Washington Prowler

Rumblings and Reconfigurings

Chinagate redux. Reading Lieberman's tea leaves. K Street goes GOP.

By 11.25.02

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CHINAGATE REOPENS
Back in the days of the Clinton administration, one of the biggest ongoing scandals was influence peddling and illegal campaign donation by agents of the People's Republic of China. In 2004 Democrats may have yet another round of such scandals if they don't pick their presidential or vice presidential candidate carefully, according to a senior Democratic staffer in the U.S. Senate.

"There are several former Senate staffers who have done business in China or with Chinese-government backed corporations and they could expose their former boss to some embarrassing situations," says the staffer. "You'd think we'd learn. But maybe we need another hard lesson."

THIS OLD JOE
Al Gore's former running mate Joe Lieberman either believes that Gore isn't going to run in 2004 or doesn't care. Recall that Lieberman pledged not to run for president next time if Gore chose to run again. Gore has said that Lieberman isn't bound to that pledge, although Lieberman, being about as honorable as a Democrat is capable of, had said he'd abide by it.

But that wasn't the vibe that 2002 campaign volunteers were getting earlier this month when Lieberman's PAC threw a thank you party for its and other Washington, D.C. area Democratic Party volunteers. The Connecticut senator thanked everyone for their hard work and told them to keep their options open when it came time to commit to working for a 2004 race.

"I got the feeling he was telling us something without coming out and saying it," says a reveler at the event.

Gee, sounds like Lieberman has the politician-speak down cold.

POWER ALLEY
Republican staffers on Capitol Hill and in the White House have hit the lottery of sorts. With the GOP controlling both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, lobbying shops, trade associations and law firms that do business inside the Beltway are snapping up just about any Republican with ties to anyone influential inside the White House or in the House or Senate.

"All these Clinton holdovers can't do us a bit of good now," says a longtime Democratic lobbyist. "I'll admit we've been a bit remiss in bringing in Republicans, but we haven't had to in close to ten years. Now it's imperative that I have some folks onboard."

Big winners are lower level Republicans already in the employ of such high-powered lobbying shops as Preston Gates.

Even retiring congressmen who loved playing up their non-Beltway ties are getting in the action. Former Majority Leader Dick Armey plans on spending at least some of his time in Washington, and has at least three different lobbying firms bidding against one another for his services. Guess he won't need that old cot he used to keep in his office to save money on rent.

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