WASHINGTON -- Bill Clinton not only received a $750,000 speaking fee for going to Saudi Arabia in January but came back with a hefty pledge for his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., according to high-ranking Saudis. Estimates range from less than $1 million to $20 million.
A Clinton library spokesman told this column he had heard nothing about this contribution and would not tell us if he had. But Saudi sources say the pledge was made by the royal family, following a similar gift to the elder George Bush's presidential library. The Bush library lists a contribution by the family of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi ambassador to Washington, among "gifts of $1 million and above."
A footnote: Prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz, chairman of the Arab Gulf Fund for the United Nations, attacked Clinton's visit to Saudi Arabia because of the former president's pro-Israeli views. Talal often dissents from the royal family's mainstream.
WAITING FOR THE DOCTOR
The fate of a House-passed anti-cloning bill in the Senate may depend on the chamber's only physician: Republican Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee.
Frist is on record against human cloning but has not yet committed himself to a bill many fellow doctors oppose as impeding medical research. With Democratic leaders working against the bill, the Senate outcome is too close too call.
Frist's stock has risen rapidly, making him a possibility for vice president if Dick Cheney does not run in 2004. However, opposition to the anti-cloning bill could ruin him with the conservative Republican base.
Morton Bahr, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), declined to testify at a recent congressional hearing on the collapse of Global Crossing, even though many of his union's members lost their jobs when the Bermuda-based communications company fell.
The CWA informed the House Financial Services Committee that Bahr was too busy March 21 to attend the one-day hearing and that the union preferred not to send anybody else. Republican Rep. Sue Kelly of New York, chairman of the subcommittee conducting the hearing, did not press the point. She told me no further hearings are scheduled but if they are, Bahr will be invited.
Unions are nervous about investigations of Global Crossing. Union Labor Life Insurance Co. and its parent, Ullico Inc., which are owned by a group of labor unions, put $7.6 million into the Global Crossing start-up.
DEMOCRATIC BUDGET WOES
Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has privately expressed doubts that he can win approval by the full Senate of his first budget and may have to limit it drastically.
Conrad's budget approved March 21 by his committee projects 10 years into the future with a Democratic vision of federal spending and debt reduction. With two Democrats possibly joining 48 of 49 Republican senators in opposition, that budget could fail in the closely divided Senate. Consequently, Conrad is considering a one-year budget.
The consensus on Capitol Hill: no budget will get final congressional approval, which would be a serious setback for the 28-year-old federal budget process.
DASCHLE'S $15 BILLION
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle gave Republican critics back home in South Dakota an opening when he minimized a proposed tax increase. Asked about a boost in revenue to offset tax breaks in the energy bill, Daschle replied: "I mean, we're only talking about $15 billion."
That provoked Republican State Rep. Ted Klaudt of Walker, S.D., to respond: "True enough, $15 billion doesn't seem like much to many Washingtonians ... But in South Dakota, $15 billion is still a lot of money." That much money, Klaudt added, could buy a new pickup truck for every man and woman in the state and make a lump sum payment of $51,680 for every South Dakota household.
Since becoming majority leader last year and a potential 2004 presidential candidate, Daschle for the first time has been targeted by Republicans back home.