Washington Prowler

Dueling Democrats

Hillary could Kerry less. Eye on McAuliffe. Those 9/11 Bush ads. Plus: Striking at the GOP Convention.

By 3.7.04

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SHALL WE DANCE?
Sen. Hillary Clinton has really opened her mouth only once since Sen. John Kerry grabbed hold of a presidential nomination she and her husband Bill probably still consider theirs in perpetuity.

So it's no surprise that she is creating headaches for the Kerry crew. Last week, after speaking before a think tank founded by her husband's out-of-work staffers, including former chief of staff, John Podesta, Clinton told reporters that unlike Kerry she and her husband had never considered removing the chairman of the Democratic National Committee after Bill clinched the party's nomination.

Her comments were viewed as a slap at Kerry, reminding him of who is really running the party, and an endorsement of current DNC chair and puppet to the Clintons, Terry McAuliffe, who independent of any push by Kerry had announced he would most likely step down in 2005 after the election.

"McAuliffe has been gracious toward Kerry and refused to buy into the [pro-]Dean hysteria when he could have," says a DNC convention staffer. "He deserved better than having the Kerry people trying to push him out the door with a whispering campaign."

Generally, the party's presidential nominee does have one of his closer allies in place at party headquarters after the nominating convention. Usually that person takes the title of treasurer or somesuch designation that conveys control of the purse strings.

Rumors inside the Kerry camp are that the candidate would like to place inside the DNC one of the leaders of the AFL-CIO unions that are backing him.

"It would be a controversial move, but given the amount of coordination that is going on between labor and the campaign, it would be smart tactically," says a DNC fundraiser. "It's the kind of thing Gerald McEntee would be perfect for." McEntee is head of the state, county and municipal government employees union and has backed Kerry.

AS FOR CLINTON, HER APPEARANCE on Wednesday at the Mayflower Hotel was hastily pulled together so that she could make her endorsement of Kerry official. She had declined numerous other opportunities to endorse her Senate colleague, instead taking the safe path by waiting for him to clinch the nomination. According to a Kerry source, the two had a brief conversation prior to the speech. "That's the first time the two have spoken in a while," says the Kerry source.

In the meantime, the Kerry campaign is trying to get Clinton to agree to some fundraising appearances on behalf of the would-be presidential hopeful. They are doing this while trying to integrate a number of fundraisers from the Dean, Edwards, and Gephardt campaigns. The Kerry camp has set a goal of raising $80 million by convention time, a figure they can achieve only if donors from other camps, and new donors, step up and max out their contributions.

In the immediate time frame, Kerry intends to spend at least a week in California after next Tuesday's round of primaries. There he will courting the entertainment community with party after party for cash. Barbra Streisand has already committed to hosting a fundraiser, as have the usual entertainment suspects in bed with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

TENSIONS BETWEEN THE KERRY camp and the DNC were exacerbated on Wednesday and Thursday last week when the DNC was attacking the Bush campaign for including four seconds of scenes from the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in the President's first campaign ads.

"The DNC is yapping about this and the Bush ads are running on every news station and on every nightly newscast around the country for two days straight. The Bush guys basically got full saturation from an ad that perhaps one million people might have seen on one of those cable channels had no attention been given," says a Kerry campaign staffer. "Then they put these spokespeople out there to talk about the ads who were just embarrassingly bad. The party guys did us no good."

It isn't as though the Kerry people weren't looking to attack the ads themselves. Despite denials that the Kerry campaign criticized the Bush ads, the Kerry camp did reach out family members of people killed on 9/11 whom they knew were supporters of Kerry and asked if they'd be willing to denounce the ads publicly. Those people were given the names of assignment editors at cable news channels and network news outlets, as well as talking points for them to use if they were interviewed.

ROOM SERVICE
The Service Employees International Union in New York has senior union leaders looking for ways to complicate the Republican National Convention in New York later this summer. SEIU members work in hotels, restaurants, hospitals, and other establishments, and are one of the largest unions in Manhattan. There are no contracts expiring for the SEIU in New York this year, but that hasn't stopped the union, which has already committed more than $30 million to prevent the re-election of President Bush, from looking for ways to embarrass the Republican Party and make its stay in New York unpleasant.

"Maybe some hotels make the mistake of unfair work conditions, and the union has to pull out and strike city wide for a couple of days to protest their brothers and sisters being treated unfairly," says a member of another AFL-CIO union. "It can happen, and we are already hearing the talk. These folks will do anything to ruin the convention. It's one convention they did not want to come to New York."

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