Jewish World Review June 19, 2002/ 9 Tamuz 5762


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Consumer Reports

McAuliffe, the pirate | An unfortunate sentence construction in Juliet Eilperin's June 15 Washington Post report on the wealth, or lack thereof, of congressional members brightened this reader's Saturday morning. After disposing of politicians who lost money on Enron stock, those who live paycheck-to-paycheck (Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich and GOP Rep. Bill Thomas for example) and the millionaires for whom the U.S. Senate is a second career-I especially enjoyed the description of presidential contender John Edwards, a former personal injury lawyer who "has at least $7.3 million and possibly as much as $33.6 million, most of it in a blind trust"-Eilperin mentions in passing James Jeffords, that "flinty Vermonter."

She writes: "Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.) received a $125,000 advance from Simon and Schuster to write last year's 'My Declaration of Independence,' which explained his decision to quit the GOP, as well as an autobiography set for release this fall." So that's the reason Jeffords betrayed Republican voters in his state, who'd reelected him six months before his calculated tip of Senate control to Tom Daschle. It was all about money! One wonders whether Joe Lieberman and his wife Hadassah, who are writing a potentially far more interesting book than Jeffords' self-aggrandizing Declaration, felt a bit cheated upon receiving an advance of only $13,500.

Not surprisingly, no politician could touch Bill Clinton-who's "never been about money," according to Carville/Begala/Conason propaganda-in his campaign to become the wealthiest ex-president. After leaving office, according to a financial disclosure filed by his wife Hillary, Clinton amassed $9.2 million for 59 speeches in just his first year as a civilian.

That's fairly remarkable, considering that until about April of 2001, after his messy, pardon-filled exit from the White House, the Dogpatch Kid was radioactive and kept a low profile. In addition, Bill and Hillary drew, respectively, book advances of $10 million and $8 million. Also not shocking, as Richard A. Oppel Jr. writes in last Saturday's New York Times, the Clintons still owe "between $1.75 million and $6.5 million in legal bills," stemming from serial misbehavior during his administration.

We'll have to wait until next year to see what the impeached president raked in for 2002, but as he's distanced himself from the Oval Office-when not mucking up George W. Bush's foreign policy with Jimmy Carter-like intrusions into world affairs-there's no doubt it was a dandy 12 months indeed. But hey, someone has to pay for Chelsea's extravagant European lifestyle.

McAuliffe and friends

Not quite as appalling was Thomas Edsall's June 16 Washington Post article that explained how Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe's lawyers are working to water down the McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill. This is one reason why McAuliffe is a populist impostor and, despite his formidable fundraising skills, ultimately a detriment to his party. Obviously, he wasn't really in favor of the ludicrous reform legislation; browbeating contributors for "soft" money was/is his forte. But when the debate was before Congress McAuliffe's voice was loud and clear, denouncing sensible Republicans who opposed McCain and his minions.

Like so many multimillionaire Democrats, McAuliffe likes to pretend he's watching out for the "little guy."

Well-intentioned but misguided clean-government types were outraged at McAuliffe's latest moves. Edsall reports: "Fred Wertheimer, head of the reform group Democracy 21, also weighed in. He said DNC lawyer Joseph E. Sandler not only advocates [Federal Election Commission] regulations that would gut the campaign finance law, but also represents another client-the California Democratic Party [there's Gov. Gray Davis again!]-that has joined a Supreme Court case challenging the new law's constitutionality. 'The bottom line is, the lawyer for the Democratic Party and Terry McAuliffe is in court challenging the constitutionality of the soft-money ban, which seems to be a little bit in conflict with the strong professed support of Terry McAuliffe for the law,' Wertheimer said."

In addition, Common Cause president Scott Harshbarger said: "Terry McAuliffe says he supports reform, but his lawyers are working hard to undo the new law. Mr. McAuliffe, these guys [the lawyers] work for you. You have to choose."

Harshbarger also sent a letter to McAuliffe that said: "You and other party leaders cannot take public credit for enacting important reforms supported by the American people on the one hand, while sending your lawyers into court and into the F.E.C. to undermine the law, on the other."

Terry the Pirate, usually one of the more voluble cartoon characters in DC, has kept mum on this particular instance of double-dealing.

An indignant June 15 New York Times editorial on the subject predictably placed most of the blame on President Bush for McCain-Feingold's current troubles. The paper said: "The most disgraceful aspect of this travesty is its hypocrisy. President Bush signed the bill into law, getting credit for his action. He then authorized Republican Party lawyers to challenge its constitutionality."

This view is a naked distortion of facts. Bush did hold his nose and sign the bill, but there was no Rose Garden ceremony for McCain, Feingold, Shays, Meehan and Howell Raines toasting their victory. And far from receiving "credit," Bush alienated the conservative base of his own party, inciting The Wall Street Journal and National Review, for example, to declare that his political expediency was a betrayal of his oath to uphold the Constitution.

Two days later, The Washington Post countered with a far more accurate editorial, which didn't even mention Bush. Instead, the paper slammed McAuliffe and then questioned Democratic leaders Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt about their allegiance to campaign finance reform. The writer concluded: "One is entitled to wonder, however, if [Gephardt] and [Daschle] share [McAuliffe's] 'views' concerning how the law ought to be implemented. If so, why did they support it in the first place. And if not, why don't they do something about it?"

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith