Inside Report: Soft-money barrage

Posted: Jul 31, 2000 12:00 AM
SOFT-MONEY BARRAGE PHILADELPHIA -- Fred Meyer, one of George W. Bush's closest political operatives, said out loud in a speech to the Republican National Committee Thursday what had been whispered in high-level Republican circles: there will be an unprecedented flood of soft money spent in the 2000 campaign. Former Texas Republican Chairman Meyer, Bush's campaign agent in Washington, predicted that for the first time, "issue" advertising will exceed direct appeals by the presidential campaigns and political parties. These ads are paid for with soft money contributed by special interest groups. A footnote: A current soft-money ad running widely on cable television leading up to the Republican convention has Planned Parenthood attacking George W. Bush's anti-abortion positions. GOP'S DEMOCRATIC CHOICE Republican operatives gathering in Philadelphia generally agree that the strongest vice-presidential choice that Al Gore could make would be Sen. Bob Graham of Florida. By selecting Graham, say the Republicans, Vice President Gore would be going on offense by saying he is after the electoral votes in a state that is considered essential to George W. Bush's election and where GOP polls show him ahead. Graham contrasts with Bush's cautious choice of Dick Cheney. A footnote: In the wake of the Democratic barrage against Cheney's conservative votes cast as a House member more than a dozen years ago, Republican leaders will try to exploit the voting record if a past or present member of Congress is tapped by Gore. NO CONVENTION SEATS Fellow members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) are in full agreement with veteran Ohio Chairman Robert Bennett that guest seats at the Philadelphia convention were "hijacked" by the party's fund-raisers. The RNC Friday unanimously voted to reserve three guest tickets for every 10 members of each state delegation, guaranteeing them for top Republicans in their states, at the 2004 convention. There is also strong sentiment to hold future gatherings at dome-type structures, where the seating capacity is vastly larger. Actually, the 2000 convention could have been held at the Philadelphia Convention Center, which has several thousand seats more than the First Union-Comcast Center. But Comcast, in paying for naming rights, provided cable coverage of the proceedings free of charge, saving the party heavy fees that were paid in 1996 at the San Diego convention. The deal was brokered by Ken Duberstein, a prominent Republican insider who is a Comcast lobbyist. SECURITY IN PHILLY Federal law enforcement officials say privately they are much more concerned about demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles than at this week's Republican meeting in Philadelphia. The reason: the location of each party's convention site. The Staples Center is in a congested area of Los Angeles, while the Comcast Center is 25 minutes from downtown Philadelphia and in an area more easily protected and cordoned off by police. A footnote: Attorney General Janet Reno, the target of incessant Republican attacks, several weeks ago called in Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson for a confidential briefing on convention security. Democratic officials were briefed separately. GRANITE STATE DISCORD In an otherwise harmonious Republican convention, the 17-member New Hampshire delegation is embroiled in a bitter dispute between its McCain and Bush members, who barely talk to each other. The delegation's majority who supported Sen. John McCain for president in the New Hampshire primary had dumped the state's two pro-Bush members of the Republican National Committee -- Tom Rath and Ruth Griffin -- effective this week. In retaliation, not one guest ticket for the convention was given to the McCain delegates by Rath, Griffin and State Chairman Steve Duprey, who still controlled arrangements for this convention. Former Sen. Warren Rudman, McCain's national chairman, cast the deciding vote against his longtime friend and political ally Rath for re-election as the state's national committeeman. Rudman will not attend the Philadelphia convention.