A column Friday by Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta incorrectly reported the status of Bureau of Land Management land in Washington state. There is no BLM land in the congressional district BLM Director Sy Jamison visited to raise funds for Republican congressional candidate Bob Williams. (Published 10/3/90)
President Bush's Cabinet members wore a path in the jet stream this summer flying back and forth between Washington and the Pacific Northwest. But the frequent-flier marathon does not mean there was a national crisis on the West Coast. No, this was simple, old-fashioned political stumping at the taxpayers' expense.
Bush is still stinging from the humiliation of being beaten by, of all people, the now-forgotten Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis in Oregon and Washington in 1988. With the upcoming congressional elections on Bush's front burner next to the Iraq crisis, the president's minions have been pressed into service. Cabinet members have suddenly become lifelong soul mates with guys such as Rep. Denny Smith (R-Ore.), who is facing a stiff reelection challenge, and conservative Bob Williams, who is trying to oust liberal Rep. Jolene Unsoeld (D-Wash.).
Some of these missions have traces of meat on them, but most of it has been served up on expensive plates -- like the private $500-a-plate GOP fund-raiser hosted by Labor Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole in mid-July in the penthouse dining room of Portland's U.S. Bancorp Tower.
Our associate Jim Lynch asked Dole's office the purpose of the trip. A Labor Department spokeswoman studied Dole's calendar and then said Dole had visited regional offices of the department.
While she was in the neighborhood, Dole was the guest of honor at the meal that raised $50,000 for Smith's campaign, and she spoke at a fund-raiser for Williams across the state line in Vancouver, Wash.
Dole's visit, like the others, made a pretense of official business, just enough to charge the taxpayers for the trip.
Bush flew to Portland in mid-May to give a forgettable speech on the economy, sitting on the fence between spotted owls and loggers. That duty aside, he was free to star at the $1,000-a-plate shindig for GOP candidates for state races in Oregon. The accommodating president also managed to be photographed chatting with his pal Denny Smith. Bob Williams crossed the state line from Washington to get his photo taken with the president too.
Since then, First Lady Barbara Bush, Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan Jr., Trade Representative Carla Hills, Veterans Affairs Secretary Edward J. Derwinski, Transportation Secretary Samuel K. Skinner and Bureau of Land Management Director Sy Jamison have all carried the Republican pompons to Washington and Oregon.
Jamison gave a rousing pro-Williams speech in Washington, a state where the BLM owns no land.
The taxpayers picked up the bill for these campaign trips. Air fares run around $1,600 round trip (first class, of course), and there are daily expenses of about $100 per VIP, not to mention the fact that these Cabinet members, whose salaries break down to about $400 a day, don't do this stuff on their own time.
Democrats in Oregon and Washington can't be blamed if they feel besieged by the full weight of the national Republican Party. A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the GOP blitz reflects Bush's wishes. "He puts great value in doing this. They're tired of getting embarrassed in House races."