POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Few Political Insiders Attend Forbes Event
McLEAN, Va. (AP) _ Steve Forbes may be catching the attention of Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, but he apparently still has a long way to go with Washington political insiders.
Perhaps that’s not a strange position for a self-described political ``outsider″ to find himself in, but the only political figures who attended a Forbes fund-raiser Wednesday were a would-be senator and a Reagan administration cabinet secretary who now works for Forbes.
About 250 were expected to attend the event hosted by radio talk show host Armstrong Williams, said organizer Nina Day; a $250 contribution got them cocktails, while a buffet dinner cost $1,000.
Caspar Weinberger, President Reagan’s defense secretary, arrived just in time for dinner; he now works for Forbes, Inc., the family publishing empire Forbes ran until stepping aside to launch his presidential bid.
Also attending were Michael and Arianna Huffington.
Huffington, like Forbes, knows something about spending his own money in pursuit of elected office, having plowed nearly $30 million of his family oil money into an unsuccessful bid to unseat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., last year.
Lately, his wife has been leading the charge against Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, arguing that he lacks a cohesive vision and is not sufficiently conservative.
The Huffingtons declined to speak to reporters as they made their way into the fund-raiser.
One who did talk was C. Boyden Gray, White House Counsel during the Bush administration, who arrived for drinks and left before dinner.
Like many without political connections who attended, Gray stressed that he wasn’t committing to Forbes _ at least, not yet.
``Oh, this is interesting,″ Gray said. ``I’m just curious about what’s going on. He’s a nice man.″
A dispute has erupted in Ohio over whether the state’s United We Stand America chapter must stop using its name.
The group said Wednesday that billionaire Ross Perot ordered it to stop using the name ``United We Stand America-Ohio Inc.″ after it filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Ohio secretary of state about Reform Party irregularities.
The FEC has informed the group that it is investigating.
United We Stand America-Ohio, one of the 50 state organizations formed after Perot’s 1992 presidential bid, has split into two camps. In one are the supporters of the Dallas-based United We Stand America, who want to help Perot form a third party _ the Reform Party.
In the other are those who question the way Perot has run his organization and who believe the Ohio organization should stick to its educational, nonpartisan mission.
``When we would not go along with Mr. Perot’s plan to convert UWSA into a new party as a vehicle for his ’96 presidential campaign, his paid staff tried to create a new puppet board and seize all the assets of the corporation,″ said Deborah Taylor, chairwoman of the Ohio group. ``That failed, and now he is trying to take our name.″
But Sandra Reckseit, former executive director of the Ohio group and now a volunteer for the national organization, said the order did not come from Perot. She said it came from Russ Verney, national coordinator of the Perot-backed Reform Party.
She said the group was asked to stop using the name because ``a lot of members felt that there was a lack of accountability in financial records and some other things, and they were just very concerned about that.″
Sabina Forbes stars in a new 30-second ad airing in Iowa, defending her husband, Steve, against attacks from Dole.
``We all know the latest attack on my husband is unfair,″ Sabina Forbes says in the 30-second ad. ``But Steve’s strong _ he has guts and he knows he’s right.″
In a Dole commercial unveiled Tuesday in Iowa, Sen. Charles Grassley accused Forbes of running ``vicious ads″ against Dole that ``are just not true.″
In her response ad, Mrs. Forbes tells viewers: ``We’ve been married 24 years. Our five girls couldn’t have a better father. Steve’s a good, decent man who cares deeply about America.″
Mrs. Forbes, 48, previously had not appeared publicly on behalf of her husband, choosing instead to stay at the family’s Bedminster, N.J., mansion and farm, which she runs.
But Forbes’ spokeswoman, Gretchen Morgenson, said she plans to campaign in New Hampshire in the weeks before its Feb. 20 primary. Mrs. Forbes also might campaign this weekend in Iowa, before its caucuses on Monday, Morgenson said.
Other candidates’ wives, including Elizabeth Dole, have stumped for their husbands for months.