DEAN DOES THE DISHONORS
Former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean annoys a lot of people. Many of them Democrats. But no one is more annoyed at him than the would-be leader of the party, Bill Clinton.
First, Dean swoops in and sucks up to Clinton’s failed protégé Al Gore, without really trying to cozy up to the big guy. Then the two new soul mates announce Gore’s endorsement blocks from Clinton’s Harlem offices (which, by the way, was Gore’s idea).
Now Dean is using the Clinton economic program as his latest doom and gloom target in stump speeches around the country, and Clinton isn’t happy about it.
Dean has been telling just about any audience listening to him that Clinton’s claim that the era of big government is over was in essence a betrayal of basic Democratic values. That Clinton got into bed with Republicans to cut back government, and in turn hurt poor families who needed more of what Dean think government should be giving them.
In classic Dean fashion, he riles up his crowds with those kinds of ideas, then turns around and tells the press that his remarks aren’t intended as shots across Clinton’s bow, even though Dean has told campaign staffers that Gore, for one, told him that those remarks about the Clinton Gore economy were spot on target, and confirmed Gore’s belief that Dean was the straight talker the party needed.
Clinton has not spoken directly to Dean’s claims, instead, in a telling point about who is running whose campaign, former Clinton economic advisers Mickey Kantor and Laura Tyson went on attack mode. Both just happen to be working as advisers to Gen. Wesley Clark. Both, while opening their remarks by saying that General Clark would adhere to Clintonomics, then went on to push back on Dean’s remarks, defending Clinton’s economic policy.
Says a Clark adviser in Washington, “This really had little to do with Clark policy and everything to do with President Clinton wanting someone to defend his honor. He was angry that no one had stepped up before now.”
According to a Dean staffer in Iowa, Clinton has sent Dean a message through intermediaries to stop using him as a political scratching post on the campaign trail. Dean, though, as late as last Friday was still using Clinton as an example of what is wrong with the Democratic Party.
Perhaps to shelter its Democratic friends from embarrassment or simply, as it claims, a clerk screwed up, the AFL-CIO has not filed its semi-annual lobbying expenditure report in more than two years. Those five reports, which would indicate how much the union spent to lobby the federal government on its behalf are required by law under the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act.
The AFL-CIO claims the lack of documentation was simply an oversight, and that the reports will be filed soon.
According to a staffer in the Senate Office of Public Records, which is responsible for collecting and reviewing the reports, it is common for such report filing to be late. “Sometimes a week, a month, a couple of months,” says the staffer. “Usually someone is letting us know and requesting an extension. No one has ever faced any kind of fine or penalty for not filing. But the AFL-CIO has been particularly difficult in getting their stuff in. We don’t know what the problem is.”
On average, the union has spent more than $1 million in lobbying the federal government, as evidenced by reports filed in 2000 and the first half of 2001. “We were probably spending more after that,” says an AFL-CIO lobbyist. “But I don’t know of any reason why we would not have filed these reports. There is nothing sexy about them. No scandal. It’s just lousy paperwork. Everyone looks to avoid this kind of stuff.”
But not for more than two years. Now, the Senate office is looking into the prospects of a punitive fine of some kind to send a message to others looking to avoid filing.