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The Right Toner?

A seemingly benign e-mail arrived in the inboxes of political reporters all over Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, offering up former Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael Toner as an expert able to provide analysis of the second-quarter fundraising reports for the 2008 presidential candidates, which aren’t due until July 15. [IMGCAP(1)]

The e-mail was sent from an account manager at Goodman Media International Inc., a New York-based public relations firm, and the message helpfully let

reporters know that Toner would be available to preview and react to the candidates’ reports as soon as June 30, when the fundraising period ends and numbers will begin to trickle out.

According to the e-mail, among the topics Toner could discuss:

• “Can we expect to see candidates drop out of the race?

• “Can [Arizona Sen. John] McCain [R] turn it around the second time, after a mild 1st quarter attempt?

• “Will [former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt] Romney [R] continue to surge?

• [Former Tennessee Sen.] “Fred Thompson’s [R] ‘testing the waters’ committee.”

Wait, isn’t Toner working for Thompson?

The e-mail does not mention that Toner has signed onto Thompson’s all-but-announced presidential campaign as general counsel — and that therefore he might not be the most independent voice to dissect the second-quarter numbers.

Sabrina Tanenbaum, the account manager who sent the e-mail, said she was unfamiliar with where things stood with Toner’s involvement in the Thompson effort and said the former FEC chairman had given the green light when they discussed the strategy of pitching him to talk about the upcoming reports.

She said while it was valid to question whether he could objectively discuss Thompson’s nascent campaign as an outside observer, his FEC background made him an expert on the issue of campaign financing despite his association with one of the campaigns.

“He can absolutely talk about the broader issues regarding the fundraising reports,” Tanenbaum said. “We were given permission to pitch him on the broader issues at large.”

Toner is a partner in the Washington office of the international law firm Bryan Cave LLP, where he heads the election law and government ethics practice.

Jersey Guy and a New York Gal. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) announced his support of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in the 2008 presidential race on Tuesday, saying she represents the best chance for the country to take a “new path in the world and new direction at home.”

Menendez, who issued his endorsement in both English and Spanish at a morning news conference at a Capitol Hill hotel, called Clinton “uniquely prepared and unquestionably ready” to be president.

The only Hispanic Democrat serving in the Senate, Menendez also highlighted his vote as a House Member against authorizing the Iraq War and called Clinton the leader who is best able to ultimately end the conflict. Clinton has taken considerable heat from the left wing of her party over her support of the 2002 Iraq resolution and her refusal to apologize for her vote.

Clinton now has the endorsement of 40 Senate and House Democrats.

— Lauren W. Whittington

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