Washington Prowler

Steel and O’Neill

Also: Secret Service breakdowns. Whitman holds back. The DNC's new soft money. Clinton down under.

By 3.3.02

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PROTECTION LEAKS
The involvement of Secret Service protective division personnel in a barroom fracas in San Diego and the loss of security plan memos at the Salt Lake City Olympics were two mistakes the agency would have preferred not to see in the press. But since they've been reported, agents are wondering about possible leakers, says a member of the Secret Service.

"It isn't the Bush administration that's leaking on us, they've been great," says the agent. "We think it's coming from other agents, perhaps those few who are loyal to the previous administration."

That reference is to the Clintons, who were largely unpopular with the uniformed and nonuniformed Secret Service staff assigned to the White House detail. The Secret Service agent the Prowler spoke to says that many current agents believe that the Clinton loyalists are paying other agents back for their years of leaking against the Clintons.

"I wouldn't put it past some Clinton people to be getting this stuff out there," says the current agent. "They took such a black eye for eight years and now they are trying to get back at us."

STEEL SHOWDOWN
According to a House leadership staffer, Speaker Dennis Hastert reportedly told several of his House colleagues that he believes Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill may resign should the Bush administration choose to hold the line on import tariffs on steel. O'Neill has been pressing hard for the administration to cut the tariffs as part of a broader international free-trade initiative he is pressing.

Some high profile Republican lobbyists, most notably Dick Armey's former key adviser Edward Gillespie, have taken on American steel firms as clients and are pressing the administration to keep the tariffs in place. "These guys were free-marketers when they were in government. Now that they aren't, they are no better than the Democrats," says a Treasury Department source, who adds that the steel issue could be a contributing factor to O'Neill's exit strategy. "But it wouldn't be the issue that pushes him out. It would take more than that to push him out of the building." He didn't say what that would be.

WHITMAN DID WHAT?
The White House is angry at EPA chief Christie Whitman over the resignation last week of one of her enforcement staff, Eric Schaeffer, a civil servant hired at the agency by the first Bush administration's EPA chief William Reilly.

According to a Republican lobbyist on environmental issues, the White House isn't peeved because Schaeffer left, or even that he made his resignation letter public. "It's that she knew he was leaving days before it was leaked and she didn't give the Bush people a head's-up," says the lobbyist.

Furthering angering the White House is that Schaeffer's letter was complimentary to Whitman for resisting its demands that her agency ease up on enforcement and prosecution. Whitman has already been taken to the Bush woodshed for several embarrassing leaks to the media, including a recent decision to change the way Superfund site cleanups are paid for.

BECK AND CALL
The AFL-CIO, after meeting with senior Democratic congressional leaders Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt and Democratic National Committee staffers including chief Terry McAuliffe, approved an increase in the amount of union-member contributions that will go to underwrite AFL-CIO political activities. The new funds mean that the DNC will be seeing an additional $3.5 million in soft money from the AFL-CIO for the 2002 electoral cycle.

"We need it. Bad," says a DNC fundraiser. He says the bulk of the additional $3.5 million will go to key Senate races.

ON THE BEACH
Former President Bill Clinton loves it down under. In Australia, that is. The ex-prez has made two trips to the former penal colony as fall and winter fell across America. Why?

"It's summer down there," says a former Clinton aide, who recently saw old boss on a recent fundraising trip through Chicago. "He loves those beaches down there with all those babes in thongs. It's better than freezing in New York or that chilly atmosphere in Washington."

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