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McCollum spreads the money around outside Florida

Republican Rep. Bill McCollum of Longwood has taken his bid for the office of House Republican whip to the television and radio airwaves _ this time, in California.

McCollum's political action committee, Countdown to Majority, shelled out $40,000 for television ads that began airing in Sacramento and the areas north of there on Thursday. That is the district of Rep. Vic Fazio, vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The ads feature photos of Fazio, Clinton and doctors in an effort to link Fazio to Clinton's failed effort to pass a health care reform bill.

This isn't the first time McCollum's PAC has sprung for ads aimed at ousting a member of the Democratic leadership. Last month he bankrolled a week's worth of pre-primary ads in the Washington state district of House Speaker Tom Foley. Foley barely won the Sept. 20 primary with a meager 35 percent of the vote.

McCollum's largesse is not without self-interest. He is actively courting potential supporters in his campaign for the Republican leadership position currently held by Georgia's Newt Gingrich. Gingrich is all but guaranteed the Republican leader slot vacated by retiring Illinois Rep. Bob Michel.

Fazio's Republican opponent, attorney Tim LeFever, was one of more than 300 Republicans who came to Washington last month to sign the 10-point Contract with America. Since LeFever can't match Fazio's $1-million-plus campaign fund, McCollum's contributions are a welcome boost.

A spokeswoman for McCollum's PAC said he is considering running similar television spots in Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt's Missouri district.

YEAR OF THE WOMAN, PART II: While the number of women in Congress is not expected to nearly double as it did in 1992, one Washington group with the aim of increasing the number of women in government is projecting modest gains in the 1994 election.

A record 111 women are running for the House this year, topping the previous high-water mark of 106, set in 1992.

According to an analysis of 1994 races by the National Women's Political Caucus, the number of women in the House will increase from the current 47 to between 49 and 51, and the seven women in the Senate will be joined by one or two newcomers.

"Open seats made the difference for women in 1992," said Pat Reilly, a spokeswoman for the National Women's Political Caucus. Reilly attributed the high number of open seats in 1992 to a confluence of factors, including the record number of voluntary and involuntary retirements and the decennial Congressional redistricting process.

The National Women's Political Caucus analysis allows that while there are likely to be six to eight new women in the House in the next Congress, several of the 44 incumbents seeking re-election are in difficult races and several will probably lose.

Florida first-term Reps. Karen Thurman of Dunnellon and Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, both Democrats, are examples of women who benefitted from redistricting in 1992. Both face stiff Republican opposition this time around.

SHANGHAIED STAFF: With most members of Congress in their home states stumping for re-election, silence reverberates through Capitol Hill corridors, particularly since many lawmakers have taken their staff members with them to work on the campaign.

GOP Sen. Connie Mack, who is in a yawn of a race against Hugh Rodham, brother of the first lady, has even loaned one of his Washington staffers to the Florida Republican Party through the Nov. 8 election. One staffer for GOP Rep. Dan Miller of Bradenton is doing an internship in a Florida doctor's office to get a firsthand look at issues surrounding health care. Miller faces no Democratic opponent on Nov. 8.

Steven Cohen, a spokesman for Democratic Rep. Karen Thurman of Dunnellon, said that two of the congresswoman's Washington staffers are in Florida working for her campaign against drag-racing icon Don Garlits.

Under House and Senate rules, congressional members' staff are permitted to participate in political activities in their free time so long as they do not neglect "official congressional duties." Staffers also are free to work on their bosses' campaigns or engage in other political activity during their annual vacation or while taking unpaid leave.

CORRINE BROWN'S TRAVAILS: Rep. Corrine Brown has extricated herself from a legal wrangle, although it's unclear how. The first-term representative from Jacksonville has reached a settlement with a company that sued her over outstanding debts.

Airlines Reporting Co., which provides computer networks for airline reservations, filed a lawsuit against Brown in U.S. District Court in Washington on Sept. 8, the day of the Florida primaries. They charged that Brown's defunct travel agency, Gator Travel, owed the company more than $94,000.

This isn't the first time Gainesville-based Gator Travel has made headlines. The former state lawmaker paid a $5,000 fine to the Florida Ethics Commission stemming from accusations that she used state workers at the travel agency.

An attorney for Airlines Reporting confirmed that the lawsuit was dropped Sept. 21 but would not disclose details of the settlement.

Brown suffered another setback when one of the 3rd district's newspapers, the Gainesville Sun, endorsed her Republican opponent, former radio talk-show host Marc Little.

The Oct. 25 Sun editorial called Brown's vote against the North American Free Trade Agreement "baffling" and her vote against a bill that would prohibit members of Congress from receiving gifts from lobbyists "particularly grating."

Brown also was chided in the editorial for not agreeing to debate her opponent in a public forum.

VERBATIM: "It isn't because I'm trying to hog the TV, it's because it's my job."

_ Sanibel GOP Rep. Porter Goss, responding to ribbing from a guest at a GOP fund-raiser in Sarasota about why Goss had landed so much network television interview time.