course the Washington County commissioner and Republican congressional candidate took a shot at the messenger.

Irey, who is running against veteran Democrat incumbent John Murtha of Johnstown in the 12th Congressional District, whined mightily after viewing the results of a Trib poll last week showing Murtha with a commanding lead.

We can't blame her for being upset. The poll, conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research of Harrisburg, showed Murtha ahead of Irey, 57 percent to 30 percent. Eleven percent were undecided, 1 percent didn't prefer either candidate and 1 percent refused to respond.

In other words, Irey is going to lose the election next month.

Rather than graciously accept the impending defeat, the Irey campaign instead issued a news release questioning the poll's methodology -- a common course taken by candidates who are about to lose an election.

Seems to us that if Susquehanna had a habit of using questionable methodology, then the company probably would not have attracted as past clients the American Lung Association, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, National Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Pennsylvania Coal Association, Seven Springs Mountain Resort, etc.

We could go on, but we think you get the point.

AT LEAST NO FISTICUFFS. State GOP chair Rob Gleason of Cambria County and Irey broke bread together -- sort of.

Gleason, who hails from Murtha's hometown, drew criticism from Irey and others statewide after he gave an interview lauding the accomplishments of Murtha.

Gleason and Irey spoke at a Republican dinner this month. However, the two were not seated together, nor did reporters see them kiss and make up.

Westmoreland County Republicans hoped the get-together would be a first step toward reconciliation.

BAND BOX TO BALLOT BOX. Recently retired Hempfield Area High School band director Rod Booker could be returning to the limelight.

Booker, according to friends, is contemplating a challenge in 2008 to embattled state Sen. Robert Regola , a first-term Republican from Hempfield Township.

Booker, a Democrat, retired last June after 35 years with the district.

"I'm enjoying retirement right now," Booker said.

"Some people approached me about it, but I'm not a politician. I've thought about it. I'm going to continue thinking about it and I haven't yet ruled it out," Booker said.

Let the sub sales begin!

NO CHANGE. The Greensburg Democratic Committee re-elected Steve Thomas , a Greensburg-Salem school director, as chairman and Karen Stepanovich as vice chairman.

NO TOEING PARTY LINE. No one can accuse Joe Hardy , Fayette County commissioner and 84 Lumber Co. founder, of being a hard-headed partisan.

The Republican Hardy, the City of Uniontown, and Commercial Center Associates, a downtown Uniontown real estate and community development company, are holding a press conference and rally to support the works of incumbent Gov. Ed Rendell, 1 p.m. Monday at Storey Square.

Rendell is a Democrat opposed by Republican Lynn Swann.

-- compiled by Tribune-Review staff

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