Washington Prowler

Capital Surprises

Who’s up for HHS and Treasury? Howie Dean prepares to speak. John Kerry’s new perch.

By 12.6.04

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CABINET SPARKLERS
Gossip inside the White House has James Towey, current director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, slotted as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. Towey, who has been a low-key member of President Bush's team, has experience in the field, having run Florida's health and social services department back when Lawton Chiles was governor.

If Towey is in fact nominated to replace Gov. Tommy Thompson, it would be one of the surprise nominations coming out of the Bush White House. The HHS post is thought to be the favored slot for Dr. Mark McClellan, who currently oversees the President's prescription drug program inside HHS. McClellan has been the odds on favorite for the job for months, having built up a résumé as chairman of the FDA, and his close relationship to the President. He still may get the job, but a Towey nomination now appears to be more logical given some of Bush's recent surprising picks for Justice, Commerce, and White House counsel.

There may be another surprise coming down the pike. For all of the buzz about former Sen. Phil Gramm being in line to replace John Snow</ B> as Treasury Secretary, there is just as much, if not more, about Chief of Staff Andy Card getting the nod. The reception of a Card nomination to Treasury would be met with a wall of silence from Wall Street, however.

"There is no interest in a Card Treasury nomination," says an investment banker in New York. "He has no reputation up here, and that isn't a good thing. We need someone we know and trust in that slot. Snow is that guy, but if he isn't the President's cup of tea, then the President can make a change. But it should be someone who knows Treasury and Wall Street."

NICE AND EASY DOES IT
Make way for another rip-snorting diatribe from former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Actually, don't get your hopes up: the speech he's expected to make at George Washington University isn't likely to include fireworks.

"This is the kinder, gentler Dean who is running for head of the DNC," says a former campaign staffer. "No screaming here."

Dean is scheduled to speak about the future of the Democratic Party, which surprisingly includes a lot on Dean's importance to the party's survival. But rather than running as a leftist candidate, as he did for the Democratic presidential nomination, Dean intends to run this campaign as a centrist.

"Dean can't afford to look too goofy to the Democratic establishment," says the former aide. "People in the DNC know very well how Dean lost his edge in Iowa. They will be looking for the same implosion. This man is savvy enough not to go all out no matter what the crowd may be there to see."

For all of Dean's makeover attempts, though, few inside the DNC think the former presidential aspirant has a serious chance of winning control of the party. "People will listen to what he has to say, because he seemed to catch lightning in a bottle with young people and low-end donors," says a DNC fundraiser. "But no one believes this guy is the candidate to bring us to the promised land."

JEAN-FRANÇOIS PACS IT IN
Look for Sen. John Kerry to seed his new leadership PAC with about $5 million of the $15 million remaining in his presidential election fund. Over the weekend, it was announced that Kerry was hiring John Giesser, to head the PAC. Giesser is a former adviser to his campaign and a former associate of Kerry's closest political advisers, Michael Whouley and John Sasso.

The PAC, which is as-yet unnamed, is expected to have one of the richest startups on Capitol Hill, and ensures that Kerry will at least attempt to remain a political player in both the Senate, as well as the House. Leadership PACs are set up to provide donations to both national, as well as state and local candidates. Often, the PACs are used to gain political chits to call in later. For example, during the campaign, Sen. Harry Reid provided more than $4 million of his leadership PAC money to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, virtually ensuring his hold on his leadership position. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has a leadership PAC, HILLPAC, which operates in a similar manner.

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