The Note: Special Relationships



Today, with the help of many people who have worked at home to advance the cause of Bill Clinton's Democratic Party, George W. Bush's close friend and ally Tony Blair will face the voters in the British elections.

Although Blair is widely expected to secure a third term, ABC News' Claudine Weinbrenn reports, his majority in Parliament is likely to be reduced from the landslide victories he won in 1997 and 2001.

Per Weinbrenn: "In recent weeks the election campaign has been dominated by the issue of Iraq, and Blair's decision to go to war could cost his party votes. Polls close at 2200 local/1700edt with the first results due at 2345 local/1845edt. It will not be clear who has won until early on Friday. To gain a majority, one party needs to win 324 seats out of a total 645. At the end of the last Parliament, Labour had 410 MPs, the Conservatives 164 and the Liberal Democrats 54. Four newspaper polls on Thursday have given Labour a lead of between three and six points over the main opposition Conservative Party."

The Washington Post's Glenn Frankel and Dan Balz offer their overview: LINK

(The Brits will also be much in the news today because of the explosion at the consulate in New York -- a whodunit that remains unsolved at this writing. LINK)

As Washington Post Anglophile Balz reports in a separate story with his supercalifragilisticexpialidocious "London" dateline, people with names such as "Penn," "Shrum," "Hicks," "Trippi," and "Greenberg," have been working overtime between bites of naan to help keep New Labour from becoming old. LINK

The Bush-Blair tie, of course, has been built largely around fighting terror and the war in Iraq, but those two chaps now clearly like each other for more than just their lack of wobbliness and their shared toothpaste brand. LINK

We'll leave it to the ladies of "The View" to figure out if there is something about the Bush-Blair friendship that has worked to improve the Bush-Clinton relationship (or maybe vice versa), but it's clear that a smart host(ess) could put together a roomful of people of whom both 42 and 43 are fond.

So while they might not see eye-to-eye on the White House chef, Sidney Blumenthal, or The Note, here -- based on a combination of intense reporting and something we think we overheard while in line for a table at the Palm -- is our exclusive list of those rare few who are FOGs and FOBS (or, at least, people they both like):

1. Tony Blair

2. George Herbert Walker Bush

3. Ron Fournier

4. Paula Zahn

5. Silvio Berlusconi

6. John Breaux

7. Bob Dole

8. Mike Huckabee

9. Richard Daley

10. Colin Powell

11. Paul Begala

12. Laura Bush

13. Norm Mineta

14. Mary Matalin

15. John King

16. Willie Mays

17. Jack Martin

18. Bono

19. Tom Wolfe

20. Chelsea Clinton

(Did we get any wrong? And what are the key ones we are missing? Send us your ideas at

And now, in the best tradition of Monty Python, for something completely different.

This is another list: Gary Walters, Bob Kerrey, Jimmy Hoffa, Carl Cameron, Richard Riordan, Maureen Dowd.

While he waits for returns from his War Room, President Bush delivers remarks on the National Day of Prayer from the East Room of the White House at 9:00 am ET. He meets with the President of Nigeria in the Oval Office at 1:35 pm ET.

Senior administration officials hold a briefing on President Bush's upcoming trip to Latvia, Netherlands, Russia and Georgia at 1:30 pm ET.

First Lady Laura Bush delivers the keynote address at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's annual days of remembrance ceremony in the U.S. Capitol rotunda at noon ET. Other speakers at the event include Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Daniel Ayalon, ambassador of Israel.

The museum presents a day-long reading of the names of Holocaust victims featuring liberators and survivors from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm ET.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her regular news conference at 10:45 am ET.

Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and others hold a news conference on the use of the filibuster in the Senate and the president's judicial nominees at 11:00 am ET.

At 11:30 am ET, Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Tim Murphy (R-PA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Tom Price (R-GA), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Eric Cantor (R-VA) hold a news conference to talk about Republican health care initiatives.

At 10:00 am ET, Reps. Michael Castle (R-DE) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) hold a news conference to discuss Amtrak.

The FEC meets at 10:00 am ET.

Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte delivers the keynote address at the American Jewish Committee's annual dinner this evening.

Spanish Justice Minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar meets behind closed doors at the Justice Department with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller at noon ET. At 2:00 pm ET, he holds a closed meeting with Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), chairman of the House Judiciary's Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, and at 3:00 pm ET, he holds a closed meeting with Supreme Court Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at the Georgia Republican Party convention in Savannah.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) keynotes the Truman-Kennedy-Holcomb dinner in Butler County, OH.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) speaks to Allegany County (MI) Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's book, "Quit Digging Your Grave With A Knife And Fork," hits the bookshelves.

