Washington Prowler

Dean Under Seal

Howie preemptively evades embarrassment. Plus: Senatorita Sanchez. Also: DeLay right as usual.

By 8.4.03

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SOMEONE'S UP TO SOMETHING
So much for no one doing opposition research on former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean. You'll recall that the campaign of Sen. John Kerry denied that it was using staff to do opposition research on Dean, who is shaping up as the media darling and far-left Democratic Party favorite.

But suddenly little bits of dirt are dribbling out of Vermont, and it isn't Dean who's letting them out. In fact, his effort to control information about himself is one of the stories.

Just before Dean left office, he signed orders that sealed almost half of his gubernatorial documents from public view until 2013 -- ten years after the end of his service as governor. That is at least four years longer than any previous Vermont leader had held back his (or her) political papers.

Dean made it clear that he was locking up his documents to avoid political embarrassments, but was hesitant to explain why at the time. Dean staff believe the story now circulating is the direct result of Kerry's opposition research attempts. "We certainly weren't publicizing that the governor had sealed half his papers," says a Dean volunteer. "But a bunch of political hacks looking for dirt would certainly have found out about it soon enough."

Dean was also hit with a mini uproar when it was discovered that he had failed to pay state taxes and license fees in the past, again, a story that -- at least to the Dean people -- smacks of oppo research. "We were expecting it, but this is pretty lightweight stuff, like the candidate who is authorizing the mud-slinging," says the Dean staffer.

SENATORITA SANCHEZ
Democrats in Washington and California were surprised at how forcefully Rep. Loretta Sanchez was touting Sen. Dianne Feinstein's candidacy for governor last week. At one point, Sanchez said that Feinstein was the only Democrat who could successfully heal the wounds inflicted on the party and the state by Gov. Gray Davis. Well, other than herself. Sanchez also said that if Feinstein didn't run, she might have to run in her place.

Sanchez attended the meeting in San Francisco last week set up by Mayor Willie Brown. She is not considered a likely candidate, particularly given her poor performance as a congressman. But her desire to suck up to Feinstein and tout her candidacy makes a lot of sense to Democratic Party insiders in the Golden State. "Sanchez thinks that if Feinstein wins the governor's race, she'd nominate Sanchez to the Senate," says a state party staffer. "Her naïveté is kind of cute, but her goals are wholly unrealistic."

Sanchez wouldn't stand a chance of making the cut for political appointment, given the long list of other Democrats Feinstein would doubtlessly draw on. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante would be on the top of it. And party insiders say that if a woman is going to get appointed, it would be Rep. Jane Harmon, not Sanchez.

As it stands, Feinstein won't be running. After meeting with advisers in California and a conversation with DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe -- who has been holding back other Dems from challenging Davis -- Feinstein again reiterated that she wasn't in line to run ... yet.

WITHOUT BLINDERS
There weren't many Republicans smiling about the Teamsters' -- and president James Hoffa's -- decision to endorse Rep. Dick Gephardt's candidacy for president. But one man who was, was Rep. Tom DeLay, who has long been advocating for the Bush Administration to play hardball with organized labor instead of playing nice in naive hopes of future considerations.

DeLay's approach would appear to have been the smarter one, particularly given Hoffa's gamesmanship with the GOP. Recall that Hoffa dangled the prospects of a Bush endorsement in front of Republicans leading up to -- and well into -- the 2000 convention in Philadelphia. He was the toast of the town, being wined and dined like he was the nominee, yet left town with a big Cheshire Cat smile and the Bush team with nothing to show for its efforts.

"DeLay is usually right about these kinds of things," says a congressional ally of the House Majority Leader. "The White House wouldn't hurt itself too much by listening to him once in a while."

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