- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2003

No musical chairs

President Bush has put the word out to his political appointees: There will be no major job changes after Aug. 31.

The deadline was imposed by White House political aides in preparation for Mr. Bush’s upcoming re-election campaign. It applies mainly to political appointees in the upper and middle ranks of the executive branch.

“The president doesn’t want any surprises during the campaign,” explains one administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. So, expect to see any resignations or agency head switches to take place between now and the end of August.

With the appointment of Scott McClellen as the new presidential spokesman on Friday, replacing Ari Fleischer, the White House staff is virtually set through November 2004. We’re told to expect some changes, however, in various executive branch departments and agencies.

REM as backup

Given the two-year term in the House side of Congress, a congressman barely gets elected and already he’s running for re-election.

Thus, eyes already are on Georgia’s 12th congressional district where Democrats seek to take back a seat won only last November by freshman Republican Rep. Max Burns. Leading the Democratic pack thus far is Clarke County Commissioner and liberal trial lawyer Jonathon Barrow. And for good reason.

He’s got one of this country’s leading rock bands behind him.

Mr. Barrow has raised just more than $200,000 in the first Federal Election Commission reporting period this year, with a good chunk of donations coming from two communities: fellow trial lawyers and, interestingly enough, members of the popular band REM, who hail from Athens.

In fact, with their $18,000 in contributions thus far, REM is Mr. Barrow’s leading financial backer, forking over 10 percent of the candidate’s total contributions.

Asked by this column about the Democrat’s early fund-raising abilities, Mr. Burns’ chief of staff, Chris Ingram, says: “We feel good about Max’s standing with the legal community. In fact, Max has this seersucker suit he wears on occasion and he looks just like Ben Matlock [the character portrayed by Andy Griffith].”

But what about REM?

“I don’t know much about them, though I did hear one of the band members mooned [former] Sen. [Bob] Dole a few years ago,” replies Mr. Ingram. “I hope our major contributors have better sense than to do something like that.”

In fact, Michael Stipe of REM confirmed in a Rolling Stone magazine interview that he mooned then-presidential candidate Mr. Dole not once, but twice — the second time he had a better angle — when the two crossed paths at the Seattle airport.

As for Mr. Barrow, he’s known the band members for some time. In a 1998 article in the Athens Daily News, the commissioner said REM has done more than most in the community to help preserve the city’s historic places.

“REM has done a lot of great things,” he said. “A town’s architecture is to its community what a family tree is to a family — it gives you a sense of your roots. And the guys in REM certainly know that. They’ve invested in both the past and future of our community.”

White Capitol

When it comes to employing women and minorities, Congress had better take a look at its own hiring practices.

We’ve gotten a peek at National Journal’s 2003 “Hill People,” to be released today, featuring profiles of 314 top staffers on Capitol Hill. And for the first time, the Journal has collected demographic information on the top aides — 55 who work for House and Senate leaders, 244 for congressional committees and 15 who run various caucuses and coalitions.

It turns out only 3.5 percent of the top aides are black and Hispanic, meaning 96 percent of the staffers are white. In addition, 84 percent of top aides to congressional leaders are male.

Among other findings, top Democratic staffers were more than twice as likely as Republicans to have received a bachelors degree from an Ivy League school. Republican aides were about twice as likely to have grown up in the South or Midwest as in the North, while Democratic staffers were more likely to have grown up in the North than any other region.

Free nudging

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is urging Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado Republican, not to seek re-election.

In fact, in an effort to work in a bipartisan manner and in the interest of collegiality, the DSCC is serving, pro bono, as headhunter for the senator, peppering his office with job offers.

Mr. Campbell’s name already has been floated as a possible university president or head of the United States Olympic Committee, “a position that would triple his current salary as senator,” the DSCC notes.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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