Social Security:

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman and Jeffrey Birnbaum look at how House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) has put himself back in the limelight to try to revive President Bush's plan to add private accounts to the Social Security system, even though the White House had wanted the Senate Finance Committee and its chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, to take the lead. And here comes the lobbying storm. LINK

"A Republican leadership aide said House leaders were caught by surprise Friday when Thomas announced he would draft legislation in early June that would enlarge the bill considerably to include a grab bag of popular retirement savings provisions and tax incentives. But those who have worked with the chairman were not so surprised."

And the result could be a bill that could focus on changes and expansions to existing individual retirement accounts and 401(k) plans -- rather than the private account plan if it doesn't pick up steam.

Again, check out what the Post pair have the lobbyists saying, on a range of issues.

On Saturday morning, "Good Morning America" weekend presents an interview with former President Bill Clinton on a vast and sundry array of topics. Mr. Clinton sat down with ABC News' Kate Snow this week to talk mainly about his initiative to reduce obesity in children, and they went from there.

Here's an excerpt from their conversation . Contrary to the strategy pursued by his wife's party in Congress, Clinton suggests that Democrats put forth a plan to enhance the solvency of the program. Still, since President Bush only very recently endorsed a specific approach to restraining benefits, Clinton says Democrats should not be blamed for not having a plan until now.

Snow: When you were President you talked about Social Security. In fact, you had a Social Security drive at one point to try to reform it. The President now is laying out some new ideas about how to keep it solvent and the Democrats have mostly been saying no, no, no. Do the Democrats need to move, do they need to compromise and negotiate with this president on Social Security?

Clinton: Well, I think they need to come up with a plan of their own. But I don't think it's fair to criticize them for not having done it now. I mean, when I was President it was my job to come up with plans, and if you are in the congressional majority it's your job. We are in the minority in both houses and we needed to wait until they made their proposal and come back. We didn't have a proposal until a couple days ago.

Snow: But they shouldn't just let it lie.

Clinton: No I think we shouldn't let it lie . . . I think the Democrats should say what they are for on Social Security in the next couple weeks; they got time to put together a program. I think it should include an opportunity for people to participate in savings and ownership uh, they don't have to do private accounts because they can't figure out how to borrow the money. . . . but I think that the Democrats should have a plan and they should talk to the President and the congressional Republicans about it.

Again, there's much more from that interview this Saturday on "Good Morning America."

The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel gives a thumbs-up to President Bush's Social Security convictions.

"The Social Security debate is often bogged down in dueling myths and incomprehensible arithmetic. The president's latest words are a reminder that this actually is a debate about the fundamental nature of America's most popular government program."

The Los Angeles Times' Warren Vieth and Sara Clarke wrap the cautiously interested views of some Latino leaders after President Bush's address yesterday. LINK

Ed Tibbetts writes in the Quad City Times that Sen. Chuck Grassley said Wednesday he thinks "the Democrats will have to be dragged to the table" on Social Security, and he intends to embarrass them into working on the issue. LINK

Abramoff, DeLay, travel, and ethics:

The Washington Post's R. Jeffrey Smith and Derek Willis leaf through travel and expense records and confirm, though not as breathlessly as some Post campaign finance stories, what wasn't really a secret about lawmakers and corporate jets: a dozen current or former leaders in the House and Senate, "each with exceptional power to determine the fate of legislation and regulation," flew on corporate-owned jets at least 360 times between January 2001 and December 2004. Running down the most-to-least list, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) are at the top, followed by Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL). LINK

"The use of these jets remains one of the last corporate-financed perquisites of elected office allowed under congressional ethics rules, which permit lawmakers to fly on them to fundraisers and other events despite a welter of laws meant to restrain the influence of corporations in politics."

"No limits exist on the frequency of such corporate flights, even though lawmakers have an annual taxpayer-financed allowance to cover the cost of flying commercial airlines on official business."

". . . The records show that flights were provided by some of Washington's largest corporate interests, including tobacco, telecommunications, business consulting, securities, air transport, insurance, pharmaceutical, railroad and food companies. Officials at some of these firms said that they granted requests for flights in the hope of currying favor with the leaders, that lobbyists were typically onboard their flights, and that they used the opportunity to press the interests of the aircrafts' owners."

