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Great Scott! Crisis Averted

Alarm bells were sounded briefly within the Congressional Black Caucus this week when word spread of a fundraiser benefiting both the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and the Republican opponent of Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.). [IMGCAP(1)]

What? Why would Obama be raising money with a Republican, and one who is seeking to knock off one of his fellow CBC colleagues to boot?

Turns out that the event, a 5K run/walk with a registration fee ranging from $30 to $35, was not sanctioned by the Obama campaign — which sought to put the kibosh on it as soon as the Senator’s advisers learned about it.

It was organized by a grass-roots supporter in Georgia, who also is a backer of Deborah Honeycutt (R), Scott’s challenger. The plan was that 85 percent of the proceeds from the event would go to Obama and 15 percent to Honeycutt, who garnered 31 percent of the vote against Scott in 2006 and is running again in 2008.

The event was linked through, the campaign’s grass-roots networking Web site that allows supporters to share planned events. The page about the Georgia fundraiser has since been deleted by the campaign, which reiterated that the event was never approved or condoned in any way.

And, to be clear, Obama is wholeheartedly behind Scott. “Barack Obama supports Congressman Scott and looks forward to his continued service in Congress,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday.

However, the Illinois Senator did briefly address the issue during the CBC’s weekly meeting Wednesday, according to those in attendance.

“It wasn’t anything they were aware of. He disavowed the whole thing,” said Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.).

Davis said Obama didn’t know that the group had linked to his Web site at all until he informed his Illinois colleague. CBC Chairwoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) initially alerted Davis to the group’s activities, he said, because he is from Illinois.

“They’ve already asked them to cease and desist,” Davis said. The campaign never received funds tied to the event, which was scheduled for a TBA date and location.

“It’s not anything the Obama campaign had to do with,” Davis added.

Scott declined to discuss the incident, or Obama’s remarks to the caucus, saying only: “There’s nothing to that.”

Cops and Kids. If you’ve heard presidential candidates talking more expansively about global warming in recent weeks, it may have something to do with a push by the League of Conservation Voters to put the issue front and center, particularly in key early primary states.

Now a nonprofit organization for law enforcement officials that works to combat youth crime has taken a similar approach. The leaders of the group, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, last week wrote to all of the White House contenders, urging them to commit to funding $10 billion in new early education programs between the time they take office and the end of their first presidential term.

“We believe that the most effective way to ensure public safety and to fight crime is to ensure that kids never become criminals,” 63 police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors from states where the first five presidential nominating contests are being held — Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida — wrote to the candidates.

The group, which boasts more than 3,000 members in law enforcement and victims’ rights organizations, plans to work the issue hard in those five key states, and will issue a report card in Iowa sometime this fall, outlining the candidates’ positions.

David Kass, executive director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, said the group’s leaders “had good meetings” with most of the presidential contenders in 2004, but did not feel they came away with tangible results.

“This time, we wanted to make sure we had a specific commitment,” he said.

Just days after the group’s letters went out, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) on Monday announced her plan for for making pre-kindergarten programs universally available. The price tag: $10 billion.

If the advocacy campaign works on the presidential level, Kass said the group may try the same tactic with Congressional candidates. Although based in Washington, D.C., Fight Crime: Invest in Kids has offices in 10 states — California, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington — and is ready to unleash its grass-roots supporters across the country.

— Lauren W. Whittington, Jennifer Yachnin and Josh Kurtz

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