The Note: Follow The Money

WASHINGTON, March 9 --


The highlight of the political day on Tuesday occurred at around 12:07 pm ET, when Rush Limbaugh suggested that Bill Clinton had released details about his Thursday surgery right after President Bush's historic speech about peace and democracy in order to have the former step on the latter.

This analysis gives rise to two thoughts:

1. Right-leaning talk radio hosts owe Bill Clinton a LOT of money.

2. At some point some very smart subset of the Gang of 500 is going to have to figure out if the 41/42 buddyfest is, in the end, going to do more to help 43's legislative agenda or Sen. Clinton's presidential aspirations.

(Check out how big the cable coverage is of the 41/42 10:30ish pre-golf presser today.)

So with 42's heart news canceling out 43's speech (that's a cosmic media calculation we found scrawled in monkey handwriting on the back of an envelope when we walked in today), let's move to Wednesday's agenda:

There's Republican attempts to fit the 10,000-pound square sack of budgetary flour into the round hole of the President's budget wishes on Capitol Hill; there's the need to see if Los Angeles Mayor Hahn will make it into a run-off rematch with Antonio Villaraigosa (We should know for sure within the next few hours . . .); there's the Democrats growing realization that the President's agenda (minus -- so far -- Social Security) is moving fast; and a day of seminal Social Security events.

President Bush meets the President of Romania at 10:55 am ET, choppers to Columbus, OH, where he tours the Battelle Memorial Institute at 1:20 pm ET, motorcades to the Franklin County Veterans Memorial, where he is slated to speak on the need for energy policy legislation at 1:50 pm ET.

At 10:40 am ET, First Lady Laura Bush delivers remarks on the "Helping America's Youth" initiative in Atlanta

At 10:30 am ET, the House Ways and Committee holds its first formal hearing on Social Security reform, hearing from two Social Security trustees and the GAO's David Walker.

The Senate continues to consider the soon-to-be-passed bankruptcy restructuring bill. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appears before the House Appropriations subcommittee at 2:30 pm ET.

Sen. Hillary Clinton keynotes a speech on media and kids at mid-morning at Kaiser Family Foundation health care conference in Washington. At 3:00 pm ET, Sens. Clinton, Brownback, Santorum, and Lieberman will reintroduce the Children and Media Research Advancement Act (CAMRA), a bill that would "authorize funding for research into the effects of all forms of media on children's (toddlers through adolescents) cognitive, social, emotional, physical and behavioral development," according to a news release.

Sen. John Kerry holds a press conference at noon today in the Senate, where an aide says he'll unveil supporters of his KidsFirst Health Care legislation.

Kyoto protocaller and former Vice President Al Gore speaks today at an environmental conference in Knoxville, TN. We hear he will use his nifty Power Point presentation.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush play golf with Greg Norman and raise $$$ for tsunami relief in the process in Hope Sound, FL.

President Clinton:

The Palm Beach Post article on the Bush/Clinton/Norman extravaganza is perfunctory . . . it's not as if the region doesn't get it share of presidents, candidates and motorcades. LINK

Bill Clinton's health+Elisabeth Bumiller's pen=front page of the New York Times. LINK

The consensus diagnosis of all the experts consulted by the media: a rare condition, relatively unrisky surgery.

The Washington Post's David Brown explains President Clinton's heart procedure planned for tomorrow. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Josh Getlin and Karen Kaplan Note that Sen. Hillary Clinton will be with her husband at the hospital. LINK

Social Security: the politics:

The Washington Post's Mike Allen reports that Sen. Lindsey Graham said in an ed board meeting with the Post that Republicans erred in pushing so hard for individual investment accounts, creating a fight over a "sideshow." LINK

A caustic, must-read Wall Street Journal editorial blasts the idea of add-on accounts, wondering why on earth Republicans would want to add anything to a huge entitlement?

Those who blithely assume that there is a compromise hovering out there just waiting for the passage of time to emerge need to read this cautionary tale.