The duo Note that lawmakers have to make some sort of payment for the flights, but they're heavily discounted and paid for out of PAC and donor money. Read all the way to the end for a look at the (legal, we remind you) flight/lobbying relationship between DeLay and Reliant Energy, Inc., of Houston.

Again: this type of story will worry Members who are concerned about a "everybody does it, but that doesn't mean that the country will like it" backlash.

The New York Times' Carl Hulse manages a nice wrap of yesterday's events; a quote from Marty Meehan, props to the American Progress Action Fund, DeLay on said Action Fund, the ethics panel recusals, etc. LINK

Mike Allen of the Washington Post reports that House Republican leaders said yesterday they'll consider tightening lobbying and travel rules and may find a way to grant amnesty for minor infractions in an effort to ward off a tit-for-tat ethics investigation war. It would not, however, preclude an investigation into the allegations surrounding the travel of Tom DeLay. Allen also Notes that Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) said he's on board with some of the ideas for overhauling the lobbying rules offered yesterday by Reps. Martin Meehan (D-MA) and Rahm Emanuel (D-IL). LINK

Speaking of, Roll Call's Ben Pershing and Erin Billings take a look at Republicans' increasing attacks on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The Los Angeles Times' Richard Simon reports that Reps. Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) and Tom Cole (R-OK) recused themselves Wednesday from the DeLay investigation because they have contributed to his legal defense fund. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Michael Schroeder writes of an unusual alliance between Rep. Tom DeLay, liberal consumer groups, and other Republicans who aren't inclined to extend the 2002 Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, despite lobbying from the insurance industry.

"On the other side is a bipartisan bloc of lawmakers, including many from populated states that could be terrorism targets. They say that fresh attacks on the U.S. remain a threat and that the industry can't be expected to assume the risk. At minimum, they argue that the federal backstop should be extended for a couple of years while they debate long-term solutions."

American Airlines and Verizon, two companies that have contributed to Tom DeLay's legal defense fund in the past, won't be doing so in the future.

The Center for American Progress used its e-mail list and its DropTheHammer Web site to flood these companies with complaints. They responded yesterday: And American Airlines does its best to distance itself from DeLay.

Said spokesman Roger Frizzell: "American Airlines does not intend to make any future contributions to Representative DeLay's legal defense fund. The $5000 contribution, made three years ago, was done by an individual who is no longer part of American Airlines."

Verizon's statement is more equivocal. "It is Verizon's corporate policy not to contribute to legal defense funds. This policy has been in effect for several years. The contribution cited by your organization was made almost four years ago, before that policy went into effect."

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank offers a sketch of a day in the life of DeLay, "the most hunted man in Congress." LINK

Matt Stiles of the Houston Chronicle has details about former Rep. Nick Lampson's challenge to DeLay. LINK

But first, Lampson has to pay back more than $16,000 to the U.S. Treasury after overspending his office allowance in Congress, Roll Call's Jennifer Yachnin reports.

Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post's editorial board is totally unimpressed by the "pair of self-pitying interviews published this week" with Jack Abramoff, and argues that he is different than other lobbyists and should be treated as such. LINK

She also works in a subtle Passover joke that her relatives will like.

Bush agenda:

The Washington Post's Peter Baker offers an excellent curtain-raiser on President Bush's trip to Europe, Noting the particular diplomatic complexity of honoring Russia's role in World War II without condoning the actions of Josef Stalin that led to totalitarian rule over half of Europe, as well as the pressure President Bush faces to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin more forcefully on democratic government, human rights, missile defense, and energy. LINK

We're not sure what to make of this: Per Timeswoman Elisabeth Bumiller: "On the eve of President Bush's trip to Moscow to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat, another skirmish broke out Wednesday between the United States and Russia over a letter Mr. Bush sent to the presidents of the Baltics calling the end of World War II the beginning of the unlawful Soviet annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania." LINK

"Russian officials, who were already upset that Mr. Bush chose to bookend his trip to Moscow on Sunday and Monday with visits to the former Soviet republics of Latvia and Georgia, angrily responded that Mr. Bush was rewriting history."

