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New Bush Bash

The committee planning the George W. Bush inaugural won’t provide details of this year’s bash, but if past inaugurals are any guide, it will end up costing over $40 million. Inaugurations are usually paid for in part by private donations. The Center for Responsive Politics lists the Bush contributors: Among the usual suspects, companies like Abbott Laboratories, America Online, ADM, and Enron, as well as Major League Baseball, are down for $100,000 each. An unexpected entry was Deborah Dingell, wife of Michigan Democratic congressman John Dingell, who plunked down $100,000 on behalf of GM.

In addition to private donations, presidential inaugurations are usually paid for by loans. Clinton’s 1992 inauguration cost $33 million. The 1988 inauguration of Bush’s father, staged with an additional $7 million in federal funds, cost a then-record $30 million. (That included the inaugural balls; the ceremony cost $950,000; the platform cost $430,000.) The Carter inauguration events ran to a paltry $3 million. The inauguration of Barbara Bush’s forebear Franklin Pierce cost $322, including outlays for 16 additional police officers.

Clinton’s second inaugural, in 1997, was paid for by $30 million in private donations and $13 million in federal funds, but the total was reduced by applying $9 million left over from the 1992 inaugural. A breakdown of major costs: $1 million for the platform and grandstands at the Capitol; $5.7 million to the District of Columbia for security; $4.7 million to the Pentagon to cover military formations and logistics. The Interior Department received $1 million to offset its expenses.

All in the Republican Family

House of Cards

Just in time for the inauguration, The Washington Post reports that a new PR/government-affairs firm, Potomac Hudson Group, is opening in Washington and New York. One of the founders is Lorine Card, who worked in the Reagan administration and for New Hampshire governors, and most recently ran MediaOne’s Washington office. She is married to Brad Card, chief of staff for New York Republican congressman John Sweeney. Brad is the brother of Bush’s new chief of staff, Andrew Card Jr. And Card family ties don’t stop there. Andrew Card’s sister Alison works for Connecticut governor John Rowland. She is married to Ron Kaufman, the Massachusetts member of the Republican National Committee, and a former staff member in Bush Sr.’s administration.

Plugging into the Card family is like getting into switching central. Andrew Card worked in the Reagan White House as liaison with state governments. He was former deputy chief of staff and transportation secretary in Bush’s father’s administration, then held posts as a lobbyist for the former Automobile Manufacturers Association and was vice president for government affairs in GM’s Washington office.

“Andy has always been one of the guys the Bushes can turn to in difficult circumstances,” Bob Marsh, a government relations specialist at General Motors, told The Boston Globe. “He doesn’t go for self-promotion. He really avoids it like the plague. He used to call himself the ‘worst leak in the White House’ and that’s one of the reasons the Bushes respect him so much.”

Behind the Gale Storms

Norton South

Interior Secretary-designate Gale Norton raised eyebrows last week because of a 1996 speech on the importance of states’ rights that she gave to Denver’s conservative Independence Institute. In the speech, she doffed her hat to the Confederacy and told how moved she was to visit a Civil War graveyard in which an inscription on a monument related how bravely the soldiers from Virginia fought in defense of the sovereignty of their state.

Whether or not Norton had sympathy for the Confederacy is beside the point. She made this speech as attorney general of Colorado at a time when westerners organized around the County independence movement were openly talking about breaking away from the union because of public-domain land policies, especially environmental regulations, that they thought were onerous. Catron County, New Mexico, the symbol of the fight against the federal government, talked about kicking the federal government off surrounding public-domain lands and setting up an independent republic. Elsewhere in southern New Mexico environmentalists were threatened. In Nevada, secessionists nearly came to armed conflict with U.S. Forest Service personnel. In Oregon, another band of secessionists phoned death threats to Bureau of Land Management agents. In one case a caller threatened to drop a federal employee’s 12-year-old child down a well. So frightened were federal employees by these threats that they sent their families away.

Catron County passed ordinances that banned the release of wolves, bears, or mountain lions in wilderness areas, and demanded that it be consulted before federal agencies used public lands. Grazing on the public domain is viewed as a private property right and the county considers private property rights to be civil rights. Violations carry fines of up to $10,000.

James Catron, the county attorney who authored certain of these acts, is an Anglophile. “The British frontier culture was forged over 700 years of constant warfare with the British and Scottish monarchs,” he told High Country News in 1996. “When these people see government getting strong enough to push them off their lands, destroy their culture and their livelihoods, when these people see the federal government protecting owls and fish instead of humans, they tend to fight back.”

In the Hatch, New Mexico, Courier, Catron gazed into the future to foresee 50 republics instead of states, each marked by local culture, such as: New York, gay culture marked by gun control; Utah defined by polygamy; “eco-preservationists” governing Florida; and loggers in charge in Oregon.

“Interstate issues now dominated by Washington would be handled by voluntary compacts between state legislatures, and the executive branch would concern itself only with foreign affairs,” Catron wrote. “If it sounds like a dream, remember that it was the dream of the Founding Fathers.”

In their early stages, the Wise Use and County movements had ties to the right-wing militias, and at one conference urged members to get in touch with the Militia of Montana, which supported the far-right racialist Freeman’s movement to break away from the U.S. and set up independent republics. The Wise Users later rejected the militias and opposed them. During the Clinton administration the Wise Use Movement replaced the Sagebrush Rebellion, which sprang up under Jimmy Carter to support Ronald Reagan in 1980. Ron Arnold, one of its leaders, has said there are 1200 to 1500 Wise Use groups, most of which get their funds from small businesses.

Many ranchers and others who were once part of the Wise Use movement are angry at slowly tightening environmental restrictions that threaten to hinder and even block their use of public-domain lands for their cattle. Western ranchers rent thousands of acres of western range lands for grazing cattle herds with little or no environmental restrictions and at low prices. They want the federal government to get off the land and return it to the states, where agribusiness enjoys greater influence, for administration. In addition, the conservative Republican legislators who make this argument often are fronting for the big mining combines that have invaded Nevada to re-mine gold deposits using modern technology, and for oil and gas explorers. Ironically, one of the big gold-mining firms, Barrick, headquartered in Canada, had former president George Bush on its board of advisers during the mid 1990s.

In the past, Norton herself has been registered as a lobbyist for NL Industries of Houston, working on “lead paint” issues. She also has been employed by Delta Petroleum Corp., Timet-Titanium, Metals Corp, and by other mining and petroleum companies, according to a report by the Sierra Club, which opposes her nomination. In the Reagan administration, she worked to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and has sued the EPA to overturn air pollution standards. As Colorado attorney general, she sided with industry by refusing to prosecute mining and timber companies.

Hill Will

“It’s going to be page after page of lies,” Kathleen Willey told The Weekly Standard when asked what she thought about Hillary’s forthcoming memoir. “She’ll write that like she wrote the book on entertaining [An Invitation to the White House]. Give me a break. I worked in that social office. Hillary Clinton’s expertise you could fit in the head of a thimble she doesn’t know a dessert spoon from a soup spoon.”

Additional reporting: Rouven Gueissaz