- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2000

Pennsylvania shuffle

"Elaine Crispen is wrong," says Jeff Johns, program director of WLKK news talk radio in Erie, Pa., referring to Nancy Reagan's former press secretary telling this column yesterday that nobody seems to be curious how Hillary Rodham Clinton so quickly retrieved an old handwritten letter to defend herself over a purported anti-Semitic remark when she can't find subpoenaed files and such.

"Someone did ask Hillary about the apparent ease of finding the letter from Paul Fray," says Mr. Johns. "Me."

"Imagine my surprise," he says, "when I got the call on Tuesday asking if I was interested in speaking with Mrs. Clinton regarding her new health care plan for children and the campaign for Senate.

"Apparently [Mrs. Clinton's] media types figure Erie County, Pa., and Erie County, N.Y., [which surrounds Buffalo] are one and the same," says Mr. Johns, who hosts the afternoon show at WLKK.

"After a few minutes of friendly chitchat about the road to the Senate, I asked Mrs. Clinton about the ease with which she and the Clinton defenders laid their hands on the Fray letter and the Kathleen Willey letters, but the Rose Law firm billing records went unaccounted for for two years.

"After a nervous chuckle, Mrs. Clinton did a typical soft shoe around the question. She may be ready to represent New York state because I couldn't help hearing 'shuffle off to Buffalo,' as she danced around the question.

"It's not that the question isn't being asked, it's the lack of an answer that's the problem," he says.

Playing charades

Amid congressional reports that OSHA hired 28 contractors and paid each of them $10,000 to testify in recent public hearings on ergonomics a relatively new buzzword for fitting the environment around a person and his job, to reduce workplace injury comes yet another invoice for payment.

This one is submitted to Occupational Safety and Health Administration Administrator Charles Jeffress by Patrick J. Cleary, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers. Mr. Cleary wants $10,000 in payment, made payable to NAM, which he then plans to give to charity.

"In the interest of fairness it would only seem right that OSHA also pay witnesses who did not agree with its point of view equal pay for equal testimony, if you wish," Mr. Cleary tells the OSHA head.

"It is only by paying all witnesses for the defense as well as for the apparent prosecution that some degree of fairness can be restored to the charade that was the hearings. In that spirit, I am enclosing an invoice in the amount of $10,000 for my testimony … in opposition to this rule," he writes.

That rule, charges Mr. Cleary, reaches beyond the workplace and makes employers liable for injuries aggravated but not caused by work.

"I appreciate your prompt handling of our invoice," Mr. Cleary concludes in his letter. "We will be encouraging our many NAM members who testified in person and in writing to seek similar reimbursement. What's fair is fair."

Weary of bureaucracy

Ken Bode can't escape bureaucracy, whether he's in Washington or Evanston, Ill.

The former moderator of the PBS show "Washington Week in Review" recently revealed he'd be stepping down as dean of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University by sending the following e-mail message to faculty:

"I am weary of the bureaucratic tasks that go with being dean."

"Things are going fine at Medill," Mr. Bode stresses in a telephone interview with Inside the Beltway, adding he won't be relinquishing the dean's chair until next year, at which point he'll have served 3 and 1/2 years at the school's helm.

Mr. Bode, meanwhile, has in no way deserted the Washington political scene while serving in academe. Currently he's preparing two documentaries for CNN on the 2000 presidential race "one on Bush, one on Gore, to air the last two Sundays in October," he tells us.

Lawrence B. Dumas, provost of Northwestern, says Mr. Bode explained in his formal resignation that he wanted to concentrate his efforts on teaching, documentary television and writing a long-postponed book.

Wrong fund-raiser

A June 30 item of selected excerpts from Vice President Al Gore's April 18 deposition conducted by the Justice Department's campaign finance task force stated that Mr. Gore was being questioned about a 1996 fund-raising event at the Buddhist temple in California.

Actually, Mr. Gore's testimony, disseminated in a news release by the Republican National Committee and picked up by this column, referred to a fund-raising breakfast for Asian Americans at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington.

Inside the Beltway regrets the error, but stands by the fact that Mr. Gore, whether he recalls it or not, sat at the same table at both events with convicted Democratic fund-raiser Maria Hsia.

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