USA Today's Oren Dorrell also Notes the choreography of the visit, and that President Bush's schedule has annoyed Russian officials by including surrounding countries. LINK

Filibuster battles:

George Will argues that it's absurd that things have gotten to the point where the President declares that non-believers are good Americans. LINK

Incensed by comments by Rev. Pat Robertson on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" that the "gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings" -- referred to in his book to the "out-of-control judiciary," MoveOn PAC is launching a petition and a television ad campaign calling on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) to repudiate Robertson's remarks. By yesterday afternoon, MoveOn PAC had raised $50,000 to pay to air the 30-second spot, which will run on cable in Tennessee and DeLay's home district, as well as on Washington, DC cable.

Big casino budget politics:

The Washington Post's David Broder chastises the 10 members of the House of Representatives (seven Democrats, three Republicans) who missed the vote on the budget, arguing that the hurry resulted in a budget that envisions a massive national debt and transfers of the Social Security "surplus" to pay for tax cuts. LINK

Big casino budget politics: Medicaid:

Jonathan Roos of the Des Moines Register looks at the expansion of Iowa's Medicaid program to offset the loss of $65 million in federal aid and give health care to an estimated 30,000 more people that passed the state Senate yesterday. LINK


More good news for the pro-Bolton side: "The Republican who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has declined to endorse a Democratic request that the State Department turn over documents related to a long-running dispute between John R. Bolton and American intelligence agencies over assessments about Syria and its weapons program, Congressional officials said Wednesday." LINK

Ah, to be a fly on the wall during the Lugar-Biden talks!!!!

The Committee finishes its investigation Friday; it votes (in theory) next Thursday.

The politics of national security:

The Washington Post's Dan Eggen and Walter Pincus look at the audit of the FBI by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, which found that nearly one-third of the FBI's intelligence analyst jobs were left unfilled last year, and many of the analysts that were hired spent their time on clerical duties. Retired appeals judge Laurence Silberman also took a shot, saying the bureau and DoJ weren't working fast enough on counterterrorism fixes. LINK

Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe Notes that the "Real ID Act" could pass through Congress shortly and be enacted by 2008. The bill would require states to authenticate every document presented in order to obtain a state license or ID card and has attracted critics upset this subject has not gone through the normal legislative hearing process, but rather swept thru Congress. LINK

More from USA Today's Donna Leinwand. LINK

2008: Republicans:

John DiStaso thinks Chuck Hagel is funny, saying all the right things with just the right touch of self-awareness at the Politics and Eggs breakfast. DiStaso also Notes that Hagel's in favor of up-or-down votes on judicial nominations, but said he's not sold on changing the filibuster rules, criticized No Child Left Behind as a "federal land-grab," and "[s]aid the Republican Party has 'lost its moorings' by presiding over the largest budget deficit in history, by 'falling down on fair trade,' and by 'moving away from strong engagement in the world.'" LINK?body=By%20JOHN%20DISTASO">LINK

Hagel was encouraged by his Granite State reception, writes Don Walton of the Lincoln Journal Star. LINK

Another great DiStaso tidbit: RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman will be a guest on the new Saturday morning talk show on FM 107.7 co-hosted by Republican lobbyists Jack Heath and Brad Card.

Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix breaks some code by sizing up Mitt Romney's communication strategy for 2006 and concludes that "[w]hether or not Romney runs again -- and if he does, whichever Democrat he'd prefer to face -- the challenge facing Reilly and Patrick in the coming months is clear: they can't allow Romney to continue dictating the terms of the Democratic gubernatorial campaign. With his death-penalty initiative and renewed push for a tax cut (which was bolstered by the state's unexpectedly strong revenues in April), Romney is guiding the political conversation and keeping his would-be challengers on their heels. And by doing so, the governor -- whose ability to accomplish anything substantive will always be limited by the Democrats' overwhelming state legislative majority -- is again demonstrating his tactical acumen." LINK

Frank Phillips follows up on his Boston Globe story yesterday regarding allegations that Mitt Romney's political consultants billed an extra $100,000 to corporate sponsors after a RNC event during the New York convention last summer. Democrats responded in outrage at the story and want to know exactly where the money went. Romney's camp declined to comment and a political consultant said the Globes story was 'silly and misleading." Massachusetts campaign finance law does not permit corporate donations to political candidates. LINK

The last paragraph is sort of the rub, ain't it Frank?

Yesterday Massachusetts lawmakers passed the embryonic stem cell bill, now headed for Romney's desk. The legislation would let scientists create cloned embryos and extract stem cells for research, and is expected to survive the governor's threatened veto. LINK

How many of you were recently thinking, "Gee, with all that press access on the Straight Talk Express in 2000, did Sen. McCain ever allow a journalist to interview him at Hidden Valley?"

