Virtually all of New York Rep. Michael P. Forbes's Washington and district staff quit yesterday in protest of his decision to change parties from Republican to Democrat.
Six full-time employees and four interns marched en masse to the congressman's Cannon Building office yesterday morning to submit their letters of resignation with "real pleasure," as legislative director Brian Fauls put it. They also dropped off their office keys and their badges.
All six staff members in Forbes's district office also resigned. Forbes's chief of staff could not be reached for comment, but Republicans said they expected him to quit.
The Washington aides said that, as Republicans, they had no choice but to leave once Forbes left the GOP.
"It's personally affecting our lives, what he's doing," Fauls said.
As a National Republican Congressional Committee camera rolled, the group tacked letters to the office door that ranged from polite to scathing, with aides characterizing Forbes's move as "cowardly," "juvenile" and "hypocritical."
The NRCC has already offered to put Forbes's Washington staff on its payroll, and Republican Party officials in Forbes's district have offered to take care of staff there.
Forbes, for his part, called his former aides "wonderful people."
"I understand the staff came to work for me because they were Republicans and believe in Republican principles," he said.
New York Democrats sent over interns to handle basic tasks in Forbes's offices and Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) plans to lend the congressman more senior staff, according to Democratic aides.
"Today we're fully staffed," Forbes said, adding that aides already were handing out White House guest tickets and answering constituent mail. "We're not going to miss a beat."
Influence and Big Business
In Washington, it is well known that big business has the money, the lobbyists and the access to influential policymakers. But is it fractured and ineffective -- a kind of pitiful, helpless giant -- when it comes to affecting the outcome of congressional races that matter to its interests?
Definitely so, according to the Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), a long-standing organization that convened a summit of 41 business PACS last week to coordinate strategy for the 2000 House and Senate elections.
Although there are hundreds of business organizations in Washington, they increasingly pursue their own narrow interests, from trade issues to tax subsidies. Even within industries such as health care, companies and trade associations often are fragmented.
Taking a lead from, of all things, trade unions, Project 2000 aims to bring business together around a broad, common agenda, then get out of the boardrooms and into the grass roots of modern campaigning.
"This is Politics 101," said BIPAC President Gregory S. Casey, who left the morning-long PAC summit meeting at the American Gas Association offices on Capitol Hill long enough to brief reporters at La Colline Restaurant.
The first step will be identifying which of the 40 close House contests and 10 or 11 tight Senate races are ones where a concerted business effort could make a difference. After that, Project 2000 will try to direct PAC and soft money from dozens of companies and trade groups to those districts.
Staff writer Dan Morgan contributed to this report.
CAPTION: Eric Rosemark, Jeff LaCourse and Brian Fauls lead staff into Rep. Michael P. Forbes's office to submit resignations. The New York congressman switched parties last week.