Inside Report:

Posted: Aug 17, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- New York Gov. George Pataki is privately telling major figures in Wall Street that he feels it is time for Paul O'Neill to step down as secretary of the Treasury and be replaced by a more effective spokesman. As the Republican governor of the state containing the world's financial capital, Pataki is in close touch with leaders in banking and finance. They all agree that a new face at Treasury is needed but that there is no apparent choice to succeed O'Neill. A footnote: One senior Bush administration official, when asked his opinion, said the secretary's future will be determined by four people: O'Neill himself, O'Neill's wife, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. HANDS-ON "W" President Bush, sometimes accused of being aloof with people outside his inner circle, made sure that no such accusations could come out of his economic forum at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, last week. The president spent some two hours more than was allocated on his schedule in order to meet and greet every invited participant in the forum. That was intended to avert quotes to the media about forum participants never having real contact with Bush. A footnote: A sub-theme of the Waco forum was the Bush administration's desire to detach the Republican Party from the image of big business. Accordingly, Bush officials stressed the permanent repeal of the estate tax, softening of occupational safety regulations under OSHA and a new proposal that would make private investment in small business eligible for IRAs and 401(k)s. DEMOCRAT MARTHA Martha Stewart, under fire for engaging in stock transactions with alleged insider information, last year stepped up her previously modest political contributions -- all of it given to Democrats. Billionaire entrepreneur Stewart in 2001 contributed $125,000 in unregulated "soft money" for Democratic accounts. Her previous giving, dating back to 1990, totaled $54,457 -- $41,216 to Democratic committees and organizations and $13,241 to Democratic candidates. Stewart contributed $2,000 to Bill Clinton's presidential campaigns, and $2,000 to Al Gore and $1,000 to Bill Bradley, rivals for the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination. She has given $2,000 to Chellie Pingree, the 2002 Senate candidate in Maine. Her past beneficiaries include Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), Robert Torricelli (N.J.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Evan Bayh (Ind.) and John Kerry (Mass.). TARGETING BIDEN Hopes for getting the federal appellate court appointment of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen out of the Senate Judiciary Committee may hinge entirely on Sen. Joseph Biden breaking ranks with his fellow Democrats and sending the nomination to the Senate floor. Hopes by Owen's supporters have faded that Sen. Russell Feingold, the maverick Democrat from Wisconsin, will supply the necessary Democratic vote for the anti-abortion Texan. Public statements by Biden dating back 17 years have stressed temperament and professional qualifications for judicial nominees rather than ideology. However, Biden has contradicted those standards by both statements and action. Most recently, Biden joined a solid Democratic phalanx in keeping the appellate court nomination of U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi from getting out of the Judiciary Committee. CONSERVATIVE DISCORD The Club for Growth has picked its Republican target for 2002: six-term Rep. Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland, whose votes in the House often depart from Republican and conservative standards. The Club has won six straight congressional primaries this year, but this will be its first 2002 challenge of an incumbent Republican. Led by financier Richard Gilder and economist Stephen Moore, the Club for Growth was formed in 1999 to oppose "anti-growth" Republicans from safe GOP districts. Its candidate against Gilchrest, who represents Maryland's heavily Republican Eastern Shore, is lawyer Dave Fischer. A well-financed challenge in the Sept. 10 Republican primary is bad news for Rep. Robert Ehrlich, the Republican opposing Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for governor of Maryland. After pulling even in the polls, Ehrlich wants a united GOP in the heavily Democratic state.