I Don’t Care if You’re the Richest Guy in the World

Posted June 25, 2003 at 6:35pm

I Don’t Care if You’re the Richest Guy in the World. Billionaire Bill Gates learned the hard way that the Secret Service means business when it comes to checking identification at the White House gates.

Gates showed up at the White House on Wednesday afternoon for a substantive meeting with Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge. But when he was asked to produce some ID, Gates said he had left it in a vehicle parked nearby.

While HOH has to assume that the Secret Service officers recognized the

founder of Microsoft, they refused to let Gates in. So he had to cool his heels as Microsoft’s chief lobbyist, Jack Krumholtz, rushed back to the car to get the ID.

Fortunately for Gates, it took Krumholtz only about 60 seconds to retrieve the wallet, so the big shot didn’t have to suffer too long in Washington’s 95-degree heat.

“It’s like that VISA commercial,” one insider joked about the spot featuring various celebrities who aren’t allowed to cash a check without some ID.

Gates eventually made it past the gates for his meeting with Ridge. And then, with his ID presumably in his pocket, the billionaire huddled with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to discuss tech policy.

Kucinich Scoop. If you get liberal Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen on the phone, you never know what the man who has endorsed the presidential campaign of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is going to say.

HOH was trying hard to keep up with Cohen’s rapid-fire musings about how he’s no big fan of presidential candidate Howard Dean, the former governor of his own home state, or potential future candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

But then the conversation got more interesting when Cohen was asked who his fellow co-founder in the Vermont ice cream business, Jerry Greenfield, will endorse in the presidential race.

“Hang on a second,” Cohen said.

He put down his cellphone and could be heard shouting across the room, “Hey Jerry, it’s Roll Call! They want to know who you’re supporting in the presidential race!”

After a moment, Cohen returned to the phone. “Kucinich,” he said gleefully, revealing his longtime pal’s choice.

While the company sold a “Maple Powered Howard” sundae this week in Vermont to celebrate Dean’s official kickoff, Cohen said there are no hard feelings among company officials. And he’s not bent about the fact that there will not be a Kucinich sundae.

“Neither Jerry nor I are active with Ben & Jerry’s,” he said. “We speak for ourselves, not the company.”

Cohen said his problem with Dean, who is considered a radical by many Washington insiders, is that he’s actually too cautious.

“In terms of incremental change, he’s the best of the lot who’s running,” he said. “But in terms of the fundamental, systemic change we need, clearly Kucinich is the only guy who would provide that.”

As for Clinton, Cohen said he hasn’t read her new book and has no plans to do so.

“In terms of her agenda and what she stands for is somewhat similar to former President Clinton and Dean — they’re all centrists,” he said derisively.

Cohen said Kucinich has the best handle on budget priorities by putting education and health care above Pentagon spending. In fact, he’s on board for the Congressman’s push for a Department of Peace to replace the Defense Department.

“Absolutely, is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that peace is better than war?” he asked.

Cohen acknowledged that he’s supporting Kucinich even though the lawmaker is a vegan who has hurt the ice cream company by not eating dairy products. “We can afford it,” he said with a laugh.

Take One for the Team. With President Bush raising $10 million for his re-election campaign this week alone, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe has to take small comfort in any small victory that comes his way.

Hence the somewhat strange e-mail McAuliffe sent out to Democratic strategists on Tuesday night about the exploits of DNC staffer Dennis O’Brien.

“I would like everyone to know that Dennis has been a superstar today,” wrote McAuliffe. “He raised $6,500 for” the party that came after Wednesday night’s fundraising dinner for the White House candidates.

“In addition, he donated one month’s salary back to the DNC to help us fight George Bush!” McAuliffe added of O’Brien. “Everyone should thank him for his extraordinary efforts. He certainly made me proud to be a Democrat today.”

O’Brien is a staffer working on the 2004 Democratic National Convention who hit up friends and family for the $6,500. Giving up his salary means about $2,000 per month in lost wages for the staffer.

DNC spokeswoman Debra DeShong told HOH that the turn of events has nothing to do with a cash crunch at the committee and merely reflects the “excitement” among young Democrats eager to help take on the president.

“We know that a wave of money is coming at us,” said DeShong. “We’re trying to beat it back with a hammer. Every little nail helps.”

She added helpfully, “Just so you know, the chairman does not pressure us to not get paid.”

Whew!

Face Time. When HOH recently asked Clinton whether she would rule out a future bid for Senate Majority Leader, it was just a joke meant to lighten all the tension about whether she’s running for president.

But who knew that National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman George Allen (Va.) actually thinks she is running for the Senate leadership post instead of the White House?

In at least his second fundraising pitch bashing his colleague, a petrified-sounding Allen plasters a photo of a bespectacled, tired-looking Clinton at the top of his letter to donors.

“Is this the face of our next Senate Majority Leader?” asks the letter.

In order to suggest that Clinton is trying to gain chits with her colleagues, Allen notes that she doled out more than $1.4 million to Democratic candidates in the past election cycle. He also cited the recent Roll Call story revealing that Clinton will hold at least seven fundraising events for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in conjunction with her book tour.

“Hillary Clinton’s ambitions and prolific fundraising on behalf of the Democratic Party represents a danger to our majority,” wrote Allen. “If we do not redouble our efforts on behalf of our Republican Senate candidates, her fundraising and the Democrats’ return to the negative partisanship of the past — a bitter legacy of the Clinton years — threaten to engulf the promise of this Congress and our positive, constructive agenda to move America forward.”

Allen’s letter doesn’t mention the fact, however, that he’s actually a co-sponsor of a Clinton bill to aid National Guard and reserve troops. And at her recent book party, Clinton told HOH that she was shutting the door on a run for Majority Leader.

“While their attention is flattering, Senator Clinton will continue working with her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get things done for New York and America,” Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines told HOH.

Signed, Sealed and Delivered? Lobbyists working the Medicare bill are speculating that President Bush is pushing hard to get the legislation done next month so that he could sign the reform measure on July 30.

That’s because former President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare program into law on July 30, 1965, and it would further enable Bush to bask in the glow of an historic victory.

And wouldn’t a presidential signing with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) at Bush’s side on the anniversary of one of the pivotal moments in the history of the Great Society further annoy Democrats sore at Kennedy for cutting a deal? Come to think of it, wouldn’t that also further annoy some of Bush’s conservative friends?

John Feehery, spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said he is not sure of the exact plan for the signing. “But we certainly want to get it done by the end of July,” he told HOH.

Feehery added that it will be a “heavy lift” to meet that deadline, but GOP leaders want to get the job done.

“That’s the hope of the Speaker and I think it’s Senator Frist’s as well,” he said.

Coffee Talk. HOH erred Wednesday by referring to CNN’s new political e-mail service as “The Daily Grind.” It’s actually called “The Morning Grind.”