The answer: Not until now. Take a look at what Men's Journal magazine has in store for you in its upcoming issue.

From the press release:

"For the first time, maverick Senator John McCain invites a journalist to his private Arizona getaway in Hidden Valley and opens up to Men's Journal writer Paul Alexander about his plans for the White House, his health, the war in Iraq, his enemies, and the environment."

To call the interview "wide-ranging" would be a severe understatement. Here are a couple of samples just to whet your appetite, but we urge you to pick a copy of the article when the magazine's June issue hits newsstands on May 10.

Men's Journal: "So will you run in 2008?"

McCain: "I'm going to wait a couple years to make that decision -- for several reasons. One, I'd like to devote my energy to the Senate, be as good a senator as I can be. Second, I have the luxury of being able to wait because I don't have to lay any of the groundwork. I don't have to go to meet all of the state party chairmen -- I've done that before."

Men's Journal: "How does the right wing in general view you?"

McCain: "They're more accepting of me than they used to be -- not accepting, but more accepting -- because of the fact that I worked hard for Bush's re-election."

And you won't want to miss his secret ingredient for barbecue!

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will deliver the commencement address at the University of Arkansas at on May 14.

2008: Democrats:

If you thought the whispers of Sen. Clinton's advisors being none too pleased with President Clinton's comments last month about Arthur Finkelstein would have cowed him into not delving into answering political questions about his wife, you'd be wrong. LINK

"Asked if the site could actually help Sen. Clinton -- who is already using it in her fund-raising -- he predicted it could."

"'If it's unfair, intemperate, over the top, yes I do,' he said, pointedly noting that polls show even Republicans in New York give favorable ratings to his wife's work as a senator."

Unprompted, the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan looks at Sen. John Kerry's effort to stay in the headlines, with requisite David Wade denials about 2008 planning. LINK

Joe Biden gets op-ed space in the Washington Monthly to praise the President for his rhetoric on expanding democracy in Iraq and the Middle East but to condemn his actions. LINK

Retired Gen. Wes Clark was scheduled to speak at the United States Holocaust Memorial museum last night. An excerpt from his prepared remarks:

"It was my duty, as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, to witness what the news media called ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. Now, I don't know what ethnic cleansing is supposed to mean but what I saw was neighbors raping and killing neighbors. Thugs and gangs calling themselves armies and officers carrying out the devils own work against their fellow man. People they knew and didn't know. President Clinton ordered the end of the killing and raping, remembering our promise, our prayer of never again. We put an end to the systemic slaughter of innocent people in the Balkans and we put Slobodan Milosevic behind bars."

"Today we are still well short of our ideal, however. In the Darfur region of the Sudan, people are being slaughtered on the basis of their race. To date, our best public estimates read that more than 200,000 men, women and children have been killed, often with blunt force trauma or machetes. Can it be said by our children's children that we are keeping the promise we made in 1945? Will our legacy reflect the commitment the people in this room have to the end of genocide? That will be up to each of us."

John DiStaso also Notes that Clark will be in New Hampshire on June 12 for the Manchester City Democratic Committee's annual Flag Day fund-raiser, and Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) will keynote the next Politics and Eggs breakfast on June 7.

House of Labor:

A key ally of AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has resigned from a top post in the organization, accusing Sweeney of misleading him about the progress of reform efforts, ABC News' Marc Ambinder reports. The sudden decision is the latest in a series of events affecting the leader of the AFL-CIO, which represents 13 million workers in 58 different member unions.

In a scathing and personal letter to Sweeney, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News, Harold Schaitberger, the president of the International Association of Fire Fighters and chairman of the AFL-CIO's public affairs committee, implied he had been kept out of the loop on a high-profile reform plan.

Schaitberger had been one of Sweeney's chief allies in his attempt to reform the 50-year-old labor organization.

Schaitberger said that in a private conversation just two days before, Sweeney shared ideas for reform and did not signal that a formal proposal would be made public anytime soon. Schaitberger said he then learned through the press that a detailed, 30-page document had been released, instead of being informed by Sweeney.

Schaitberger wrote that neither Sweeney nor AFL-CIO Communications Director Denise Mitchell, who was also involved in the conversation, "saw fit to so much as mention to me, as chair of the public affairs committee, that the very next day you would be conducting a major press event on what you have now put forward as your reform 'recommendations.'

