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''I didn't— I swear I didn't— get into politics to feather my nest or feather my friends' nests. . . .''
—Texas Governor George W. Bush

Boy George
Dad's Aides, Past Deals Haunt Texas Governor

Capitol Hill scouts for Texas governor George W. Bush are fending off tired retainers from his father's administration in the wake of young George's emergence as Republican presidential front-runner. People like George Shultz, Reagan's secretary of state, and Jim Baker, secretary of state under George W. 's father, want to get in on the early action as polls show Bush clobbering Al Gore in 2000.

What Bush's backers really dread is the appearance of Roger Stone and Charles Black, seasoned GOP hired guns who would likely scare away the true-blue right-wingers needed for combat duty in the early primaries. To calm this rank and file, Bush has been hosting right-wingers like Andy Messing of the National Defense Council Foundation, who advised the governor to use foreign-policy issues— like defense, drug interdiction, Muslim extremism— to bridge divisions between social conservatives and free-market supporters. In addition, Bush reportedly has retained Ralph Reed as an adviser. (A Reed aide said he had no "formal role" in the Bush campaign, adding, "They've known each other as friends, but that's the extent of their relationship.")

Meanwhile, beyond overtures to Latino voters, Bush has been trying out moves to attract a wider following. Just before the election, he sided with environmentalists to kill a proposed nuclear waste dump near the Mexican border in West Texas. But just as people began to think he might not be so bad on the environment after all, the media revealed that sending that dump to the trash heap helped make an alternative site to the northeast more appealing. It is partially owned by a key Bush supporter, Harold Simmons.

In fact, Bush's trail to political stardom has been marked by one creepy deal after another:

Critics claim the governor mentioned his famous father to help a company with which he was involved get exclusive offshore drilling rights from Bahrain. The Wall Street Journal reported that Bush's firm had "never drilled a single well overseas or in water." (Bush vehemently denied his using his father's influence.)

In 1988, he raised eyebrows by lobbying Argentina on behalf of a proposed Enron pipeline, again invoking Dad's name. Enron was headed by Bush family friend and Republican bankroller Ken Lay.

During Bush's first term as governor, the Houston Chronicle questioned deals that benefited Richard Rainwater, a Fort Worth billionaire and prominent Bush backer, including state buildings sold at prices alleged to be below marked value to Rainwater's company.

"I didn't— I swear I didn't— get into politics to feather my nest or feather my friends' nests," Bush insisted. "Any insinuation that I have used my office to help my friends is simply not true."


Saddam Stand-Down
The U.S.'s Secret Affair With the Evil Dictator

Even as war clouds come and go over Baghdad, the Bush family— including George W., who cut his teeth in the oil business in the Gulf— understands all too well that the U.S. really needs Saddam Hussein.

Over the last two decades, the U.S. has used Saddam to counter radical Shiite Muslims in Iran. Without Saddam, Iraq could fall apart, with the Kurds in the north moving decisively to form their own country, thereby destabilizing Turkey, an important U.S. ally. The Shiites in the south could easily link up with Iran. Such changes would threaten the U.S.'s Mideast oil supply.

bbb During the 1980s, Washington financed Saddam throughout Iraq's war with Iran, sending arms to the evil dictator through third parties. His demise would still spell disaster for the U.S., which explains why this country never has seriously tried to kill him— instead putting out stories about scouring the country in search of his bunker. Now the administration is floating the prospect of a U.S. ground force separating Kuwait and Iraq.

The best way for the U.S. to show continuing support for Saddam is through continued sanctions— which is exactly what Clinton promised last November when Saddam broke off inspections.

"What he has just done is to ensure that the sanctions will be there until the end of time, or as long as he lasts," Clinton declared at the time.


Gore Gate
Chattanooga Chum Eyed in Justice Probe

Monica notwithstanding, both Clinton and Al Gore face serious problems if the Justice Department goes ahead with an inquiry into 1996 campaign-finance irregularities. A decision is due early next month. Meanwhile, a federal grand jury has indicted Chattanooga land developer and Gore bud Franklin L. Haney on charges he illegally funneled $79,500 into Clinton -Gore campaigns in 1992 and 1996, and $20,000 into the 1994 races of two other Tennessee Democrats.

