In a USA Today Op-Ed. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) writes, "When Jimmie Rucker left his job as an engineer to start his own [MA] barbecue joint about 18 months ago, he thought the test of his business plan might be the heat of his spicy sauce -- not his high heating costs. But this winter, Rucker's natural-gas bills for Boneyard Barbeque have soared 50%. If this keeps up, Rucker may not be able to afford the gas to fuel his grills and smokers -- and if that happens, his business could disappear quicker than a plate of juicy ribs. ... Since the weather turned cold, the phones of the Senate's Small Business Committee have been swamped by calls from the owners of thousands of small businesses -- restaurants, greenhouses, medical labs, apartment buildings -- in dire financial situations because of huge heating bills. ... The answer is to expand the Small Business Administration's economic-injury disaster loans to include small businesses adversely affected by increases in the prices of heating oil, propane, kerosene and natural gas. ... Small-business disaster loans are pro-business public policy -- and pro-consumer policy, too. We should use them to help hard-working American small businesses -- the engines of our economy -- before they run out of fuel" (2/28).

CORRECTION JUNCTION

The Lowell Sun ran a correction 2/27 on a story published 2/25. The original story attributed comments to Sen. John Kerry that "were made by others in attendance" (2/27). The comments had to do with whether Kerry would have helped Gore carry NH had Kerry been the VP nominee (see Hotline, 2/26).

FROM NOW ON, HE'S OFFICIALLY A WH "HOPEFUL"

In a release, with the sub-head "Bill Nelson of Florida and Presidential Hopeful John Kerry of Massachusetts Headline Event," the GA Dem Party announced that Kerry will be the keynote speaker at the party's Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, to be held today, 3/1, in Atlanta. DSCC Vice Chair Bill Nelson will also address the dinner (release, 2/28).