Political Money Monitor #14: April 24, 1998

Contents* “Paycheck Protection” Initiative Gains Momentum
* Rogue GOP Almost Hand Debate to Democrats
* Teachers Union Rehires Dubious Political Operative to Fight Paycheck Protection
* New York Union Locals Trying to Create “Labor Party”
* Candidate Faces Penalties for Forging Dead Treasurer’s Signature
* Key Staffers Leave Campaign Watchdog Group 

“Paycheck Protection” Initiative Gains MomentumTwo recent polls show likely California voters overwhelmingly support Proposition 226, an initiative on the state’s June primary ballot to require employers and labor unions to get worker permission before using payroll deductions and mandatory membership dues for state and local political activity.

Support for Proposition 226 among likely voters was 67% of those surveyed in polls conducted by both the Los Angeles Times and the Public Policy Institute of California. This is a seven-point jump from a Field Poll conducted in late March.

The Los Angeles Times poll also found opposition to Proposition 226 by union members fell from 32% in the Field Poll to 28%.

Rogue GOP Congressmen Almost Hand Debate to DemocratsTo keep control of the legislative debate from falling into the hands of the Democrats, congressional leaders were forced by rogue Republicans to allow campaign finance regulation to be considered for a third time this session.

Twelve Republicans – Brian Bilbray (CA), Tom Campbell (CA), Mike Castle (DE), Tom Davis (VA), Amo Houghton (NY), Nancy Johnson (CT), Jim Leach (IA), Connie Morella (MD), Marge Roukema (NJ), Christopher Shays (CT), Zack Wamp (TN) and Frank Wolf (VA) – were among 204 signatories of a “discharge petition” to override House leaders and bring campaign finance regulation up for debate (218 signatures are needed). A Republican aide warned The Hill newspaper that those members “need to understand that the discharge petition is the tool of the minority, and that they’re handing the Speaker’s gavel to [House Minority Leader] Dick Gephardt (D-MO) when they sign that petition.”

As a result, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) agreed to debate on a bill within a month to ban “soft money,” increase contribution limits and index them to inflation and mandate disclosure of non-profit and union issue advocacy. Amendments will be allowed.


Teachers Union Rehires Dubious Political Operative to Fight Paycheck ProtectionBob Watson, whom New Republic magazine once called a “disgraced hack who typif[ies] insider sleaze,” was rehired by the National Education Association (NEA) to head the teachers union’s national campaign “to fight the attempt by right-wing groups to minimize our political effectiveness.”

As an aide to Senator Chuck Robb (D-VA) in 1992, Watson and Robb Chief of Staff David McCloud leaked transcripts of cellular phone conversations involving Robb political rival then-Governor L. Douglas Wilder (D). Watson pled guilty to the charge of conspiracy, and was fined the maximum penalty of $10,000. The left-wing publication PR Watch commented, “In a sane world, McCloud and Watson would have been forced to slink out of town and get real jobs following their disgrace in the Robb scandal. Instead, it seems to mark a stepping-stone in their careers.” That’s when Watson moved to the NEA.

While at the NEA in 1992, Watson was detailed to the Clinton/Gore campaign. He later became a deputy executive director of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), where he was partially responsible for the creation of the White House’s taxpayer-funded donor database. He was also involved in a DNC effort to fund non-profit organizations likely to register Democratic voters.

Campaign Finance Factoids
New York Union Locals Trying to Create “Labor Party”Union locals in New York don’t like the almost exclusive support organized labor has shown Democratic candidates. Citing problems with a “rightward-drifting Democratic Party,” a coalition of union locals including the Buffalo Teachers Association, Communications Workers of America (CWA) and United Auto Workers are creating their own “Labor Party.” Complete with a slate of candidates, CWA Legislative and Political Director Bob Master asks, “Why not create a political vehicle that puts our kind of populist economic politics forcefully into the political debate?”

Candidate Faces Penalties for Forging Dead Treasurer’s SignatureWhen congressional candidate James L. Griffith filed with the Federal Election Commission last January, he forged the signature of campaign treasurer Elizabeth Zdunczyk because he “didn’t want to bother Betty.” What he didn’t know: Zdunczyk died the previous November! Griffith is now facing civil penalties for violating federal election law. Griffith, who is running in the Democratic primary for the chance to challenge Congresswoman Nancy Johnson (R-CT), says he is embarrassed and “upset I didn’t get to attend the wake or funeral.”

Key Staffers Leave Campaign Watchdog GroupTwo top staffers of the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a prominent campaign “watchdog” group, quit in April. On April 7, Kent Cooper resigned as executive director, citing philosophical differences with CRP’s board of directors. On April 21, webmaster Tony Raymond, who maintained campaign finance and lobbying databases as well as state election information, quit because “I’m not convinced that the CRP web site will remain free of advocacy.” Denying any change in the group’s philosophy, new Executive Director Larry Makinson said, “We have one mission: to get the information out.”


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