At the same time, personal accounts aren't flying with voters, Republican pollsters told their party's House members yesterday. LINK

Bloomberg's Dick Keil details Vice President Cheney's growing role in selling Social Security reform, with "10 to 15 trips . . . over the next six weeks . . . "

Keil says one Cheney stop will be a town meeting with Chairman Bill Thomas

"Suzanne Granville, who is coordinating the AFL-CIO's campaign opposing Bush's plan, said in an interview she `would never underestimate Dick Cheney on the road, trying to sell their programs.'"

On the other hand, Keil gets at least one person to say Cheney will not help:

"'To get this done, the president is going to need Democrats, and the vice president is one of the most divisive political figures in America,' said strategist Joe Lockhart, who was press secretary to President Bill Clinton and a top adviser to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, the Democrat Bush defeated last year. `It's the wrong messenger.'"

The Los Angeles Times' Warren Vieth looks at the dueling Social Security ads on the air by TrueMajority (spending $54,000 to run for a week in the district of Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Washington) and Progress for America (spending $2 million to run for three weeks on national cable), which follow the $10 million the AARP has spent on full-page ads in national and regional newspapers. LINK

The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus heard something she liked in the "progressive indexing" plan for Social Security proposed by Bob Pozen, a registered Democrat, chairman of MFS Investment Management and a former vice chairman of Fidelity Investments Inc., who served on President Bush's Social Security commission and former economic adviser of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Personal accounts are a "sweetener," he says, but don't help the program's solvency, and he doesn't favor raising the retirement age. LINK

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne claims that President Bush is so far looking at a tough hand on Social Security because he hasn't laid his cards on the table. LINK

The New York Times' Eduardo Porter reviews the legacy of Social Security and puzzles out who might win and who might lose if President Bush gets his way. It's not as simple as both parties would have it. LINK

Economist Thomas Saving (!) makes the case for entitlement reform in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, projecting that current programs will ultimately be underfunded by $74 trillion. Not that he's pushing for personal accounts, as his well-edited last paragraph makes clear.

Bush agenda:

A new regulatory reform push from the Bush Administration is in the works, the Wall Street Journal's John McKinnon reports.

"The stated aim is to improve the overall climate for U.S. manufacturing, a sector hammered by recession and overseas competition during much of President Bush's first term."

"OIRA gave what some experts regard as a preview of the regulatory-review effort in December, when it published several lists of rules for which either the administration or business and other private-sector groups had sought overhaul. Much of the new initiative is expected to focus on industry-nominated changes. But an OMB official said yesterday only that the agency was finalizing plans to release its report on rules to be revisited. OMB will take into consideration the recommendations it received but "won't necessarily implement all these," the official said."

The New York Times' Todd Purdum Notes that even Democrats like Sen. Edward Kennedy give President Bush some credit for the transformational developments in the Middle East and quotes a White House official who urges caution over triumphalism. LINK

The 's Jim VandeHei re-caps the President's comments yesterday at National Defense University that democracy is the antidote to terrorism. LINK

The President made it clear he's not backing down from his push to bring democracy to the Middle East, writes USA Today's Richard Benedetto. LINK

Who knew the process for selecting a White House chef could be so political? LINK

(The answer: all Note readers!!!)

Big casino budget politics:

The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray (Welcome!) and Jonathan Weisman curtain-raise the House and Senate budget and tax packages to be unveiled today, Noting that tax cuts remain part of the deal despite steep spending cuts -- over the nervousness of some moderate Republicans who understand the symbolism of the action, and partly because the House will fight to cut taxes. LINK

"The push for more tax cuts will only complicate those spending fights, conceded a senior Senate GOP leadership aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the budget has not yet been unveiled. There is growing skepticism, on Capitol Hill and among lobbyists, that a budget can be achieved."

