- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 7, 2002

The top two Democrats in Congress snubbed an invitation from the New York Stock Exchange yesterday to ring the opening bell for the financial markets.

A spokesman for the NYSE confirmed that its board invited Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, who have led election-year criticism of Wall Street's accounting scandals.But the Democrats were no-shows at the morning ceremony, apparently preferring to conduct media interviews before the special session of Congress in New York City to commemorate September 11.

Republican House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi did appear at the stock exchange to ring the opening bell.

Some NYSE officials were said to be furious at the Democrats' snub. Asked why the Democrats turned down the invitation, NYSE spokesman Rich Adamonis would say only: "You'd really have to contact their offices."

A Gephardt spokeswoman said the Missouri Democrat never agreed to attend the stock exchange event.

"We had a scheduling conflict for a month," said spokeswoman Kori Bernards. "We've had interviews and other stuff on our schedule."She said the reports of Democrats skipping the event were politically motivated, on a day intended to show bipartisanship.

"This is coming from politics working overtime," she said. "It's disgusting."

Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, did find time yesterday to appear on the Fox News Channel to help give the weather forecast.A Senate Republican leadership aide said it was "a shame that the Democratic leaders did not want to be associated with the New York Stock Exchange and financial markets at a time when Congress is in New York to show its bipartisanship and support for the people of New York."

Without the Democrats' symbolic help, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 114.87 points in the hour after trading began. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 36.06 points, or 2.9 percent.

At the opening bell, Mr. Lott said his appearance with Mr. Hastert was an important show of support for New York's "courage and resolve.""Although the markets always have their ups and downs, New York will continue to fuel our nation's economic engine," Mr. Lott said.

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