Washington Prowler

Secretive Clintonites

CNN gets nervous about its anti-Bush Crossfirers. Also: Governors avoiding Idaho.

By 7.11.02

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'CROSSFIRE' JITTERS
CNN executives have begun looking into what, if any, role current "Crossfire" hosts James Carville and Paul Begala might have had in the production and development of a television commercial broadcast in New York and Washington that was highly critical of President Bush and Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Harvey Pitt.

Last April 25, the Prowler reported on the political activity of former Bill Clinton senior adviser Michael Lux and such groups as the American Family Voices. Out of the same offices he also operates a second group called the Progressive Donor Network. Carville and Begala have assisted Lux in the formation of and fundraising for both groups.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Lux and a "secretive group" had spent about $100,000 to air the anti-Bush TV ads, which were produced by an ad firm/consulting group whose partners include former Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart and former Gore 2000 senior advisers Carter Eskew and Michael Feldman.

CNN's concern, apparently on the business side according to a staffer in the news channel's Washington offices, is that both Carville and Begala have spoken and fundraised for Lux's American Family Voices organization, and encouraged its stated goals of defeating Republican candidates across the country this year, as well as Bush in 2004.

"The so-called boycott by conservatives of 'Crossfire' had some executives here troubled," says the CNN news staffer. "They acted like it was no big deal, but they are like any bunch of suits. They get nervous when there is the hint of controversy. It's doubly so because of Ailes's success on that other network. The last thing they need is hard evidence that Carville and Begala are actively attacking Republicans and conservatives. Outside of their role as conservative bashers on the show, of course," he added with a laugh.

While "Crossfire" producers have consistently touted Carville and Begala as part of the equation to lift ratings for the long-running show, the business side and even some news-side people are troubled that the show has had to fall back on Democratic political operatives to host, whereas their counterparts Tucker Carlson and Robert Novak are established, respected journalists. Previous "left" host Bill Press was a political operative for the Democratic Party in California prior to his TV gigs.

"Some of us just can't understand why they can't find left-leaning opinion journalists to fill that slot," says the CNN staffer. "There are some online commentators who could do a good job, why create headaches with conflicts of interest with guys like Carville? This [Lux story] would be a great topic for the show, now they can't touch it."

BOISE BODIES
Grover Norquist has been encouraging Republican governors to boycott and even quit the National Governors Association, and his campaign appears to be succeeding … with Democrats.

The NGA has long been criticized as left-leaning and liberal, even though its leadership rotates between Republican and Democratic governors. Many of the complaints are in response to its professional staff, which issues position papers on legislation that tends to side with Democratic agendas.

Now comes word that Jeb Bush won't be attending the NGA national conference that get underway this Saturday in Boise, Idaho. Nor will Texas Gov. Rick Perry. And Colorado's Bill Owens took a pass. But more surprising are the Democrats who jumped ship: Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Roy Barnes of Georgia and Gray Davis of California. Perhaps they didn't know Boise is lovely this time of year.

But a more likely reason, according an NGA staffer, is that each either is seeking election or re-election this year, or considering a national political run. "Shaheen is running for the Senate, Davis is in a race for his governorship and Barnes is probably thinking down the road about running for president."

But why miss a silly meeting? "Just to be able to say they showed some spine and didn't just play along with the other Democrats," says the NGA-er. "We're impressed that our group is now a litmus test for political freedom."

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