Powell Consults Bennett, Kemp, NY Financier About Presidential Run
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Colin Powell contacted New York cosmetics heir Ronald S. Lauder late Tuesday to discuss his fund-raising prospects as a Republican presidential candidate, part of a round of talks that suggest he is leaning towards running, GOP sources said Wednesday.
Others consulted in the past two days included Jack Kemp and William Bennett, two conservative former GOP cabinet members who have spoken favorably about a Powell candidacy, said the sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified further.
Powell spokesman Bill Smullen said the retired general has made a series of calls as part of his deliberations about entering the GOP race, but declined to name any of those consulted. ``As of this day, the 25th of October, Colin Powell has not yet made a decision,″ Smullen said.
Powell ended his nationwide book tour last week and has promised a decision in November.
As he ponders a candidacy, many conservatives are mounting a concerted effort to convince Powell to stay on the sidelines, suggesting they will strongly oppose him because of his support for abortion rights, gun control, affirmative action and other policies at odds with their agenda.
Just Tuesday night, for example, the American Conservative Union board adopted a statement that Powell’s views ``put him outside the mainstream of the Republican Party and should make him unacceptable to conservatives.″
``I cannot find any reason why any conservative would want to sacrifice the work of decades on the altar of celebrity,″ said ACU president David Keene, an ally of Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the GOP presidential front-runner. Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed also said a Powell candidacy would not keep the Republican Party in line with the ``Reagan legacy.″
But as Powell considers a run, he appears to be reaching out to Reagan administration alumni and allies in a way that could help him counter such criticism.
Helping him with the consultations is Kenneth Duberstein, who served as Reagan’s White House chief of staff at the end of Reagan’s second term. Duberstein, a close Powell friend, did not return a telephone message Wednesday.
Kemp, during his tenure as a New York congressman, was a close Reagan ally and was the favorite of many economic conservatives for the 1996 GOP nomination. He decided not to run but a longtime Kemp ally, millionaire publisher Steve Forbes, is a candidate for the GOP nomination.
Powell and Kemp spoke Tuesday, as did Powell and Bennett, according to the sources.
Bennett served as the nation’s drug czar and education secretary and now, with Kemp, heads Empower America, a conservative policy group. While stopping short of endorsing Powell, Bennett has spoken favorably about the idea of Powell running and has said Powell’s support of abortion rights should not preclude abortion foes from supporting him. For those remarks, Bennett has been drawn into a bitter feud with several leading social conservatives.
The conversation with Lauder is the clearest indication yet that Powell’s consultations have moved beyond a general discussion of a presidential run to a more detailed assessment of fund-raising prospects.
According to one source’s account of their late-night Tuesday conversation, Powell said he wanted to run and was interested in whether Lauder would be interested in serving in a top fund-raising post if Powell did join the GOP race. This source said Lauder told Powell he needed to make a decision soon because of the head start of other candidates, and that the two men agreed to speak again. A woman answering the telephone at Lauder’s office Wednesday night said he was not available and referred a reporter to Lauder aide Alan Roth, who did not immediately return a phone message.
Lauder ran unsuccessfully for New York mayor in 1989. More recently, he headed up New Yorkers for Term Limits, a group which pushed through city term limits in 1993.
Powell and Lauder met during the Reagan administration, when Powell worked as a Pentagon and White House adviser and Lauder served in a Pentagon job and later as ambassador to Austria.