Washington Prowler

White Donkeys

The free-wheeling Terry McAuliffe sees his hard plans go soft. Also: Bill Clinton seeds a forest.

By 7.15.02

Send to Kindle

TERRY TOWN
No big surprise that the Republican National Committee is reporting $71 million for the first six months of fundraising in 2002. A bigger surprise is the amount it says is hard money: about 66 percent, or about $45 million. This counters comments from Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who has been telling anyone who would listen that the RNC was raising more soft cash than hard.

The DNC, by the way didn't do too badly, either, pulling in about $45 million for the first half of the year. But the big question is how much of that money has already been committed to the "Palace that Terry Built," a new DNC facility that actually won't be a new facility at all.

You see, originally, McAuliffe had slated more than $20 million to buy land and construct a totally new and lux DNC headquarters on Capitol Hill. But concerns about cost overruns and the appearance of wasteful spending forced McAuliffe to pull back on those plans, and the DNC is now renovating its current facility, as well as adding on. That said, at least $10 million of the $45 million raised, almost a quarter of their money for the year, is targeted for the building fund.

The DNC claims that $23 million of the money it raised (about 50 percent of the total) is soft. And much of that money is probably for McAuliffe's little renovation project. "A lot of that, probably more than half of that amount, is going toward the building," says a DNC fundraiser. "We're trying to figure out if we can have some leeway on how to spend it. It would be nice to use it for something constructive beyond construction."

The upshot of all this: the Republicans have a lot more cash to use in the 2002 election cycle than the Democrats, unless McAuliffe can somehow get his big-money renovation funders to rethink the uses for the money. And then, he's still left with his "White Elephant" -- or "White Donkey" -- of a building, which drives him nuts.

In private meetings with donors and reporters, McAuliffe has never missed an opportunity to complain about the DNC's facilities: the lack of proper TV production and broadcast technology, their poor high-tech wiring, etc. All of that was going to be fixed.

"He's not going to give up on that renovation dream, no matter how close we may be getting to retaking the House or holding the Senate," says another DNC staffer. "He's taking the long view. He wants the new and improved facilities in place before the next presidential elections. And the clock is ticking."

TOO LATE FOR BUDDY TO ENJOY
With apologies to Barbara Walters, if President Bill Clinton could be a tree, what tree would he be? Faced with a presidential complex being constructed with little or no landscaping in place, and budget and fundraising shortfalls in the millions of dollars, the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, has sent out fundraising letters to potential donors offering to have trees dedicated to them if they will cover the cost of purchase and planting. It's yet another fundraising gimmick for a library that continues to struggle with raising the necessary construction dough.

There are plans to plant more than 600 saplings and mature trees on the property, as part of a vision that would include tree species from every state in the union, or at least as many varieties as can survive in the Southern climate. And if the library can't raise the money for Clinton's forest? "There either won't be that many or we'll have to find another way to pay for them," says a library staffer.

Although the library's property has some mature trees in and around the construction, Clinton and his architectural team want tree-lined walkways and mini-forests for private chats and shaded repasts dotting the landscape. No word on what the overall landscaping bill is budgeted for. But at a minimum of 600 trees at $1,000 per, you get the idea.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article