"Rest-assured, this is not a snap judgment. The meetings we've had on this issue about my concerns relating to the committee's work and my role have been expressed over an extended period of time. I am sorry to say that, in this specific case, actions speak louder than words."

Sweeney responded through a spokesperson, "We are deeply sorry that President Schaitberger is resigning as chair of the public affairs committee. We value his leadership and insight, and believe that the union movement needs him to continue to lead in this and other areas."

The letter suggests that Schaitberger was frustrated with the pace of Sweeney's reform discussions, which has led critics to suggest that Sweeney is not committed to change.

Sweeney is up for re-election this year as AFL-CIO president, and five powerful unions, led by the Teamsters' James Hoffa and the SEIU's Andrew Stern, are searching for a credible challenger. John Wilhelm, a UniteHere executive, is said to be weighing a run.

If Schaitberger's discontent signals a larger breach with Sweeney, and a Schaitberger aide did not deny that it did, the dissident coalition may benefit when the election is held in July. Other Sweeney allies have privately expressed frustration with the pace of reforms, and some believe that Sweeney will ultimately take himself out of the race.

Schaitberger has often charted his own pragmatic course in the muddy waters of AFL-CIO politics.

Though Schaitberger was a key adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign and the union movement is traditionally associated with the Democratic Party, Schaitberger's five-year tenure as IAFF president has also included significant outreach to Republicans.

The union held a reception for House Speaker Dennis Hastert at the Republican National Convention in 2004, and gave 34 percent of its political action committee donations to Republican candidates in the 2004 elections. More recently, Schaitberger and Painters Union president James Williams hosted a reception for Republican members of Congress.

As the AFL-CIO announced 100 layoffs Tuesday as part of its restructuring, Sweeney was in Paris attending a conference on international economic development. Though most AFL-CIO headquarters staff members support him, several said they were stunned to learn he would not be around to help the organization get through what was a tough day.

Also Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Labor told the AFL-CIO to avoid threats to remove pension fund investments from companies that publicly favor Social Security reform legislation.

The labor group's pension investment has waged a successful campaign to pressure companies that are part of a pro-reform consortium to drop out; at least two have done so to date.

Two Republican members of the House asked the government to investigate the AFL-CIO's campaign because they said the labor body's fiduciaries implicitly threatened to use a company's position on Social Security legislation as a litmus test to decide whether to expand or reduce investment.

An AFL-CIO official says the labor group plans to continue its campaign and dismisses the government's letter as a restatement of policies they're already adhering to.

The New York Times' Edmund Andrews has more on the government's letter to the AFL-CIO. LINK

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

So what did President Clinton read during his long convalescence? According to informed sources, among the books sent to him by close friends and publishers were Kent Harrington's "Red Jungle," George Pelecanos's "Drama City" (we love GP too!), Michael Connelly's "The Closers," Harlan Cohen's "The Innocent," and Purnell Christian's "The Rude Awakening," Stella Rimington's "At Risk" (a personal favorite of ours) and Michael Gruber's "Valley of Bones."

Kindly booksellers, including Bobby McCue of Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles, Sally Owen of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City and publisher Dennis McMillan sent the President their best wishes and their best new books.


Sen. Clinton joins Rep. Israel (D-NY) on the op-ed page of Newsday today pushing for the ability to have reservists and Guardsmen enroll in Tricare, the military's healthcare system. LINK

Pataki, Pirro, Weld, and Cox were the four Republican names tested against Sen. Clinton in general election match-ups in the latest Quinnipiac University poll and none of them were able to hold Clinton below 60 percent.

Sen. Clinton can also boast of a 63 percent approval rating and 67 percent of those polled stating they believed she should be reelected.

The one finding that may cause some pause in Camp Clinton is that 60 percent of statewide register voters polled want Sen. Clinton to promise to serve a full second six-year term if reelected.

And here are the numbers 42 cares most about: Thirty-six percent of Republicans approve of the job Sen. Clinton is doing along with 57 percent of independents. Twenty percent of New York Republicans view the Senator favorably (49 percent unfavorably) as do 45 percent of self-identified independents.

