Skip to main content /POLITICS

Keep your plutonium; get me Karl Rove!

Keep your plutonium; get me Karl Rove!

By Michael Weisskopf

Could $100 million, six tons of plutonium and a single phone call from Karl Rove help Republicans win back the Senate this fall? To Rove, the President's top political aide, it might just turn out to be the deal of the year. The story begins in Colorado, where Republican Senator Wayne Allard, who is running for re-election, got the Bush Administration to jump-start a plan to remove plutonium from a federal facility there and ship it to South Carolina, starting this month. That's good politics for Allard--but bad for Representative Lindsey Graham, who is running for the Senate in South Carolina. When Graham asked Washington to pay a fine of $1 million for every day the plutonium remains unprocessed in the state after a specified date, White House budget chief Mitch Daniels refused to go along, sources tell TIME.


That's when Graham went nuclear himself, publicly threatening to join a campaign by local Democrats to block the shipments with armed troopers. That, plus Graham's reputation as a maverick, got the White House's attention. Rove stepped in, calling Graham two weeks ago and okaying a deal that would cap any fines at $100 million a year, sources say. Graham is now working with Daniels' aides to codify the deal into law. Then the plutonium will move, two Republican Senate candidates will get what they want and so will Rove.




Back to the top