Washington Prowler

Cable Ready Gore

He means to hook up. Plus: A Democrat Machiavel's new labors.

By 6.24.03

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DIGITAL AL
For all of the talk over the years that former Vice President Al Gore dislikes Hollywood, he certainly attempted to snuggle up to the Left Coast during this presidential run. And while his visibility isn't what it was out there when he was dialing for dollars, he can still take meetings like the best of 'em in studio land.

For example, Time magazine and others have made much of Gore's dabbling in talks about starting up a possible cable alternative news source to compete against Fox News. (Funny, that was what everyone else in the civilized world thought MSNBC and CNN were for.)

But according to sources, Gore is doing more than dabbling. He's actually been holding pretty serious meetings with pretty serious people about an L.A.-based news/talk show cable outlet.

How serious? Well, Steven Rattner is a fairly high profile media investor who also happens to be a liberal Democrat who threw a ton of money at Bill Clinton, and then Gore. He manages an investment firm that has had serious dealings with Comcast Corp., one of the largest cable TV providers in the country. And through Gore's meetings with Rattner, the Democratic presidential loser has managed to wrangle several meetings with Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts.

"Gore can have all the money in the world, but if the cable operators won't carry the network, it's useless to talk about it," says a source familiar with Gore's discussions. "Right now the talk is less about the network and more about would people carry the network on cable if it existed."

More to the point, would Gore be able to broadcast on a digital platform, which is the standard by which most cable operators want new channels to operate on? "If Gore's operation won't be digital, it would make it tougher to get him into a system. Digital is key to his," says the source.

Comcast has a huge reach across the country, and Rattner has ties to other media businessmen. And he has some sway financially. His investment firm is said to have placed more than $50 million of its money in Comcast's expansion.

"It's not that hard seeing this thing happening down the road," says the source. "But what everyone should realize is that this is more likely Al being bored and looking for something to do. He's like Clinton -- he likes to see himself in the news."

McENTEE THE MACHIAVEL
Wondering why Gerald McEntee, head of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), pulled out of organized labor's big PAC a few weeks ago? Probably because he got a better offer.

Word on the street, "K" Street that is, is that McEntee, along with some other disgruntled union money bags, has invested in a new grassroots Democratic fundraising machine being started up by a former vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The group, to be known as "Grassroots Democrats," will be a coalition of interest groups and organized labor, and McEntee, who envisions himself as a party kingmaker, has been promised a high profile role. The group, one of the new breed of organizations allowed to raise money under the new campaign finance laws, is intended to offer state and local Democratic Party operations the cash and strategic advice the national party rarely has the time to give them. It will also serve as an outlet for McEntee's union members who may not be able to play a role in the Democratic Party under the new campaign finance regime.

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