Washington Prowler

Squeaky Wheels Go Ungreased

GOP Senate anger over the Everglades decision. Who controls the Hollywood money pipeline?

By 6.4.02

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NOT USED TO THE DRILL
Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, along with several Republican Senate leaders, demanded an explanation from Karl Rove last week after President Bush announced that his Energy Department and Department of the Interior would pay out more than a quarter billion dollars to buy back mineral rights near the Everglades and parts of the Florida coast in order to prevent oil and gas drilling in the area.

This, after the White House essentially rolled over in its fight with Democrats and left-wing environmental groups over whether to allow drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

According to several Senate staff sources, the White House told Stevens that the Florida decision was made for several reasons: widespread grassroots environmental support for a ban on the offshore drilling, support for the ban by the president's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and support from Florida's two Democratic senators, Bob Graham and Bill Nelson. "Of course, it was Jeb and his re-election that they were thinking about," says one GOP Senate staffer. "Since when has that White House given a damn about what Nelson thought? The White House had staffers on background just about admitting it was a political decision."

It isn't the White House's playing politics with environmentalists that has Stevens and others mad. It's that Republicans on the Hill believe the White House had polling data from Florida that showed this decision to block drilling would have little or no effect on Jeb's political standing, or the president's, yet the White House moved on it anyway.

"If they saw the numbers we saw," says a Republican staffer on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, "then they know that these folks who were making noise about this swamp drilling in Florida weren't going to do the Bushes any favors anytime soon. These are the same nuts who are blocking ANWR, telling the same lies, pushing the same agenda. Bush just cut the legs out from under us on just about every potential oil and natural gas drilling proposal we deal with in the next two years. And he'll have nothing to show for it. Nothing."

THE EMANUEL MANUAL
In the Clinton years, so much was made of the money pipeline from Hollywood. Al Gore tried to tap into it during his presidential run, and every Clinton hand running for higher office this year has made runs out west to La-La Land hoping to hit pay dirt: Janet Reno, Robert Reich, and Erskine Bowles. But the big winner in the California campaign lottery is former senior White House adviser Rahm Emanuel, who in the wake of his primary victory last March is a shoo-in to win U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich's Chicago seat this fall.

In fact, Emanuel may hold the keys to any Democratic fundraising success in Hollywood, in part, because it's all in the family. Younger brother Ariel Emanuel is partner in the influential Los Angeles talent shop, the Endeavor Agency, and has been key in lining up Hollywood players to back Democratic causes. "Clinton used him all the time, and still does when he's out there," says a former Clinton hand. "If you're a Democrat and want to make a splash, Ariel Emanuel is key and you better be in good with his brother and the president."

Perhaps that's why Gore found a cool reception to feelers in recent months about future support from former backers out west. Robert Reich, the former Clinton labor secretary, has complained to DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe that Clinton and Ariel Emanuel have made it virtually impossible for him to raise money anywhere in California, and Janet Reno, too, has received a cold shoulder from Democratic Party loyalists in Los Angeles who seem hesitant to cross a line drawn by Emanuel and Clinton. Only Erskine Bowles doesn't seem worried, because he can draw on other sources.

"You might not want to be associated with Clinton in your campaign ads," says a DNC fundraiser, "but the word is out: if you want the cash from Hollywood, Clinton still has the combination to the vault."

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