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Washington Insight

March 07, 1994|PAUL HOUSTON and ART PINE

MARKING TIME? Former Defense Secretary Les Aspin is about to get one of those Washington jobs that has the cachet of big political plum and will allow him to fulfill his wish to remain involved in the national security arena. President Clinton is preparing to appoint him as head of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, replacing retired Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., who will become the United States' ambassador to Britain. Although the once-important panel has become little more than a repository for outer-circle politicos--Clinton's other recent appointments have included Vernon E. Jordan Jr., who headed the President's transition but was not given a job in the Administration, and Zoe Baird, a onetime nominee for attorney general who ran afoul of immigration and tax laws affecting nannies--it can provide a platform for defense buffs such as Aspin who want to make more serious use of it. Friends say the 55-year-old Aspin eventually hopes to become the president of a major university. For now, however, the appointment will enable him to stay in Washington--and keep abreast of key issues.

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DEEP POCKETS: Ross Perot did it, even Reps. Michael Huffington (R-Santa Barbara) and Jane Harman (D-Marina del Rey) did it--spent piles of their own wealth prospecting for public office two years ago. They were part of an unprecedented outburst of personal check-writing by federal candidates, a trend that seems to be intensifying in this year's House and Senate campaigns. . . . The phenomenon is most evident in California, where six House candidates rank among the top 25 nationally in dipping into their own deep pockets. Harman--who personally financed nearly half of her $1.6-million campaign in 1992--likely will face a Republican moneybags in her bid for reelection. Latest records show that Torrance psychiatrist Irwin Savodnik has put up $286,400 of his own funds, and former Palos Verdes Estates Councilman Ronald Florance has spent $150,650 of his money. Harman, a lawyer and the spouse of an electronics magnate, can be expected to match dollar for dollar whichever GOP nominee emerges. . . . Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills) is also being targeted by two well-heeled Republicans: Richard Sybert, a Woodland Hills attorney and former top aide to Gov. Pete Wilson who has spent $430,000 of his own money, and Newbury Park banking consultant Robert Hammer, who has invested $51,900 from his own wallet. Beilenson recently had only $69,000 in his campaign war chest.

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JUSTICE MITCHELL? Look for Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-Me.) to be the leading candidate for the next Supreme Court vacancy, possibly as early as this spring. A former federal judge, Mitchell was at the top of President Clinton's list of Supreme Court candidates last spring, along with New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo. Clinton told aides that he was eager to appoint a prominent political figure to the high court, but Mitchell's name was scratched because the White House could not afford to lose him as Senate majority leader. Justice Harry A. Blackmun is expected to announce his retirement soon.

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L.A. ON THE VOLGA? Some congressional Republicans from other states are wearying of the Clinton Administration's frequent requests for aid to California. Rep. Sonny Callahan (R-Ala.) quips that some of his colleagues have suggested asking Russia's ultranationalist leader Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky to drop his demand for the return of Alaska--"but we might consider giving him California."

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