The 42-count indictment charges that Haney paid dozens of people, including employees, to write $1000 checks to Clinton-Gore as well as for the reelection of Jim Sasser (now ambassador to China), and the Senate race of former congressman (now stockbroker) Jim Cooper, who ran unsuccessfully for Gore's old Senate seat. According to the complaint, Haney then reimbursed them. Haney denied any wrongdoing. The Justice Department said none of the candidates who got money were aware of the allegedly illegal contributions.

The department claims Haney was asked for $50,000 in 1995 for the Clinton-Gore campaign. At the time, he was trying to get a lease deal with the government for his Portals office complex in southwest Washington. Justice is investigating the Portals project and Haney's role in that deal.


Hauling Ash Home
Toxic Waste Comes Back— But to Where?

Thanks to New York City's Trade Waste Commission, Philadelphia has been forced to shell out $50,000 to help foot the bill for the return of 2000 tons of toxic ash its contractors illegally dumped on a Haitian beach over a decade ago.

Cheered on by Greenpeace, the commission told the successor company to the firm that did the dumping to clean up its act if it wanted to haul trash in New York. This resulted in action. In a deal financed by Eastern Environmental Services— the New Jersey­based company whose top executive has ties to the original dumping— as well as Philadelphia and Haiti, a ship is slated to start hauling the ash back to the U.S. this week.

But to where? Nobody wants it. Philadelphia won't touch it. Even garbage-hungry Virginia turned it away. South Carolina was about to say it would bury it, but local environmental protests blocked that.

The federal government could arrange the return, but it won't get involved, insisting the deal is a private matter. Sources close to the negotiations say Clinton officials fear that if it helps Haiti, the government will have to bring home other poisons U.S. corporations have dumped abroad— like mercury shipped from American Cyanamid in New Jersey and Borden Chemicals and Plastics in Louisiana to South Africa, where workers have allegedly been poisoned, and metal smelter dust from Stoller Chemical Corporation in South Carolina, which was reportedly mixed into fertilizer and ditched in Bangladesh.

American Cyanamid says it stopped sending waste to South Africa in 1991, and Borden claims that mercury is recyclable.


Banking on Carolyn
The East Side's Forceful House Insider

With Chuck Schumer in the Senate, the task of providing an interface between Wall Street and Washington in the House falls increasingly to East Side Democrat Carolyn Maloney, who has gained seniority on the House Banking Committee. To be sure, Buffalo's John J. LaFalce, the committee's senior Democrat, will shoulder most of the load. But Maloney is a force to be reckoned with.

Big money is eyeing a Democratic take-back of Congress in 2000, and with Maloney sure to get a subcommittee, insiders want to know where she stands. Whereas Schumer backed the banks all the way, Maloney has been a mixed bag. She wants to keep banks from merging with other businesses, and thinks hedge funds with over $1 billion in investments should be regulated under existing securities laws. She also wants more oversight on the Federal Reserve, whose management practices she's criticized. Still, Maloney gets along with bankers. Her campaign drew more than $100,000 from the finance sector.


Fireman, Save My Butt
Strange, Smoke-Filled Deal

Weirdest alliance on Capitol Hill is between tobacco companies and firefighters' groups, which have joined forces to fight off legislation that would mandate "fire-safe" cigarettes. Worried that such rules might change the nature of their product, the tobacco companies pitched in to back a firefighter campaign aimed at "promotion of smoke detectors among the rural and inner-city poor; fire education for the elderly; and a means for fire educators to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs."


Mena Report Clears Clinton

Clinton scandal buffs were sent reeling last week by a rumor that House Banking Committee chair Jim Leach, the moderate Republican from Iowa, had shut down his investigation on the role of the Mena airstrip in alleged drug running and money laundering while Clinton was governor of Arkansas— activities that Clintonwatchers hoped would shed light on possible links between Clinton and a Dixie Mafia.

Actually, according to committee spokesman David Runkel, Leach is in the process of "wrapping up," and will soon release his report— based in part on Pentagon and CIA inside dope. "Nothing has come to our attention that would involve criminal activities by the then governor of Arkansas," Runkel said.

Research: Bob Frederick

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