- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

Administration officials are assuring tax-cut supporters that President Bush will spend whatever political capital is needed to persuade Congress to give him the biggest-possible economic-stimulus bill, top business lobbyists said yesterday.
At a meeting of about 80 high-level business lobbyists and other tax-cut supporters at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, White House political adviser Karl Rove "said the president was going to go all the way with this," according to a business leader who attended the closed-door strategy session.
"He emphasized that the president is going to fight aggressively for his proposal and apply the kind of heavy grass-roots pressure to win the two additional votes he needs to get his tax cuts passed in the Senate," a key lobbyist said. "We left there feeling much better about the White House's plans."
Mr. Rove laid out the political arguments behind the lobbying campaign in which Mr. Bush and nearly 30 other administration officials are fanning out to 30 states and nearly 50 cities to sell the president's tax cuts during the two-week congressional recess. Officials say businesses will aid the campaign with substantial newspaper and radio ads, phone banks, a massive grass-roots mobilization of businessmen and other lobbying tactics.
"I think you will see the beginning of a full-court press take place," said Bruce Josten, chief lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The White House is lobbying for a minimum of $550 billion in tax cuts that would include all of the accelerated income-tax rate reductions and a portion of the stock-dividends tax cuts the president has proposed. After a bitter budget battle that sparked a fight among Republican leaders, the House agreed to $550 billion in the budget resolution, while the narrowly divided Senate agreed to only $350 billion less than half the $726 billion that Mr. Bush originally requested.
"I can assure you that in the conversations I've had with the White House and Rove, that they are still working toward $726 billion but no less than $550 billion," Mr. Josten said. "But Bush has clearly stepped up to the plate and is putting his shoulder to this. He delivered his marching orders to his Cabinet to go sell this plan to the American people."
Some business lobbyists said they have come away from White House briefings convinced that Mr. Bush will turn down anything less than $550 billion. "He's going to play hardball," one lobbyist said.
The administration's lobbying drive has been dubbed the "Flood the Zones" strategy, based on a football tactic that sends multiple receivers into a zone to improve the team's chances of completing a pass.
"We're truly barnstorming the country," said Robert Nichols, chief spokesman for the Treasury Department, which is leading the administration's drive to enact the tax-cut package by Memorial Day. A dozen officials from Treasury alone will be "doing 36 events over this two-week period," he said.
Treasury Secretary John W. Snow has been on the road virtually full time in the past month, speaking for the president's plan in key electoral states from Florida to Michigan. Mr. Snow visited five states just this week, including five events in Louisiana, where Democratic Sen. John B. Breaux is a prime target of the administration's lobby.
Next week "he will be working the phones aggressively, calling members of the [tax-writing] House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees before they return for business," Mr. Nichols said.
Other Cabinet officials are being dispatched around the country, including Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez and Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, along with White House economic adviser Stephen Friedman, Budget Director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. and Mr. Rove.
All of them have administration talking points charging them to emphasize that the tax cuts will produce 1.4 million jobs and that reducing the tax package will reduce the number of jobs created. "This tax proposal is about three things: jobs, jobs, jobs," Mr. Evans says at every stop.
"There are individuals [in Congress] saying the president is not doing anything to help the economy, while these same individuals are trying to cut the number of jobs being created in half," Mr. Nichols said.
A list of planned White House events shows extra emphasis on states where wavering lawmakers are being lobbied to embrace the president's plan.
According to the list, a copy of which was made available to The Washington Times, special focus is on Ohio home state of Republican Sen. George V. Voinovich, who wants a tax cut no higher than $350 billion. At least six events, and possibly more, were planned in Ohio over the congressional recess.
Republican Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, whose opposition killed Mr. Bush's hopes for a bigger tax cut in the recent budget battle, is another target. She supports a tax cut no bigger than $350 billion. In a not-so-veiled attempt to embarrass Mrs. Snowe, the American Forest & Paper Association is running newspaper ads in her state thanking Maine's other Republican senator, Susan Collins, for supporting the full Bush tax cuts.
"Thank you, Senator Collins, for voting in the Senate to stop the double tax on corporate dividends," the ads say.
The administration lobbying effort is being helped by the Tax Relief Coalition, an antitax business alliance made up of more than 1,000 trade associations, member organizations and companies, representing 1.8 million businesses.
"The ads are up and running. The first ones ran Tuesday. This effort is designed and scheduled to last through the recess," said Dirk Von Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, who is heading up the coalition campaign.

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