Thursday, December 08, 2005

Terri Schiavo's widower takes aim at politicians

Terri Schiavo's widower takes aim at politicians

By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) - Terri Schiavo's widower launched a political action committee on Wednesday aimed at defeating elected officials he accused of exploiting a tragedy for political gain by trying to block court orders that allowed his brain-damaged wife to die.

Michael Schiavo said in a news release that the group, TerriPAC, would raise money to campaign against members of Congress, mostly Republicans, who drafted and voted for legislation to intervene in the case.

Among Republicans it is targeting are Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas.

Frist, a medical doctor who appeared to diagnose Terri Schiavo on the Senate floor based on a video clip on the Internet, has said he would not run for re-election in 2006 but many believe he might run for president in 2008.

"I was a lifelong Republican before Republicans pushed the power of government into my private family decisions," Schiavo said in a statement. "And it is not so simple to forget those politicians who shamelessly sought to squeeze political leverage out of my family's most emotional hour."

The Republican National Committee did not return calls seeking comment on Schiavo's effort.

Terri Schiavo, 41, suffered massive and irreversible brain damage during a cardiac arrest in 1990 and died on March 31 this year after a prolonged court battle between her husband and her parents, who wanted her to be kept alive.

The Florida courts granted Michael Schiavo's request to honor what he said were his wife's wishes and halt the tube-feeding that had kept her alive for 15 years.

The decision prompted a fevered public battle over the right to die and government jurisdiction in what the courts had traditionally treated as a family medical decision.

Urged on by conservative Christian supporters, the Republican-led U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush rushed back from vacation in March to enact last-ditch legislation giving the federal courts authority to intervene, which they declined to do.

Michael Schiavo, a nurse who now works at the Pinellas County Jail in Florida, on Wednesday described the Congressional intervention as "a sickening exercise in raw political power."

He teamed with the November Group, a campaign management company in Coral Gables, Florida, that generally works for Democrats, to launch his PAC and set up a Web site,

Political action committees are private but regulated bodies organized to promote or oppose candidates or legislation. Schiavo's PAC was first disclosed by the Web site