Passing the Bucks

Fund-Loving President's Fond 'Give Backs'

Consultant Tom Kiley of Boston, who worked for Michael Dukakis in 1988, recalled that Dukakis tried to woo Bradley as his VP candidate, but Bradley "couldn't be talked into it." Since Gore is more conservative than Clinton, Kiley thinks he'll have to pick someone from the liberal wing of the party— like Massachusetts senator John Kerry, whom Kiley represents.

New York consultant Hank Sheinkopf sees the Midwest as key in 2000. He likes Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio populist, and mentions Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana. Problem: young Bayh is even stiffer than Gore.

Footnote: A deciding factor in Gore's choice will be labor, since it can muster the foot soldiers and turn out the vote in what looks to be a tight race. However, the vice president must do something to repair his rift with unions over NAFTA. So if Gore doesn't go for Bradley, look for him to perhaps choose someone from a key labor state.

Hope floats: Clinton presses flesh in the rain in his old hometown.
AP/ Wide World
Hope floats: Clinton presses flesh in the rain in his old hometown.

Fat Cat Democrats Feast
After Sellout on Social Security

With Democrats giddy at the prospect of regaining power in 2000, the smell of money pervades Capitol Hill these days. The only thing standing in the way is money— tons of it.

At the beginning of March, Democratic members of both houses joined Clinton and Gore for a rally at the Library of Congress, where they celebrated "The 1999 Democratic Agenda: Families First," proclaimed a pablum of catch-phrases, such as "quality education" and "the patients' bill of rights," and promised to "save Social Security and Medicare and pay down the debt."

Buried in the small print, however, was the party's true position on Social Security: "Allow the trust fund to invest about one-fifth of the transferred surpluses in the private sector to achieve higher returns for Social Security just as any state or local government or private pension does." Thus, without any debate, and no discussion of any sort, the Democrats endorsed the right-wing Republicans' long-term goal of beginning to privatize Social Security.

At the end of the pep session, Senate minority leader Tom Daschle banged down the gavel. "All in favor say aye!" he declaimed. "Aye!" roared the Democrats without a croak of dissent.

A few days later, on March 10, party members gathered for the payoff— in the form of the annual Democratic Campaign Committee dinner at the Marriott Wardman Hotel, at which they raised $3 million. They gorged on mignonettes of beef, seared baby lamb chops, and wild mushroom tarts, and listened raptly as campaign committee chairman Patrick Kennedy declared, according to a Congress member who attended, "America's business is the business of America"— a pathetic riff on "Engine" Charlie Wilson's famous Eisenhower-era statement that "What is good for the country is good for General Motors, and what's good for General Motors is good for the country."

The event was hosted by the Securities Industry Association, the Investment Company Institute, and a blue-chip list of American corporations, ranging from Morgan Stanley to MCI WorldCom to Citigroup.

Profiting From Pollution
Exxon Makes Millions on Award Appeals

March 24 marks the 10th anniversary of the humongous Exxon Valdez oil spill in which 11 million gallons of oil were dumped along 1500 miles of pristine Alaskan shoreline (some activists claim the spill was 38 million gallons).

In 1994, 34,000 native Alaskans, commercial fishermen, land owners, and business owners were awarded $5.2 billion in punitive damages. However, the oil giant is appealing the verdict.

Since the spill, Exxon— which now is seeking to merge with Mobil— has led the industry in profits, averaging $8.5 billion a year. By putting off payment on the Alaska spill, it earns another $20 million every day.

Play It Again, Conrad

Growing, as he later would say, "too emotionally involved," Montana's right-wing senator Conrad Burns totally lost it at a February 17 meeting of the state's Equipment Dealers Association, where he opined that the U.S. was too dependent on Mideast oil producers, whom the senator called "ragheads." Although he quickly apologized, the remark brought to mind another Burnsian "slip of the tongue."

In 1994, the senator recalled to an editor at the Bozeman Chonicle his witty rejoinder when asked by a constituent how he could live in Washington, D.C., with all its African Americans. Burns reflected that he told the old rancher it was "a hell of a challenge."

Burns, now in his second term, has had a populist following of sorts in Montana, partly because of his strict and principled adherence to term limits. Recently, however, he announced that he's ready to serve a third term.

Additional reporting: Ioana Veleanu

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