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  •   Business, GOP Chiefs Reconcile on Agenda

    By Thomas B. Edsall
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, July 8, 1998; Page A04

    After a brief but bitter lovers' quarrel, key business advocates and the House Republican leadership have reconciled.

    Charles S. Mack and Bernadette Budde of the Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC) formalized the breakthrough in the dispute by giving Republican leaders just what they wanted: a memorandum to corporate supporters declaring that continued GOP control of Congress is crucial "if a free enterprise agenda is to advance."

    Business leaders had been reassured by Republican leaders, most especially House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who said they will take up key elements of business's agenda. These include continuation of China's "most favored nation" trade status, funding of the International Monetary Fund, a capital gains cut and extension of corporate tax credits that have expired.

    "We are ecstatic with an apparent move in the agenda," Budde said yesterday in an interview. "Not just in trade, but in handling health care and in taxes, not just individual taxes, but capital gains and things that corporations and business look at."

    Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who had earlier accused the GOP Congress of promoting "isolationism and . . . the use of unilateral sanctions," said yesterday, "Now, the congressional leadership is moving forward."

    The dispute between these traditional allies had been building for more than a year as heads of major exporting corporations, along with officials of the Chamber and BIPAC, began to voice growing concerns that the GOP was abandoning business interests in favor of the religious right. Social conservatives, business argued, pressed trade sanctions against countries involved in religious persecution and threatened relations with China, and they placed a higher priority on abortion and other domestic social issues than on maintaining the nation's economic vigor.

    Republican leaders were particularly infuriated by two memorandums by Mack and Budde, one of which told the business community that "we can no longer restrict ourselves to one or two political options in our quest to assure a genuinely and reliably pro-business majority in Congress."

    In a direct shot at Mack, BIPAC president, and Budde, BIPAC's chief political analyst, Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), National Republican Campaign Committee chairman, wrote in a June 19 letter to the BIPAC board of directors: "Many Republican members believe that Mr. Mack and Ms. Budde, having spent a lifetime of happy service to a Democratic majority, have never been entirely comfortable with their friends out of power." Linder added that business support of Democrats reflects a failure "to understand what labor bosses figured out long ago: Do not support your enemy. Understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint."

    Budde said yesterday that ever since she first began working for BIPAC in 1970, she has been pointedly nonpolitical, seeking to maintain a stance of neutrality. Mack, she said, is a Republican who worked at the Republican National Committee and managed the first winning campaign of Rep. Marge Roukema (R-N.J.)

    In the latest BIPAC memo dated June 29, Mack and Budde explained that their earlier criticisms of the GOP were not "intended to weaken Republicans, but a tap on the shoulder from old allies who don't want to be taken for granted. We regret the press promoted our memos as untrue evidence that business generally and BIPAC particularly are abandoning support for Republican candidates."

    Mack and Budde said they share with the social conservative wing of the GOP adamant opposition to a return to power for "anti-business liberals who derive their support from labor unions, social and environmental activists, and trial lawyers." And to support the point, they noted that BIPAC so far this year has announced support of 60 candidates: eight Republican Senate candidates, 48 GOP House candidates and just four Democratic House candidates.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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