Posted: Feb. 9, 2005


Who is #1? Who is 58?

If Delaware politicians competed for a prize for talking, there is no question who would be the consensus choice for it.

The winner would be U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Democrat who has been at it for six terms and more than 32 years, even if some might want to give him the award for quality and others for quantity.

Now there is proof of Biden's propensities. He emerged as the top talker not just in Delaware in 2004, but in the entire country. According to Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, Biden appeared on more Sunday talk shows last year than any other member of Congress.

More than John Kerry. More than John Edwards. More than John McCain.

Biden appeared 23 times, accommodating all the networks, by going on "This Week" on ABC, "Face the Nation" on CBS, "Fox News Sunday" on Fox, "Meet the Press" on NBC and "Late Edition" on CNN. By contrast, Kerry was on 13 times, Edwards 18 times and McCain 16 times.

The "face time," as the newspaper called it, does not include Biden's other appearances on such shows as "Hardball" or "Imus in the Morning," which Roll Call does not compile.

Surprisingly, given the size of the Delaware delegation, Biden was not its only member mentioned for a top billing in Roll Call's edition of Jan. 26.

U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle, a seven-term Republican, was the sponsor of the first bill approved in the new congressional session by the House of Representatives. It got his photo on the front page.

Castle introduced legislation that would limit the awarding of Congressional Gold Medals to two a year, halting a recent trend that has seen them escalate almost as fast as campaign contributions.

The medals, the highest civilian award from the Congress, have been given out since 1776, when the first one went to General George Washington, and Castle did not want to see their worth diluted.

"Something very disturbing happened," Castle said in a floor statement. "From 1776, when Congress created the medal, to 1904, Congress approved 47 medals. In the last 100 years, Congress awarded 86 medals, including 20 in the past decade."

Why the "Congressional Gold Medal Enhancement Act of 2005" was the first to the floor is a mystery. Castle told Roll Call that he was surprised by it himself.

In something of a footnote, Roll Call also managed to include the third member of the delegation in its coverage of the day. U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, a first-term Democrat who is up for re-election in 2006, made the paper for scheduling a campaign fund-raiser in Washington to celebrate his birthday.

Carper turned 58 on Jan. 23 and threw the party three days later, with guests invited to give $58 or $580 or to bundle $5,800.

"Nothing says 'happy birthday' quite like a little green," Roll Call wrote.

Carper got more respect from Campaigns & Elections magazine in its February edition. Columnist Ron Faucheux was projecting a list of Democratic presidential candidates for 2008. He handicapped possible contenders such as Kerry, Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean, but he also mentioned others whom he called "long shot prospects."

This roster included not only Wesley Clark, Ed Rendell and Barack Obama, but also Biden and Carper.

The reason for Delaware's double entry is known only to the columnist himself. It is also unclear whether it means that Carper's stock has gone up or Biden's has gone down.

Time's up

For almost a year, Roger D. Blevins III and Michael E. Harkins have been free while the U.S. Supreme Court sorted out the constitutionality of federal sentencing guidelines.

The court ruled in January, throttling back the weight of the guidelines by making them advisory only. Since then, sentencing for both Blevins and Harkins has been set, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, with Blevins due in court on March 10 and Harkins on March 18.

Blevins, a Democratic Party functionary, pleaded guilty Feb. 11, 2004, to helping himself to upwards of $400,000 from Biden's campaign treasury. The maximum sentence he was facing was 15 years imprisonment and $500,000 in fines.

Harkins, a former Republican secretary of state, pleaded guilty March 22, 2004,  to spending somewhere between $30,000 and $175,000 from the Delaware River & Bay Authority, where he was the executive director, for personal use. Under federal sentencing guidelines at the time, he was expected to get a prison term between five months and two years.

For Harkins, his sentencing literally does not come a day too soon. It comes the day after St. Patrick's Day, always one of his favorite times.