Monday, April 07, 2008
Former GOP congressman considering Libertarian presidential bid
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Republican congressman Bob Barr is hinting strongly that he’ll jump into the presidential race as a Libertarian.Barr, 59, who left the GOP in 2006 over what he called bloated spending and civil liberties intrusions by the Bush administration, is expected to make an announcement Saturday at a Libertarian conference in Kansas City.Should he run, Barr might sap votes from Republican John McCain, but whether it would be enough to alter the outcome of the presidential vote in any state was uncertain.In a phone interview Friday, Barr wouldn’t divulge his plans. But in response to widespread speculation that he will announce he is forming an exploratory committee, he said, “I do not intend to waste anybody’s time that’s there.”A former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, Barr served eight years as a Republican congressman from Georgia before losing his seat in 2002 after a redistricting.When he announced he was joining the Libertarian Party in 2006, he said he had become disillusioned with Republicans’ failure to cut government spending and with post-Sept. 11 erosions in civil liberty protections. He has been particularly critical of President Bush over the war in Iraq and says the government is endorsing torture and illegally spying on U.S. citizens.He currently runs a lobbying and public affairs firm with offices in Atlanta and outside Washington.His clients have included the American Civil Liberties Union and the Marijuana Policy Project, a group pushing Congress to allow medical marijuana use and to cut spending for what it says are failed anti-drug media campaigns aimed at young people. Barr also holds the 21st Century Liberties Chair for Freedom and Privacy at the American Conservative Union Foundation and is a board member of the National Rifle Association.In the 1990s, he became a darling of conservatives for his persistent attacks on President Clinton. He was among the first to press for impeaching Clinton and helped manage House Republicans’ impeachment case before the Senate.Even out of office, he has proven to be an effective fundraiser. He maintains a political action committee he formed as a congressman. In the current two-year election cycle, he has raised more than $1.2 million, spending most of it on direct mail. His staff said the mailings are intended to spread his “message of liberty.”Andrew Davis, a national Libertarian Party spokesman, said the party is eagerly anticipating Barr’s speech.”We’re really excited about what could come tomorrow,” he said. “We would be thrilled to have him run for the nomination.”The party, which generally advocates smaller government, holds its national convention in May in Denver. Sixteen candidates already are seeking the nomination, Davis said. But some of them could switch to seeking the vice presidential ticket if Barr gets in the race, Davis predicted.Among the other Libertarian presidential candidates is Mike Gravel, a former Democratic senator from Alaska who recently dropped out of the Democratic presidential race and became a Libertarian.