Political News Summary: Feb. 11

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that the president's popularity makes his visit doubly sweet for Governor McCallum, who inherited the job from HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and is now running in his own right. ( http://www.jsonline.com/news/metro/feb02/19233.asp )

While the president jets off to Milwaukee, the White House will have to spend more time contending with this new Enron bump, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times: "While the Bush administration was drafting its national energy policy, a leading lobbyist for Enron Corp." and Bush 2000 campaign communications strategist "was plotting strategy to turn the plan into a political weapon against Democrats, according to" a memo "newly obtained" by the Times . ( http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-000010595feb11.story )?coll=la%2Dheadlines )%2Dpolitics )

"Edward Gillespie, who parlayed his close ties to the Bush White House into a lucrative contract representing the energy giant, warned that the administration faced 'a classic liberal-conservative … dynamic,' which cast Republicans as the party of big business and enemies of the environment."

"'Instead of picking the fight that has been picked for us, we should pick a new fight,' said the confidential April 2001 memo, presented to energy companies and industry groups. The memo suggested the industry 'change the dynamic by "Carterizing" the Democrats'--an allusion to the dour ex-president."

"Gillespie said he never shared his memo with the White House, and his thoughts on political strategy, offered in informal conversations with administration officials, were never taken. But within weeks, Gillespie's recommendations surfaced in advertising promoting Bush's energy plan. One newspaper ad read, 'Remember the 70s? Gas lines were long, rationing was in, Jimmy Carter was president and he told us to wear a sweater.'"

The papers over the weekend and today have given full treatment to the White House's relative silence on campaign finance reform, noting how Enron has upped the pressure on Bush not to visibly oppose Shays-Meehan. And one Republican suggests to Roll Call today that Bush's view is that it's congressional GOPers' fight — not his.

But USA Today offers another incentive for Bush to keep quiet. "The biggest beneficiary of a campaign-finance overhaul bill slated for House action this week might be the man who decides whether to sign it into law: President Bush. The legislation would double to $4,000 the maximum an individual can donate to a candidate: $2,000 for a primary and another $2,000 for the general election. The president 'easily will raise a quarter of a billion dollars' for the primary elections in 2004, says Jan Baran, an election lawyer who represents Republicans. The change also might prompt Bush to become the first major-party candidate to opt out of the public-financing system in a general election since it was created in 1976, election experts say." ( http://www.usatoday.com/news/washdc/2002/02/11/usat-bush.htm )

Roll Call looks at the question of who will be hurt worse if Shays-Meehan does pass and get signed into law. "Gephardt set the stakes for Democrats at a Whip meeting Thursday morning, telling Members that the party's future looked grim without steps to limit the GOP's fundraising potential under President Bush." ( http://www.rollcall.com/pages/news/00/2002/02/news0211a.html )

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