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For Rep. McCollum, Clinton impeachment is a matter of pride

By ADAM C. SMITH

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 26, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum never mentions his leading role in the impeachment of President Clinton in his stump speeches, but the voters he addresses invariably bring it up.

The Republican U.S. Senate candidate's appearance before the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club onTuesday was no different.

"Did you give any serious thought to the fate of the nation if you'd been successful?" asked Harry Hill of St. Petersburg.

"I certainly gave a lot of thought to what was most important to me at the time, and that was ... the constitutional process and the rule of law prevailing, and that no man is above the law," McCollum answered. "I'm proud of what I did. I don't campaign on it, but I'm proud of it."

A divisive, partisan issue like Clinton's impeachment is hardly the sort of thing a candidate wants to emphasize in a general election. But as one of the highest profile House Republican impeachment managers, McCollum is growing accustomed to running neither on his impeachment role, nor running away from it.

Public opinion polls, including those in Florida, showed solid opposition to impeachment, which may be why McCollum calls impeachment a non-issue in his race against Democratic Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson. At the same time, when asked about it, he sounds anything but defensive.

"Honesty and integrity do matter," he said at a Saturday St. Petersburg forum after Pinellas sheriff's candidate Tom McKeon applauded him for standing his "moral ground."

At Tuesday's Tiger Bay meeting at the Mirror Lake Lyceum, McCollum said he is the best equipped to continue the conservative, "mainstream" path set by the retiring Connie Mack, and he said he has the experience and knowledge for a "running start" fighting for Florida's interests.

The 20-year veteran House member from Longwood said he would work to give Florida a greater share of federal dollars and increase local control over the spending of federal money.

He would spend two-thirds of the projected federal budget surplus paying off debt and spend the remainder shoring up Medicare and Social Security, building up the defense and cutting taxes.

McCollum advocates eliminating capital gains, estate and marriage penalty taxes, and he wants to move the country to a flat rate income tax, keeping only mortgage or charitable donation deductions.

He took some ribbing about a St. Petersburg Times story Tuesday on a potential conflict of interest involving a stock holding in McCollum's investment portfolio and a bankruptcy bill he helped craft. McCollum owns about $15,000 in Global Crossing, a company that has invested in a wireless communications company that would directly benefit from a proposed provision in the bill.

McCollum told the Times he had no idea his stock holding had even an indirect connection to the bill, and that he had bought the stock based on a tip in an investment newsletter.

"I never allow anything (personal) to interfere with my congressional decisionmaking," he told the Tiger Bay crowd.

Tiger Bay member Ken Burke had introduced McCollum, noting McCollum has lost tens of thousands of dollars with his aggressive stock speculating. "I don't think Congressman McCollum will be giving out any stocks tips," Burke quipped.

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