SOCIAL SECURITY SURRENDER
While there is much talk about Congress not wanting to tackle Social Security reform or privatization in an election year (when has it ever wanted to tackle a tough issue in an election year?), any desire it might have had was extinguished by the White House, say Republican House and Senate staffers.
"[White House congressional liaison] Nick Calio pulled us off the issue, said the White House didn't want us to press the issue at all, to just walk away," says a House Republican leadership staffer. "It's not like we were eager for it, but the House probably could have pushed through something minor if they wanted the party on the record going into the fall."
But something "minor" on Social Security reform would probably be depicted as something major by Democrats on the campaign trail. "Democrats think there is traction with Social Security reform out there," says a Senate Republican staffer. "But voters seem to be seeing through the scare tactics. The Boomers understand that Social Security needs some reform, but all the polling data we've been seeing shows that many more Americans than ten years ago believe Social Security in some from will be around 20 or 30 years from now."
Capitol Hill staffers say that it wasn't their impression that the White House was running away from a fight. "We're going into summer, we're all campaigning, it's natural to pull back," says a House staffer.
But they resent having the White House spin that it was Congress that begged to be let of the hook. "We try to do what the White House wants us to do," says the House Republican leadership aide. "This wasn't a unilateral decision. I don't know why they're putting it on us. Either way, what they're doing isn't helping."
Any thoughts that the William J. Clinton Presidential Library is upset over a recent financial setback should be put to rest. In Clintonian fashion, it is taking the bad news and trying to turn it into cash.
The state of Arkansas recently announced that it could not provide the library with $3.6 million in state and local tax funding under a program designed to help businesses in the state that bring in additional tourist or business dollars. It's not that Arkansas doesn't think the library will attract its share of out of state gawkers. It's just that the library foundation is tax exempt, and the pro-business fund bars it from doling out money to tax exempt nonprofits.
But the loss of that $3.6 million windfall means another fundraising drive for the library. "Our donors will be getting an 'emergency' request for further support because of the unexpected loss of these funds," says a library staffer in Little Rock. "Who knows, we might take in more than we were going to get from the state to begin with."
Construction on the library has begun, and Bill Clinton has been in and out of Little Rock several times in the past month to check on its progress. "He's very excited about the groundbreaking. For him it's a dream come true," says the library aide.
Democratic leaders Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, among others, plan to travel the country this summer to round up what they hope will come close to $100 million in soft money leading into the fall campaign season. "It's not about $1,000 or $2,500 to the party," says one Democratic National Committee fundraiser. "It's about $100,000. With campaign finance reform, we have to start stashing cash, because in its current forms, we won't be see much of it for a while."
DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe has been especially adept at bringing in the big paychecks. Some estimate that in a good week, he can pull in between $5 million to $10 million for the party alone. "He's great with the cash, I'll give him that," says a senior DNC board member.
Daschle and Gephardt are now pushing hard on the cash trail, in part, because while the big donations may dry up in 2002, they are looking to latch on to donors for their long-term career goals: a presidential run in 2004. Daschle, in particular is looking to make connections out west and in the northeast. "He's been around long enough to know many of the top DNC donors," says a Daschle staffer. "But now it's about really getting in there, using colleagues to introduce him to their many backers. If he's going to have a shot in 2004, he has to start building the network."
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