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Mack stands by Miami appointee for U.S. attorney

Despite controversy surrounding acting U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen of Miami, Sen. Connie Mack, R-Fla., continues to support him, the senator's aides said last week. The White House reportedly has delayed nominating Lehtinen in the wake of reports that he is prone to domestic violence and temper tantrums. Lehtinen is a holdover appointee from the Reagan administration. He must be formally appointed by President Bush and then confirmed by the Senate.

"I certainly do support him," Mack told reporters several weeks ago, adding that the prosecutor's former wife had rebutted the allegations.

Some Republicans are concerned about the potential for a highly charged confirmation fight in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The nomination is all the more important because Lehtinen's office will help prosecute former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega.

Florida's other senator, Democrat Bob Graham, has not taken a public position on Lehtinen. However, Graham wants the White House to act promptly so the position can be filled as soon as possible.

Graham "says that the administration ought to nominate someone because this mystery and delay serves no one's purpose," said Ken Klein, spokesman for the senator.

Short takes

Rep. Larry Smith, a Hollywood, Fla., Democrat, spent $35,864 of his campaign money on a fund-raiser aboard the SeaEscape cruise ship last November. The expenses, which Smith disclosed last month in his campaign finance report, included $3,664 to print notices about the trip and another $32,220 for the cruise itself. The event was attended by 1,000 people, a Smith spokesman said. Elections law permits such expenditures, according to a spokesman for the Federal Elections Commission.

As a sign of the split in the Republican Party over abortion, a group of Washington-area abortion-rights advocates has formed a political fund-raising committee to support GOP candidates who favor abortion rights. The Pro-Choice America political action committee plans to send letters soliciting dollars for state candidates in the 1990 elections, officials with the group said. The GOP platform opposes abortion, but in the last few months Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater has said the party is a "big tent" that is open to all views on the subject.

Add several more thousand dollars to the previously reported $165,600 that the financially troubled CenTrust Savings Bank and its executives gave to the politicians who had influence over its future. The Miami-based S&L, seized by regulators Feb. 2, gave at least $20,000 to a private institute named after Sen. Jake Garn of Utah, who is the senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. The Miami Herald says others who benefited from CenTrust's largess included: Sen. Graham, who in 1987 hopped a flight on a jet that he later found out to be owned by CenTrust, and Florida Comptroller Gerald Lewis, the state's banking regulator, who got $17,000 for his 1986 campaign and CenTrust's help with raising more money.

A judicial advisory commission set up by Sen. Mack will soon be seeking applicants for the vacancy created by the death of U.S. District Judge George Carr of Tampa. The opening will be advertised in the Florida Bar News March 1, and the applications will be due by March 16. The commission, which picks three names to be forwarded to the Justice Department, expects to interview candidates in mid-April.

_ Times staff writer David Dahl compiled this report.