Inside Report: Bush in California

Posted: Oct 23, 2000 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- The decision by George W. Bush's high command to spend $8 million in California during the presidential campaign's final stage followed weeks of lobbying by his leaders in the state. Even before polls showed Al Gore's lead down to single digits in the Golden State, investment banker Gerald Parsky and State Sen. Jim Brulte pleaded for Bush to put money into the expensive Los Angeles market. Earlier, veteran Republican political operative Ken Khachigian argued successfully that advertising on cable television in Southern California was not enough and money must be spent on broadcasting stations. After Gore's California strategist Gary South last Tuesday publicly warned that the vice president could lose the state, he was called by Gore operatives in Nashville to reassure him. The Gore campaign is purchasing time on Latino and African-American radio, but has no plans to counter Bush's TV buy. LEHRER REGRET Democratic sources in Al Gore's campaign were saying prior to the third and final presidential debate that they were sorry they insisted on PBS's Jim Lehrer as moderator of all three sessions and rejected NBC's Tim Russert for even one. Gore insiders were furious about Lehrer's performance in the second debate in Winston-Salem, N.C., contending he failed to ask follow-up questions of George W. Bush and curbed Gore's efforts to do so. Russert was vetoed by Gore agents because of his tough examination of the vice president on "Meet the Press." After the third debate in St. Louis, however, complaints came from the Bush side. The governor's operatives protested that Lehrer let Gore run wild, failing to enforce the rules. STIFFING REPUBLICANS Secretary of State Madeleine Albright did not bother to invite the Republican chairmen of the Senate and House foreign relations committees to her State Department dinner for a visiting high-ranking official from Communist North Korea. Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Rep. Benjamin Gilman of New York were not invited because, a State Department official informed Gilman's office, only members "with constructive views" were asked. Nor was Cho Myong Nok, senior adviser to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, taken to Capitol Hill for private meetings with senior Republicans. Cho privately met with three prominent Democratic members of Gilman's House International Relations Committee: Reps. Sam Gejdenson of Connecticut, Tom Lantos of California and Gary Ackerman of New York. LOTT IN TROUBLE If the Democrats take control of the Senate or even come close to it, Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi could face a serious threat to oust him as Republican leader. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who pondered a run against Lott after the 1998 elections, is considering a challenge. A more serious threat to Lott might be the Senate's No. 2 Republican, Majority Whip Don Nickles of Oklahoma, who is being urged to run by colleagues. A footnote: Lott may actually have hurt his lieutenant, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, when he endorsed him for Senate GOP conference chairman to replace the retiring Sen. Connie Mack of Florida. Senators who say the endorsement was improper may back Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri against Santorum. "SWING" FUND RAISING? High-level Washington lobbyists have received mysterious invitations from the "Swing States for a GOP White House PAC" promising a chance for George W. Bush inaugural ball tickets in return for contributions. The solicitation letter's return address in Washington ("611 Pennsylvania Ave. S.E.") is a mail drop, and the letter's signatory ("J. Dewald, Chief of Staff") is unknown in the capital's political community. The Federal Election Commission registration lists the committee as "non-party" and located in Morrice, Mich. It has no telephone listing. The Bush campaign has no knowledge of the operation and has assigned lawyers to look into it. The committee's letter claims it is seeking $1 million for "critical swing states": Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Arkansas and Washington. It promises to award a pair of inaugural tickets to a "randomly selected contributor in each of the four states with the highest response." It claims chances of winning the tickets are as good as 1 out of 20 "because our mailing list is very select."