"'We just don't know where the votes are, but the first step is to get it out of the committee and get it to the floor,' the aide said. 'It's kind of the Wild West out there, and I just don't know how it's going to come out.'"


You know by now that Steve Elmendorf, former Chief of Staff to Rep. Dick Gephardt and deputy cam . . . oh heck, he's just "Elmo" . . . and Jack Oliver, former deputy chair of the RNC and BC04 fundraising czar, are partnering to become the leaders of Bryan Cave LLP's public policy and governmental affairs strategy group.

"Oliver and Elmendorf are considered among the most effective, knowledgeable and well-connected individuals in U.S. politics today," said Bryan Cave Chairman Don Lents in a statement. "Government policy affects nearly all businesses. Effective client problem solving and planning requires more than traditional litigation services and business advice. Bryan Cave Strategies fits our firmwide commitment to providing top-tier, full service solutions for our clients."

The St. Louis Post Dispatch's Deirdre Sheesgreen gets Larry Noble to acknowledge that Messiers Elmendorf and Oliver will be instantly credible. LINK

Look out QuinnGillespie / PodestaMattoon . . . and if you are network exec and aren't thinking about turning this pairing into a reality show, you are nuts.

Two major subcontractors (if Karl was the architect) of President Bush's re-election campaign are headed to the Washington, D.C. office of the Florida-based law firm of Akerman Senterfitt.

These two men, among the smartest GOP consultants around, are: former BC04 deputy campaign manager Mark Wallace and former BC04 political director Terry Nelson.

Wallace will be of counsel; Nelson will be a consultant in the firm's government relations shop.

Wallace, a veteran of Florida politics and national policy roles, served the Bush campaign in several highly sensitive roles, from liaising with the RNCC in New York to being a key debate negotiator to being the campaign's point person on election administration issues.

The circumspect Nelson, formerly a top deputy at the RNC, was one of Rove's lead field marshals and designed and supervised the campaign's political, outreach and field efforts. (The tales we heard of his in-house motivational sessions are legendary.)

Upcoming Mary Beth Cahill-led study groups we know we want to attend at the Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics:

Today, Kerry campaign COO Karen Hancox explains how she kept the KE04 budget on track. And Marc Elias speaks on election law, coordination (and lack thereof).

On 3/16, Stephanie Cutter guests, along with Karen Tumulty.

On April 6, John Podesta "will talk about the role policies and ideas play in federal campaigns," according to the syllabus. On April 13, moneyman Louis Susman explains the ins and outs of fundraising.

On April 20: Bob Shrum.

TNR senior editor Ryan Lizza formalizes his agreement to write on politics for Adam Moss's New York magazine, and we are thrilled for him, New York, and, uh, New York. LINK

Bolton from the blue:

The New York Times duo of Carl Hulse and Steven Weisman get lots of good background comments from Senators (Sen. Lugar allegedly advised Secretary Rice not to nominate Bolton as her deputy; Sen. Chafee is iffy about Bolton but probably will vote for him; Vice President Cheney played a "decisive role.") and conclude that while the nominee will face a tough panel of questions, his nomination is not in jeopardy. LINK

A smarmy anti-Bolton New York Times editorial wonders whether President Bush will ask "Donald Rumsfeld to negotiate a new set of Geneva Conventions? Martha Stewart to run the Securities and Exchange Commission? Kenneth Lay for energy secretary?" LINK

Writes Nile Gardiner on the Boston Globe's op-ed page, "The nomination of Bolton should be viewed not as a slap in the face of the UN but as a symbol of the importance the Bush administration attaches to reforming the world's largest multilateral institution. His nomination also is a recognition of the need for strong American leadership at the United Nations." LINK

Anne Applebaum goes to China and defends Bolton on the Washington Post op-ed page. LINK

The Congress:

The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports that GOPers in the Senate will add ANWR drilling to their budget proposal and gets all sides of the debate to acknowledge that it has a fairly good (though not inevitable) chance of passing. LINK

