Washington Prowler

Ed Rollins Is Back!

And the White House can't be happy. Plus: Bill Clinton plays for money. Also: John Edwards hogs the spotlight.

By 6.26.02

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PARSKY SIMONIZED
Could Gerald Parsky be losing his grip on the California Republican Party? For months, as the White House's chosen leader of the state party, Parsky has been attempting to control the Bill Simon gubernatorial campaign. But it appears that Simon, seeing an opportunity to do some serious damage in the polls with an ever-unpopular opponent Gray Davis, is taking charge.

Simon has hired longtime Republican consultant Ed Rollins as his campaign's senior adviser, despite objections from Parsky. According to a Simon source, Parsky wasn't consulted about the Rollins hire, and when he heard about it, angrily called Simon campaign strategist John Peschong, whom Parsky with White House support had recently forced onto Simon.

"Parsky was pissed," says the source, "But Peschong was just as much in the dark. Simon just took the bull by the horns and put his own man in place. Parsky is out of it as far as many of us are concerned. Peschong is staying on, but Rollins is the man."

As American Prowler readers well know, Simon loyalists have long been chafing under Parsky's seemingly watchful eye. For example, according to the Simon insider, the candidate wanted to budget and spend more than $750,000 for an absentee ballot registration program for Republicans in the state. Parsky blocked that expense.

"At every turn, we seemed to get stumped by the state party guys," says the insider. "Rollins knows this state, he understands conservatives and he's helped Republicans win out here in the past. It's time to make a move."

While Simon's polling numbers have seeming stalled below 45% across the state, Davis's approval/disapproval numbers remain at about 35% and 65% respectively. "We have an opportunity here to make up some ground before the fall campaign really kicks in," says the insider. "We have the money, now we have someone we feel can really shape a message that is comfortable for Bill to convey to the voters. Rollins may be just what we needed."

Perhaps, but Rollins protégé Sal Russo, who operates a political consulting firm out of Sacramento, has been with the Simon camp since day one, and knows the state as well as Rollins does. One has to wonder whether Rollins can really make a difference in the next four months. Rollins came on board, with a Simon promise that his work would not be interfered with by Parsky or his operatives. "We were very clear," says the Simon adviser. "We'll listen to Ed, he's the man."

SAX APPEAL
With donations to his presidential library down to what some insiders call "less than a trickle," former President Bill Clinton was out and about over the weekend looking to pick up some spare change. This time, one could find him hobnobbing with the sansabelt slacks set at the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, a relatively short drive from the presidential digs in Chappaqua, New York.

Clinton got up on stage and played the sax before an audience there for a charity function featuring Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi performing as the Blues Brothers.

Clinton hasn't looked for many opportunities to play the sax in public, but this one was special, says a Clinton adviser with the library fund in Arkansas. "The Mohegan tribe has more money than Zeus," says the adviser. "We're talking millions upon millions of dollars. I'm sure President Clinton saw this as an opportunity to introduce himself, tell the tribal leaders about his interests and the interests of the William J. Clinton Foundation."

The Mohegan tribe has become one of the country's wealthiest thanks to the success of its casino and hotel. In the past, it has been a financial backer of Connecticut Sens. Christopher Dodd and Joe Lieberman. "If the Mohegans chose to, they could easily endow the Clinton Library with $5 million or $10 million in donations," says the Clinton Library source. "That's not a bad gate for one or two sax solos on a Saturday night."

SELF-ROASTING
While such Democrats as John Kerry, Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman remain coy about their political futures, Sen. John Edwards went whole hog over the weekend in New Hampshire to persuade voters he was in fact running for president. Standing next to a roasting pig on a spit, Edwards was asked about how he planned on organizing his presidential campaign, what issues he would run on, and what his expectations might be in a New Hampshire primary. "He answered every question like a presidential candidate," says one state party official. "He made it clear his hat is in the ring and he was here to campaign."

Edwards was attending the annual Merrimack County Democratic pig roast when he made his presidential push. But the Prowler wonders if Edwards can overcome the powerful symbolism of doing his thing next to a trussed pig with an apple in its mouth.

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