Washington Prowler

Little Rock Improvements

Clinton plays fixer. Also: Reich's one unhappy camper.

By 7.22.02

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MR. FIX-IT PAINTS THE TOWN
Bill Clinton irked many former backers in Arkansas earlier this year when he met with Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee and committed to attend and help organize this week's fundraiser at the Arkansas governor's mansion in Little Rock. Clinton's old home is slowly falling apart, and the event is expected to raise several hundred thousand dollars to help pay for renovations. When he made his commitment to Huckabee, Clinton had yet to appear this year on behalf of local Democrats, including the underfinanced Jimmie Lou Fisher, who is running against Huckabee this year.

"It wasn't that he didn't want to, he wasn't asked or invited," said a Clinton staffer. "The president's schedule doesn't allow him the luxury of just dropping by. The Fisher campaign [has since] asked for help, and we'll be there as invited."

Clinton's presence for the Fisher campaign this week should pull in a couple hundred grand for her race. She trails Huckabee badly in the cash column. He's already raised more than a million re-election dollars.

While Clinton expects to make a brief appearance on behalf of Fisher, with some comments and then lots of handshaking, the big issue under discussion has been the picture that people are paying $1,000 a pop for at the mansion fundraiser.

Clinton wants to be front and center in each photograph, which is expected to feature the donor and the seven living governors of the Razorback State. Huckabee, as the sitting governor, wants to be front and center too. How the egos negotiate this one will be interesting to see.

"That's B.S.," says the Clinton staffer. "There is no ego involved here, no jockeying for position. This is just a fun, charitable event."

UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED
Things just aren't working out for Robert Reich in his bid to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Massachusetts. First, his former bosses, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, blew him off, not that anyone could blame them, given the way their diminutive former labor secretary has spouted off about them in public and in print.

Ticking off Clinton has also cost Reich badly in the fundraising area, and his campaign isn't raking in the dough the way it hoped it would, what with Reich's roots and contacts at Harvard and throughout the state.

Just how bad is it? In a blatant ripoff of Clinton-Gore's bus trips around the country in 1992 and Sen. John McCain's "Straight Talk Express" in 2000, Reich has been traveling the Bay State in a 1978 Argosy camper he purchased and renamed the "Reich Reform Express." But then it turned out no one had bothered to pay its inspection fee, meaning the vehicle was traveling the Bay State's highways and byways illegally.

According to a Reich volunteer, the campaign was aware of a seven-day grace period to have the camper inspected, but was in such a rush to get the blue and gold white elephant on the road and into newspaper and TV coverage that it plumb forgot.

"I guess we should have known better, but there was a sense among a lot of people that the campaign was treading water and we needed something to capture the imagination of the voters, get some positive momentum," said the volunteer. "Now it's just another embarrassing moment that we put our candidate in unnecessarily."

Given the aggressiveness with which the Boston Herald has covered the Reich campaign, looking for every new angle, it's surprising that Reich's handlers didn't see the potential risk in putting an illegal vehicle on the road. Sure enough, Herald reporters jumped on the proverbial bandwagon and busted it. "It just wasn't on top of the list of things to do," said the volunteer. "In the rush to get it road-ready, paying the fee got pushed further down the list of things we had to do."

Reich campaign staff as of this past weekend were making arrangements to have the camper inspected and to pay the necessary fees to make it legal.

Reich can look on the bright side. If he isn't living in the governor's mansion this time next year, he knows he's got a place to stay. And by then he might not get pulled over.

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