Washington Prowler

Gore in Full Retreat

And Al feels good about it. Also: Hillary: Did she or didn't she? Plus: Card cutters.

By 6.28.02

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BACK IN BUSINESS
Al Gore has to feel better about his future if the response to his retreat in Memphis this weekend is any indication. The three-day event will feature a number of big-money donors who are sticking by him, and he has also lined up some political loyalists to serve as speakers and moderators for the event held at the Peabody Hotel.

Money people such as former Democratic National Committee Chairman Joe Andrew, Gore 2000 fundraiser Mitchell Berger (who was pursued by both Sen. John Kerry and Sen. John Edwards), Robert Zimmerman of New York, and Cindy Horn, the wife of Warner Bros. chief Alan Horn, all committed early to the Gore retreat. Longtime Gore confidante and aide Peter Knight, also wooed by Kerry, will be there, as will the Gore 2000 campaign political director Donny Fowler. Speakers for the event include Rep. Harold Ford, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Rep. Nita Lowey, who is overseeing the Democrat's House fundraising.

Ford apparently had committed to attend the Edwards retreat, which is gathering in South Carolina this weekend, but reconsidered when he realized the money that would be at the Gore event. "He understands that if he is to run statewide in Tennessee or nationally down the road, he's going to need the people that Gore has cultivated financially," says a Ford staffer. "I don't know that he cares that much about helping Mr. Gore politically. This is more about what's best for Harold."

It would seem that Gore is expecting some rough sessions at his retreat. He has barred the press from all sessions, saying that he hopes the absence of tape recorders and notebooks will lead to frank assessments of his 2000 campaign and his plans for the future. "I don't know what he's afraid of," says a Gore adviser, who will be at the event. "He's heard just about the worst of it already. No one's going to stand up and chastise him in a group setting."

RUNNING AND HIDING
Texas Democrat Senate hopeful Ron Kirk was in Washington earlier this week, attending fundraisers intended to bring in more than $100,000 for his campaign against Republican John Cornyn.

The fundraisers, held in the homes of Sen. John Edwards and Sen. John Kerry, were attended by most of the Democratic Senate leadership, including Sen. Tom Daschle. Sponsors of the events included Edwards, Kerry, Daschle and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. In fact, Cornyn's campaign had already jumped on Kirk's ties to Clinton, promoting across Texas the fact that Kirk was planning fundraisers in Washington and New York with the junior New York senator.

But Hillary, if she was at either Kirk event in Washington, kept her head down. The Texas press reported that Clinton was at the fundraisers, but Clinton's staff wouldn't confirm that she attended. A Kirk campaign staffer in Dallas says there was some debate inside the campaign as to whether someone should ask Clinton not to attend. "Cornyn was already using Mrs. Clinton's name in attacking Ron here in Texas," says the campaign worker. "The last thing we wanted was Cornyn running ads that showed photos of Kirk and Hillary hugging at some fundraiser."

A Clinton Capitol Hill staffer says no one spoke to the senator about not attending. "But believe me, she's gotten plenty of those kinds of requests and she wouldn't be offended. I just don't believe anyone did from Kirk's shop. She was scheduled to attend at least one of the fundraisers. I don't know that she did."

DISCARDED
Forget about building a bureaucracy at Homeland Security, White House chief of staff Andrew Card has some bridge building to do with the New Hampshire Republican Party.

The Live Free or Die GOP-ers in Manchester heavily promoted a speech by Card at their "America Unite" $100 a seat reception last week. His appearance came at a time when allies of his -- or enemies of Karl Rove, depending on who tells you -- were pushing Card for Secretary of Homeland Security. "We thought he'd come in, speak about what was happening in Washington, the challenges we were facing, bring a message from the President, that kind of thing," says a New Hampshire Republican. "Instead we got a lot of claptrap about his political career. If the drinks had been free, it would have been tolerable. But they weren't. So he wasn't."

Card spoke to the crowd of more than 250 for about 20 minutes, mostly telling little anecdotes about his career in Washington. By all accounts, it was a tough room.

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