The New York Times' Steven Labaton calls the passage of bankruptcy legislation inevitable and provides a useful summary of the debate to date. LINK

The New York Times' Phil Shenon summarizes the documents entered into evidence in the Texas TRMPAC case. There still seems to be no precise there there. LINK

The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick reports that former Bush aide Gary Marx has formed a clearinghouse for conservative groups to coordinate grassroots activism for the President's judicial nominees. LINK


Deb Orin is of course all over Teresa Heinz Kerry's musings about alleged election shenanigans. LINK

And the Boston Herald's Andrew Miga Notes that about 100 top John Kerry fundraisers and supporters huddled at his Georgetown manse Monday to plot his comeback. LINK

The Arizona Republic's Billy House writes that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) leads Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) by double-digits in a new Marist College poll, with 54 percent to her 42 percent in a hypothetical head-to-head White House matchup. But first he'd have to get the Republican nomination. LINK

The Village Voice's Kristen Lombardi says that Sen. Clinton made her debut as a "god-fearing American" on Jan 19. LINK

Tish Durkin of the New York Observer channels Sen. Clinton and says to herself: "If the American heartland is anything like upstate New York -- or, please God, the national-level Republicans in 2008 are anything like the New York State ones in 2000, and limit their entire message to the premise that I am one scary bitch -- I will get major points just for not spitting fire."

She continues: "But hang on a second. It is one thing to view Hillary Clinton as a plausible candidate. It is quite another to hail her as Our Lady of Democratic Redemption. Lately, some of the analysis she has inspired has been so ecstatic and so fuzzy, it seems only a matter of time before those offering it start giggling and getting the munchies."

Read the whole thing. LINK

Why did Sen. Chuck Hagel's year-end constituency report end up in the mailbox of a tried and true New Hampshire Democrat? LINK

As Gov. Jeb Bush delivered his state of the state, attention was focused on those who'll try and succeed him. LINK

Bush pushed for tax cuts, Medicaid reform, changes to the public education system, and asked legislators to be bold.

Slots lose in Miami-Dade; win in Broward; Jeb Bush takes credit. LINK

Correction: On Monday, we incorrectly reported the content of legislation that Virginia Gov. Mark Warner planned to sign. The general assembly repealed the ban on private companies offering domestic partner benefits. We regret the error.


The Los Angeles Times' Michael Finnegan and Mark Barabak report that Antonio Villaraigosa was leading early in the Los Angeles mayoral race, with incumbent James Hahn and Bob Hertzberg competing for the second spot that will take one of them to a May runoff. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Matea Gold writes that the runoff will be much tougher for Villarigosa. LINK

" . . . [I]n the runoff, Villaraigosa is confronted with the challenge he faced in 2001: piecing together a multiethnic coalition in the tradition of the late Mayor Tom Bradley, the city's first black mayor, who won office in 1973 with the backing of African Americans, liberal voters and Jews, along with a narrow majority of Latinos."

"Pulling together such disparate groups is a difficult task. If he seeks to energize Latinos about the prospect of a historic first, Villaraigosa could alarm other voters who are wary of the group's growing political clout, analysts said. But shying away from the ethnic pride associated with his bid could deflate excitement among that important constituency."

Congratulations, Mrs. Matsui. LINK

Clarification: a run-off in the 5th Congressional District in California would have winnowed the field from 12 to six candidates; our writing implied otherwise yesterday, though it's moot by now. We regret the error.

The New York Post on Klein v. Weiner and Ferrer: "Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has come out swinging at two Democratic mayoral hopefuls who, he says, are all wrong about Mayor Bloomberg's education record." LINK

"The schools boss ripped Rep. Anthony Weiner and former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer in an interview on New York 1 News -- fuming that 'they don't care what the facts are.'"

"Klein's slashing broadside drew a rapid response from the Ferrer camp in the form of an error-riddled press release that twice misstated Klein's first name as 'Joe,' misspelled his last name as 'Kline,' and botched Ferrer's former title as 'Bronx Bureau President.'"

