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Schiavo forms watchdog PAC

The political action committee will inform voters where politicians stand on end of life issues and promote living wills.

By ADAM C. SMITH
Published December 7, 2005


Michael Schiavo

Terri Schiavo

Michael Schiavo wants to make sure voters don't forget Terri Schiavo.

The husband of the Pinellas County woman who became the focus of a national end-of-life controversy has started a political action committee to keep the heat on politicians who tried to intervene in the case and fight his efforts to remove her feeding tube.

"The easiest thing would be to move on and let the headlines fade," Schiavo said in a statement. "But my experience with our political leaders has opened my eyes to just how easily the private wishes of normal Americans like me and Terri can be cast aside in the destructive game of political pandering. The best way to hold them accountable is to make sure voters know where the candidates stand when they come looking for votes next November."

Terri Schiavo died on March 31 after a 15-year legal battle over whether she should be kept alive on feeding tubes. Most doctors said she was in a persistent vegetative state, but her parents wanted to keep her alive in hopes she would recover. Michael insisted she did not want to be kept alive in such a condition.

When courts consistently ruled in his favor, politicians in Tallahassee and Washington tried to step in to keep her alive. President Bush cut short a vacation in Texas last year to join more than 200 members of Congress who passed legislation designed to force the reinsertion of her feeding tubes.

"Those politicians lost a basic respect for marriage, family and personal privacy," Schiavo said. "Their blind obstruction of my wife's wishes and the legal courts orders that enforced them was a sickening exercise in raw political power."

The new federal PAC, TerriPAC, will raise money to "educate voters on where their elected officials stood when they had a choice between individual freedom and personal privacy and overreaching government action."

It may donate money to some candidates for office, but likely will focus more on independent advertising much like the political group MoveOn.org operates.

This is not Michael Schiavo's first direct involvement with politics. Earlier this year, he issued an endorsement of Tim Kaine, a Democrat who won the Virginia governor's race and whose opponent said he supported federal intervention in the Schiavo case.

Derek Newton, a Miami-based political consultant working with Schiavo, said the Clearwater man had no plans to pursue a political career of his own but that his PAC could prove to be a powerful political force. Polls showed voters overwhelmingly supported Michael Schiavo's position in the case.

While politicians from both parties supported intervention in the Schiavo case, Republicans led the effort, including Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez.

"It would be easy to dismiss my actions as partisan. But I was a lifelong Republican before Republicans pushed the power of government into my private family decisions," Schiavo said. "And it is not so simple to forget those politicians who shamelessly sought to squeeze political leverage out of my family's most emotional hour."

TerriPAC will request donations through its Internet site (www.TerriPAC.org) which also will encourage citizens to obtain living wills and help voters learn how their own members of Congress voted, what they said on the Schiavo issue.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at 727 893-8241 or adam@sptimes.com

[Last modified December 7, 2005, 14:27:43]


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