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Schiavo not done in end-of-life fights

His PAC will oppose politicians who "lost respect for marriage, family and . . . privacy."

By ADAM C. SMITH
Published December 8, 2005


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 Wednesday. "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 Schiavo controversy already had emerged as a political issue. Polls showed voters overwhelmingly supporting Michael Schiavo's position in the debate, and Democrats in Florida and elsewhere routinely bring up Schiavo to cast the GOP as out of touch.

Still, Michael Schiavo remains a lightning rod, and news of his new political activism drew disgust from his critics.

"Michael Schiavo's starvation of Terri Schiavo represented the ultimate triumph of social Darwinism. Not content merely to succeed in depriving his wife of the right to life, he now seeks to put at risk other frail and vulnerable people," said Ken Connor, a lawyer who worked closely with Gov. Jeb Bush to try to keep Schiavo alive. "It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which the strong are willing to exploit the weak for their own purposes."

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, leaders 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 tube.

"Those politicians lost a basic respect for marriage, family and personal privacy," Schiavo said.

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."

Another political committee is planned to concentrate on state races in Florida.

TerriPAC will request donations through its Internet site (www.TerriPAC.org) which also will provide information on how members of Congress voted on the Schiavo bill and what they said on the issue. The site also will encourage people to obtain living wills.

The PAC can donate money to some candidates, but likely will focus more on independent advertising, much the way the left wing political group MoveOn.org operates, said Derek Newton, a Democratic consultant working with Schiavo.

This is not Michael Schiavo's first foray into politics. Earlier this year, he endorsed Tim Kaine, a Democrat who won the Virginia governor's race and whose opponent supported federal intervention in the Schiavo case.

"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."

Newton said there are no plans for Schiavo to earn any money from his political committee and that he has no plans to pursue a political career.

"Remember that the concerted effort to smear him was overwhelming," warned Tony Welch, a Democratic consultant in Washington. "The governor launched a criminal investigation, and he was bashed nighly on TV. The issue resonates, but it's a very good question how badly damaged Michael was politically."

The campaigns of the major Democratic gubernatorial candidates, state Sen. Rod Smith and U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, both said they would welcome Schiavo's support. Smith and Davis vocally opposed legislative efforts to force the reinsertion of Schiavo's feeding tubes.

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

[Last modified December 8, 2005, 00:49:13]


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