Inside Report: Gephardt vs. Daschle

Posted: Jan 19, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt abruptly cancelled plans for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, his potential rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, to address the House Democratic Caucus early this year. Gephardt's decision reflected widespread criticism by House Democrats about Daschle's heavily publicized speech on issues Jan. 4. They grumble that the senator made it appear that Democrats are in favor of raising taxes, a position that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy made more explicit Wednesday. Such critics are hoping that Gephardt will be more restrained in his forthcoming speech to the caucus. A footnote: Planning is well underway for Gephardt to run for president, whether or not he becomes House speaker after the 2002 elections. According to supporters, he would resign as speaker after the 2003 session. Until now, Daschle's presidential ambitions have been much less clearly defined. ENRON'S BIPARTISANSHIP While President Bush has come under fire for saying that Enron's Kenneth Lay backed Democratic Gov. Ann Richards against him in 1994, in fact, the bankrupt energy company's CEO was close enough to Richards that he refused to be Bush's Houston area finance chairman in that campaign. In 1993, Lay told Bush he would support him in the Republican primary but was committed to Richards's re-election. Lay and his wife, Linda, contributed $12,500 each to Bush's primary election victory against token opposition. Lay contributed $12,500 to Richards. Toward the end of the 1994 campaign, Mrs. Lay contributed an additional $12,500 to Bush but expressed hope it would not be disclosed because of her husband's support for Richards. In view of this performance, Bush political adviser Karl Rove urged that Lay not be retained as the Richards-appointed chairman of the Governor's Business Council. However, Gov. Bush kept Lay. GOOD FOR HILLARY New York Democratic insiders say Sen. Hillary Clinton is a political winner in the Enron scandal. They say she will have the state's spotlight more to herself than usual regarding Enron because her voluble senior colleague, Sen. Charles Schumer, received funds from the bankrupt energy giant. He returned the money Wednesday. The $21,933 received by Schumer for his successful 1998 race against Republican Sen. Alfonse D'Amato was Enron's fourth-largest contribution to a senator. Schumer co-sponsored Enron-backed energy deregulation bills. Schumer is a member of the Senate Banking Committee, which will investigate the Enron scandal. But he may be unusually constrained because of his ties with the corporation. BUSH'S MONEY MAN Republican politicians are privately grumbling about President Bush's selection of financier Lewis Eisenberg to be Republican national finance chairman, less because of his liberal ideology than his occasional contributions to liberal Democrats. In 1992, he contributed $250 to Democrat Elizabeth Holtzman, running for a Republican-held Senate seat in New York. In 1996, he contributed $2,000 to Democrat Ron Wyden, who captured a Republican-held Senate seat in Oregon. But he neither contributed to nor raised funds for conservative Republican Bret Schundler, the 2001 losing candidate for governor in Eisenberg's home state of New Jersey. Eisenberg has been an abortion rights leader in his party, and was a founder of the liberal Republican Leadership Council. Bush's allies on the Republican National Committee excuse Eisenberg's pro-choice background, saying it is difficult to find pro-life advocates in the finance wing of the GOP. DASCHLE IN DAKOTA Twelve of the 20 Democrats in the 70-member South Dakota House of Representatives voted for a pro-tax cut resolution rebuffing the state's top Democrat and most prominent national figure, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. The resolution supports leaving "intact" President Bush's tax reductions that were enacted last year. It also requested Congress "to accelerate the tax cuts if needed, and to allow the tax cuts therein to be fully implemented." Daschle is leading a Democrat drive to suspend some of the reductions scheduled for the future. The resolution carried, 60 to 8, with seven Democrats voting against it and one absent.