The historic budget fight in Albany, with its threat of a voter referendum, Pataki/Spitzer agreement on principles, and public interest groups divided promises to leave a legacy on future executive/legislative relations in New York State. LINK

The New York Post's state editor Fred Dicker ties the delays at Ground Zero to Gov. Pataki's political future and Shelly Silver urges the Governor to "curtail some of his other activities." LINK

The editorial page of the New York Post looks none too kindly on Gov. Pataki in light of the recent Ground Zero revelations. LINK

The New York Post's Deborah Orin wonders if it is back en vogue for Republicans to bash New York and cites a recent NRSC line of attack against Sen. Stabenow as a possible sign that it is. LINK

Is it Fieger Time again? Kevorkian attorney and former gubernatorial candidate Geoffrey Fieger is musing aloud about giving Gov. Granholm a primary run next year. LINK

The Washington Post's John Wagner looks at the back-and-forth yesterday between Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Maryland, and incumbent Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) over the Department of Juvenile Services, previewing what can only be a fun, if flak-jacket requiring, contest in 2006. LINK

Roll Call's Chris Cillizza takes Note of Sen. John Thune's May 18 fundraiser at Charlie Palmer Steak (love the separate costs for wining and dining) for his new leadership PAC.

Former Congressman and NAACP chief Kwiesi Mfume has yet to reach out to the Congressional Black Caucus for endorsements or other support in his bid for U.S. Senate, Roll Call's Josh Kurtz reports.

Roll Call's Lauren Whittington sizes up the House field quietly jockeying for position if Sen. Jon Corzine wins the New Jersey gubernatorial race.


"Attention New York City shoppers: Mayor Bloomberg has an election-year gift for you. The mayor will propose eliminating the city portion of the sales tax on all clothes and footwear under $110 beginning June 1, a mayoral aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Daily News," reports Michael Saul in his preview to the mayor's scheduled budget address today. LINK

Mayor Bloomberg also picked up his first municipal union endorsement yesterday. LINK

Gifford Miller didn't get asked about the Diallo shooting during his Q&A at the Sergeants' Benevolent Association, yet the New York Post still tries to find some discrepancy between what he said to the group (on police-community relations) and what he said to reporters after the event when directly questioned about Diallo. LINK

Dave Saltonstall of the New York Daily News looks at the political calculations behind his remarks and describes Miller's SBA comments as "tough talk." LINK

"The tough talk from Miller, which seemed calculated to keep Ferrer on the hot seat, drew no followup questions from the 300 NYPD sergeants present. They pressed him on whether he would negotiate pay raises for cops if elected mayor."

"The record for independent spending in a Los Angeles mayor's race was shattered Wednesday when the state teachers union said it would spend $500,000 on TV ads to help elect Antonio Villaraigosa, and other unions indicated they would spend hundreds of thousands more to help incumbent James K. Hahn," reports the Los Angeles Times' Jeffrey Rabin and Daniel Hernandez. LINK

The Associated Press has more. LINK

The Schwarzenegger era:

George Skelton thinks Gov. Schwarzenegger would rather play the role of celebrity in office and flex his muscles than engage in the complex decision-making required by politicians. LINK


Lloyd Grove stokes the competitive tabloid fires with his column about the New York Post's Web woes. Note too his scooplet on the First Lady's invitation to join the Friar's Club. LINK


Rep. Rob Portman's former press secretary Kyle Downey "has a new job as communications director for Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. Former chief of staff Robert Lehman, scheduler Marie-Lise Sackett and administrative assistant Marisa Etter joined Portman at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Downey said," reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. LINK

Roll Call's Nicole Duran reports that Democratic polling firm Lake Snell Perry Mermin and Associates, has bought out a rival, Decision Research, and pollsters Bob Meadow and Heidi von Szeliski will fold in with the larger firm in San Diego and Washington, DC.

The Washington Post's Peter Carlson looks at the changes that aren't quite taking the Bob Jones out of Bob Jones University. LINK

Our winner for most inventive state party strategy to raise money and not have to hire an ad firm: the North Carolina Democratic Party.

Yesterday afternoon, members got this message from chair Jerry Meek:

"Dear NC Democrat:

"People often ask me, 'Why isn't the Party advertising year-round to get our message out?'

"I'll tell you why we haven't been: Money.

"Advertising is expensive and we usually save our resources for even-numbered election years.

"Let's do things differently. Let's think outside the box.

"Here's my deal with you. Send the Party $35 and, if we get enough contributions in $35 increments, we'll use it to buy radio advertising and spread our message across the state.

"Since you're paying for the spots, I want you to come up with the message. Send us you're proposed script for a 30-second radio ad. Depending upon how much money we have, we'll produce one or two of them.

" . . . This is your Party. Together, we'll build it one person at a time."