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National Perspective

Washington Insight

April 01, 1998|From The Times Washington Bureau

NOTE TO REP. DAN BURTON (R-Ind.): Stop your committee hearings! The campaign finance imbroglio is over! At least that's the sentiment at Democratic National Committee headquarters these days. Just months ago, DNC phone lines were jammed by reporters asking about illegal foreign donations and the sale of the Lincoln Bedroom. But with Monica-gate dominating the scandal beat, Washington correspondents have stopped calling the DNC, which has not bothered to fill three vacancies in its press operation. First, Communications Director Amy Weiss Tobe bailed in November to become a White House deputy press secretary. Deputy Press Secretary Kim Rubey left last month to become press secretary to New York City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone. And Press Secretary Steve Langdon quit on March 20 to go to Spain on a Fulbright scholarship. Langdon left this message on his office phone: "This is Steve Langdon. I am no longer at the DNC. I won't be checking my messages and I am no longer available by pager."

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NO DONKEY SIGHTINGS: President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton went on safari Monday, taking a break from their African odyssey to enjoy the continent's wealth of wildlife. Among the animals they saw at Chobe National Game Park in Botswana were hippos, baboons, crocodiles, impala and non-notebook-toting vultures. The president said he liked the elephants a lot. "Actually, I was kind of jealous that the Republicans had appropriated such a nice animal as their symbol. I think they're fascinating," meaning the elephants.

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HOOPS HOOPLA: At a contentious House appropriations hearing Tuesday over the future of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, every speaker was careful to congratulate the chairman, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), on the Wildcats' NCAA men's basketball championship. Rogers graciously accepted, but neither the victory nor the glad-handing stopped his attacks on INS Commissioner Doris Meissner's management of the troubled agency. One panel member told Meissner how lucky she was to appear the day after the University of Kentucky's 78-69 victory over Utah. "I had a vested interest in the outcome," she admitted.

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THE LAW, IN TWO VOLUMES: After the House this week joined the Senate in effectively killing meaningful campaign finance reform for this session of Congress, the editors of the bible on federal election law need no longer fret about shredding their 3,526-page tome. The Federal Election Campaign Financing Guide, published by Commerce Clearing House Inc. of Chicago, is chock-full of scintillating statutes, regulations, forms, guidelines, rules and opinions. Among the subscribers to the two-volume set, which runs $485, are lawyers representing candidates, corporations and major donors interested in staying clear of political scandal. "It is the only product like it in the country," said CCH spokeswoman Mary Dale Walters. "If Congress had its way, we would have to get rid of it."

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SPIT IT OUT: Fast on the heels of her pro bono promotion of milk drinking, in which she sports one of those de rigueur milk mustaches, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala has gone to bat on another public health issue: spit. On Tuesday, Shalala joined Major League Baseball officials to announce a new "spit cessation" program for the ballplayers. The secretary will probably not be photographed with a wad of chewing tobacco in her mouth.

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