Teamsters vs. Bush

Robert Novak

3/1/2003 12:00:00 AM - Robert Novak
WASHIGNTON -- President James P. Hoffa and other Teamsters Union officials were so enraged by Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao's performance Wednesday at the AFL-CIO's winter meeting in Hollywood, Fla., that they privately pronounced an end to President Bush's long courtship of the big union. Chao for months had antagonized labor by insisting on full financial disclosure by union officials as required by a 1959 law that has never been enforced. Answering a question from the floor at the labor meeting, she read aloud financial corruption charges against Machinists Union officials. In private, Teamsters officials indicated they would still work with friendly Republicans in Congress but not with the administration. That indicates the union will probably endorse the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, as it backed Al Gore in 2000. CAMPAIGN FINANCE CHAOS Fear of violating the new McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act was so high that no member of Congress attended a Republican Governors Association (RGA) reception paid for by corporate interests. The lawmakers were informed that McCain-Feingold's abolition of "soft money" made it dangerous for them to take part in activities financed by corporations, even if no fund-raising was involved. The reception was held this past week in connection with the annual Washington conference of the nation's governors. A footnote: The fund-raising team of former Republican National Chairman Haley Barbour, running for governor of Mississippi this year, was shocked by RGA staffers during the governors conference. Because of the new law, they said, no plans had been made to raise money for Barbour. THE SHRUM PRIMARY Although Sen. John Edwards's political advisers expressed satisfaction that political consultant Bob Shrum had gone to work for Sen. John Kerry, Edwards actually was devastated by losing the Shrum primary. Both Edwards and Kerry made spirited bids for the Washington-based political adviser. Shrum, the key consultant in Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, had worked in senatorial campaigns for Edwards in North Carolina and Kerry in Massachusetts. With both senators eager to be Gore's running mate in 2000, Shrum argued in behalf of Edwards. Political sources say Shrum has lowered his opinion of Edwards since the 2000 election. Although Edwards tried to hire Shrum, he did not consult him in his decision to currently avoid such potentially dangerous interview programs as NBC's "Meet the Press" and CNN's "Crossfire." RICE FOR GOVERNOR? National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has delivered a definite no to all pleas that she run against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in California next year, but trying for governor in 2006 might be another matter. Rice, who was Stanford University provost before joining the Bush administration, is described by close associates as privately expressing interest in returning to California to run for governor. Democratic Gov. Gray Davis is barred by term limits from seeking a third term. A footnote: Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has definitively rebuffed calls to run against Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold in Wisconsin next year. Thompson's position is that if he turned down Senate bids when he was the state's popular four-term governor, he will not go that route now that he is out of Wisconsin. ESTRADA POLITICS The next target for Republican strategists seeking to peel away Democratic senators to confirm Miguel Estrada as a federal appeals judge is also the next Democrat to announce for president: Sen. Bob Graham of Florida. Florida's junior senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, Tuesday became the 55th senator to come out for breaking the filibuster against Estrada. Republicans hoped Graham would follow, but that position might antagonize liberal interest groups important in a campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. With 60 votes needed for cloture, other Democratic senators who might yet abandon the party's stand against Estrada include Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina and Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. If all defected, Estrada would still be short one vote.