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Washington Insight

January 22, 1997|From The Times Washington Bureau

NOT SO BAD: Supreme Court arguments last week in President Clinton vs. Paula Corbin Jones renewed complaints by conservatives that women's groups have not put their shoulders behind Jones. Conservatives argue that the case unmasks a double standard of women's groups who aggressively supported Anita Faye Hill in her sexual harassment complaints during conservative Clarence Thomas' 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings but have been muted in backing Jones because the target is a liberal president. In an interview last week, women's rights leader Gloria Steinem offered a revealing response: "For one thing, Anita Hill harassments, if true, went over a long period of time, after she said no many times. Paula Jones' harassment, if true, was once. And what she alleges is that when she said no, he said, 'Well, I wouldn't want you to do anything you don't want to do.' And the conditions of her job and her promotions didn't change. So there's a different magnitude of allegations."

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SMALLER FISH: Congressional staffers are boning up on the Democrats' foreign money transgressions in preparation for public hearings set to begin in March. While the spotlight will focus on Democratic National Committee fund-raiser John Huang and his Indonesian former employer, smaller players are certain to come under scrutiny. One likely candidate is David Mercer, a DNC deputy finance director who initially denied, then acknowledged, calling Huang at the Commerce Department for fund-raising advice. Mercer also was taped by an MSNBC hidden camera offering high-level access in exchange for a fat contribution. The going price, according to Mercer, for a seat next to then-White House aide George Stephanopoulos: "100 to half a million." DNC spokeswoman Amy Weiss Tobe emphasized that a Republican National Committee fund-raiser similarly was burned by MSNBC.

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STUMP START: While Clinton builds his bridge to the 21st century, New Hampshire supporters of 1996 GOP presidential contender Lamar Alexander are already crossing that span--and starting the next campaign for the nomination. Bumper stickers popping up all over the Granite State bear the red-and-black plaid emblem that was the hallmark of Alexander's candidacy last year, along with a "2000!" inscription. No candidate's name appears on the sticker. But Tom Rath, Alexander's honcho in the state, coyly points out that the exclamation point should bring back memories of Alexander's 1996 bumper strips that said simply: "Lamar!"

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ZIPPY PRESIDENT: Could it be a sign of new discipline for the notoriously tardy Clinton? Although the first couple began their night of hopping to all 15 inaugural balls an hour later than scheduled Monday, they finished two hours early. How? By staying an average of eight minutes at each, which brought the weary couple home at 1:40 a.m., and left more than one inaugural reveler wondering if eight minutes was worth the $150 price of admission.

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MISSING PRESIDENT: Lucille E. Williams--the tiny 85-year-old who made the mistake of taking a souvenir inaugural invitation for the real thing and ended up the toast of Washington--had one last chance Tuesday to shake hands with the president before flying back to Los Angeles. She had lunch at the White House and everybody hoped The Prez might show. But on a busy day after his inaugural schedule, he didn't. Many were disappointed. Not Lucille. "I know he's going to call me personally. I'm sure he will," she said, sliding out of the executive mansion. "He just hasn't gotten to it yet."

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