- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 20, 2002

House Democrats say they will make sure in November that voters connect Republicans' economic stimulus package last year to Enron Corp., which Democrats say stood to get a $250 million tax rebate if the bill had passed, even as the energy giant was collapsing.
Democrats say one version of the stimulus package to boost the economy in the fall, which passed the House on the strength of Republican votes but failed in the Senate, would have rolled back the corporate alternative minimum tax and provided Enron with a $250 million rebate retroactively.
"When you convince [voters] that it did in fact happen, because it did in fact happen, they are outraged. Their shock turns to outrage and they want revenge," said Howard Wolfson, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the organization given the task of electing Democrats to the House.
"This is going to be a key issue for us," he said, citing research that shows people paid attention to Enron's collapse.
But Republicans say Enron and other business scandals haven't come across as political issues.
"All polling, both from the media, from Democrat polling, from Republican polling, indicate that both Enron and Global Crossing are seen as business scandals," said Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). "If Democrats want to run on Enron and Global Crossing, we'll be happy to return a Republican majority to the House."
This week Mr. Wolfson and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and head of the NRCC, briefed reporters on the outlook for November's congressional elections, when all 435 House seats are up.
Mr. Davis said the simple math of the situation Republicans having a six-seat advantage, the promise of one Democrat to vote for a Republican speaker and so few races in play after redistricting means Democrats have a tough road.
"I think we have a slightly better chance of winning seats than we have of losing seats this time," he said. "There are just not that many attractive seats on the block, and unless you get a big wind that takes all of these races that are competitive and moves them one way or the other, it doesn't move very much."
Mr. Wolfson conceded he doesn't see a political earthquake before November but said there are enough seats in play to capture the House.
Mr. Wolfson also said Democrats will make the case that a Republican Congress will give the Bush White House free rein to implement a plan to establish private savings accounts as part of Social Security.
"It is very clear to us and it will be very clear to voters that the very future of Social Security is at stake this November at the ballot box," Mr. Wolfson said. "We believe that the public is unwilling to go along with the Social Security privatization schemes articulated by the Republicans, and we are, in large measure, willing to stake the outcome of this November on that prospect."
He pointed to polling that the DCCC commissioned in 30 districts Democrats deemed competitive swing districts that show Social Security a priority issue and that show voters trusting Democrats to handle the issue more than 2 to 1.
But Republicans, who have recently commissioned a series of polls and focus groups to gauge the issue, aren't worried.
"We have to answer their ads, and if we do it we did a lot of focus groups we find out this is an issue that's very manageable for us," Mr. Davis said. "This is not their silver bullet. If they're down to Social Security in September and October, they lose."


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