"Klein's jabs underscored the tone of an election season in which the performance of the public education system under Bloomberg is a key battleground."

The New York Post's McManus opines that Rep. Rangel's endorsement of a West Side Stadium suggests that the city's black establishment doesn't really support Freddy. LINK

The New York Observer's Ben Smith on Mayor Bloomberg's professed distaste for pandering and the necessity of said activity in his re-election campaign. LINK


California's Democratic state treasurer, Phil Angelides, plans to announce his gubernatorial bid next week, reports Robert Salladay of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

We saw him making the rounds in Las Vegas last week at the AFL-CIO convention.

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas writes that Gov. Schwarzenegger, as he hits fundraisers across the country, is being dogged by protests by nurses and firefighters that he's previously been shielded from, prompting him to change his itinerary and acknowledge them in stump speeches. LINK

Zachary Coile of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that on his visit to Washington where he visited with the President, Karl Rove, and Cabinet secretaries Leavitt, Spellings, and Norton, Schwarzenegger spent much of his time raising cash from lobbyists representing drug firms, Wall Street, and the entertainment industry, causing his critics to wonder if he's giving too much access to special interests. Coile Notes that Schwarzenegger collected $500,000 from his 21 Club fundraiser in New York Monday night. LINK

The Washington Post's reliable "Names and Faces" column has the Gov palling around with Wayne Berman. LINK

Dean and the Democrats:

The Democratic National Committee, which on Tuesday told us their nomination calendar committee on Saturday was closed to the press, now tells us that it is open.

Campaign finance:

The New York Times' Glen Justice writes of "concerns" that 527s will play a big role in the 2006 Congressional elections but neglects to detail precisely why Sen. McCain and others are worried, other than a general concern that the groups are too influential. LINK

Speech issues, aside -- we'd ask (as we always ask with campaign finance stories like this) -- what's the problem here? Where's the corruption (or potential for corruption)? Is transparency the issue? Or simply a lack of party or candidate control over message? And if there is no or little chance for corruption, what's wrong, from a voter's standpoint, with hearing well-funded, ideologically diverse voices?


Former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson bolts through the revolving door, per the Wall Street Journal.

"Mr. Thompson, the secretary of Health and Human Services during President Bush's first term, will join Deloitte & Touche USA LLP and the law firmAkin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. At Deloitte, he will help establish a practice area focused on solving health-care problems that will involve insurers, states and other entities. At Akin Gump, Mr. Thompson will advise companies and health-care providers about regulation and policy. The firm's clients include hospitals, cancer-treatment centers and pharmaceuticals makers."

Other members of Congress -- Reps. Bob Ney (R-OH) and Tom Feeney (R-FL) and aides besides House Majority Leader Tom DeLay have also gone on golf junkets to Scotland with lobbyist Jack Abrmaoff and may have violated House rules, the Los Angeles Times' Chuck Neubauer and Walter Roche report. LINK

Prosecutors in King County, WA, are moving to pull the voter registrations of 99 convicted felons believed to have voted in the 2004 election. Now it's on to the more than 800 possible felon voters the state Republican Party identified in its lawsuit to overturn the election of Gov. Christine Gregoire. LINK ; LINK

The Washington state Supreme Court is considering whether the state's Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional. LINK ; LINK

If you're looking for a good piece on Fed Chairrman Alan Greenspan's actual monetary policy legacy, Stephen Roach, the chief economist for Morgan Stanley, wrote this bottom-line assessment for Foreign Policy. LINK

Can someone explain to us why WalMart's chief lobbyist just resigned? LINK

Free Matt Cooper and Judith Miller:

On the Washington Post's op-ed page, Randall Eliason argues that the prosecutor in the Plame case is just doing his job, and when the investigation focuses on the leak, it makes sense to talk to the reporters who talked to the leaker. LINK