Bush and Business

Posted: Jun 22, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- When President Bush slipped an admonition for businessmen to be honest into his speech at Wednesday night's huge Republican fund-raiser at the Washington Convention Center, he disregarded political advice from aides. In the wake of Enron and other scandals, the president long has contemplated a major address taking issue with lax corporate standards. He was dissuaded on grounds it might further roil the stock market. However, concluding Wednesday night's pep talk to party donors, Bush said: "If you run a corporation in America, you're responsible for being honest on your balance sheet with all your assets and liabilities." His audience, which had contributed up to $250,000 each to be there, applauded. A footnote: Bush gave a more complete presentation on corporate governance to the Business Roundtable Thursday, but the event was closed to the press and public. BUSH & TEAMSTERS More than 150 Teamsters political operatives called to Washington by union President James P. Hoffa to plan campaign strategy for 2002 will meet Monday with President Bush, who has been wooing the giant union. No previous president of either party has met with the Teamsters politicos on such visits to the capital. White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao will also address Monday's meeting. A footnote: The Democratic share of Teamsters political contributions, which was 93 percent in 2000, is now down to 80 percent. Republicans working with the union hope to lower the number to 70 percent, but the GOP is unlikely ever to get much more than 30 percent of Teamsters money. Hoffa recently indicated he will add Florida's Gov. Jeb Bush to the list of Republican candidates he will endorse this year. FIRST OFF THE CABINET? The most likely member of the Bush Cabinet to be the first to depart is its only Democrat: Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, a former congressman from California. When Mineta was unveiled as a surprise Bush Cabinet member, the Transportation Department appeared a relatively stress-free government agency. It has been near the forefront of the war against terrorism since Sept. 11, and Mineta has seemed overwhelmed in the opinion of colleagues. At age 70, he is not in the best of health. A footnote: Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, unlikely to head the new Homeland Security Cabinet department, is talked about as a successor to Mineta at Transportation. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson would have preferred the Transportation portfolio when he resigned as governor of Wisconsin following the 2000 elections. ED ROLLINS RETURNS Veteran Republican political operative Ed Rollins is being brought in to advise Bill Simon's uphill campaign against California's Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. The political career of Rollins, a native Californian, peaked in 1984 when he managed President Ronald Reagan's re-election campaign. He angered Republican regulars in 1992 when he briefly ran Ross Perot's presidential campaign before being dismissed by the candidate. Sal Russo, a Sacramento-based campaign consultant working for Simon, was associated with Rollins in his Perot endeavor. A footnote: Gerald Parsky, President Bush's chief political agent in California, last week was instrumental in placing an ally, John Peschong, as Simon's campaign manager. But Parsky definitely was not involved in hiring Rollins. ROCK THE LOBBY The prominent Democratic lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates has registered to lobby for Rock the Vote, supposedly a non-partisan organization aimed at getting young people to register and vote. Rock the Vote, created by the recording industry in 1990, did not respond to this column's repeated questions. Asked whether Cassidy planned to seek federal funds for Rock the Vote, a spokesman said the lobbying firm would serve as the organization's "arms and ears on the hill" and help members "understand the program and what they are doing." Rock the Vote has granted its national awards to Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson.