Hoosier State Dilemma

Caught Between the White House & an Old Friend

Posted July 18, 2003 at 6:42pm

Washington insiders knew it was bound to happen sooner or later.

With a former Congressman and a former Bush administration official squaring off in Indiana’s 2004 GOP gubernatorial primary, it took less than two months for some Members of Congress to get caught between a friend and the White House.

Forty-nine Republican Members are listed as “special guests” on the invitation to a fundraiser for former Rep. David McIntosh (R) at the Capitol Hill Club Tuesday night. Most insist their support is rooted in friendship and not based on any residual ill will toward a man whose job in Washington, D.C., made him more enemies than friends.

Others admit they weren’t aware when they signed onto the McIntosh event that he is facing Mitch Daniels, the recently departed White House Office of Management and Budget director, in the gubernatorial primary.

While he has not formally endorsed Daniels, President Bush visited Indiana in May and shared a stage with him, calling him “My Man Mitch” — a slogan that has made it on to Daniels’ campaign literature.

“Mitch Daniels has been a good friend, a close adviser, and I’m going to miss him,” the president said, according to The Associated Press. “Washington’s loss, however, will be the gain of the people of Indiana.”

Still, McIntosh, who was elected to the House during the Republican revolution in 1994 and served through 2000, when he was defeated in his first bid for governor, compiled an impressive list for the fundraiser.

“I support my friends,” said Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), explaining that he’d received a letter asking him to sign on to the event and he’d simply checked yes. “It has nothing to do with Mitch. It has to do with helping a friend.”

Among the five Senators and 44 House Members listed on the invitation, 24 are McIntosh’s former House classmates elected in 1994. Thirteen are members of the House and Senate Appropriations or Budget committees, and six are full committee chairmen, including Senate Budget Chairman Don Nickles (R-Okla.). Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R), a former Congressman elected to the House in 1994, is keynoting the event.

“[McIntosh] did pretty good,” said Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), a fellow member of the class of ’94, after looking at the invitation on which his name appears.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who was elected to replace McIntosh in 2000, is serving as honorary co-chairman of his predecessor’s campaign, and he helped gather the names for the invitation.

Pence said he only started making calls to gather support for the event about two weeks ago, well after Daniels left his post at OMB and announced, as expected, that he would also be running for governor.

Pence and Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) are the only two Republicans from the Hoosier State delegation on the invitation and the only two to publicly back McIntosh in the primary. Daniels is backed by the most senior Republican politician in the Hoosier State, Sen. Dick Lugar.

Pence stressed that the strong showing of Members is more a reflection of support for McIntosh than opposition to Daniels. He added that McIntosh and his wife Ruthie were “one of the most popular couples on Capitol Hill” when he served in Congress.

“In my opinion, the strong response on the Hill is more a statement about David McIntosh than it is [about] Mitch Daniels,” Pence said.

While Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) is not a McIntosh classmate from 1994, he said the two developed a friendship that still exists and noted that his wife is the godmother of McIntosh’s 5-year-old daughter, Ellie.

When asked about the event last week, Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) appeared as if he was unaware that his name was listed on the invitation.

“I’m sure that if I knew that when I committed to it, it was because of” my friendship with a former classmate, Burr said, referring to the fact that McIntosh and Daniels are in the race together.

Burr is running for the Senate in 2004 with the blessing of the White House.

Pence said he met with Daniels last week and that the McIntosh event did not come up in the conversation.

However, there was other evidence to indicate Daniels is monitoring the guest list.

When asked about his name appearing on the fundraiser invite, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) answered that he’d already heard from Daniels about his participation in the event.

“He’s already called me,” said Burns, a member of both the Appropriations and Budget committees.

Meanwhile, several Members indicated that they lent their names to the effort but did not plan any further involvement in the primary.

“I told him he could use my name,” said Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), adding that she doesn’t have money to give to any candidates.

“If Mitch had one I’d be a host for him too,” said McIntosh classmate Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa). “I’m not taking sides in that race.”

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) echoed that sentiment and called both men “good friends.”

“I don’t know much about it except that I agreed to be a co-host,” said Mica, who doesn’t plan to give any money in the primary. “If Mitch asked me, I’d probably help him too.”

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) said he would be supporting McIntosh regardless of who his opponent is and added that he isn’t worried about irritating anyone by taking sides in the primary.

“Of all the things that the White House has to be mad at me about, this is probably at the bottom of the list,” Tancredo said.

Some Members whose names were on McIntosh’s invitation were clearly a little less comfortable with the appearance of their participation in the event, however.

One Member on the invitation, who asked not to be named, said he did not know who McIntosh was running against when he’d run into to him and agreed to serve as a special guest.

Another member on the invitation who plans to give money to McIntosh said Daniels, known as “The Blade” during his tenure in the Bush administration, is still well respected by Members.

“An OMB director has to tell everybody no,” the Member said. “Members of Congress love to say yes.”

The Member added, “Mitch is going to be a very strong candidate.”

Still, some members of the Hoosier delegation appear firmly planted in the Daniels camp.

Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.), who said he respects both men, said he wasn’t asked to lend his support to the fundraiser.

“If Mitch Daniels asked me to help him out I would, and David knows that,” the freshman lawmaker said.

Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) also said he wasn’t asked to participate in the event and then made clear that he wasn’t sweating his exclusion.

“David will not be elected governor of Indiana by coming to Washington, D.C., to gain support of Members of Congress,” said Buyer, who predicted that McIntosh would lose the primary.

Also included on the list of sponsors for tomorrow’s event are former Reps. Bill Archer (R-Texas) and Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and their wives, as well as Freda Solomon, wife of the late Rep. Gerald Solomon (R-N.Y.), who retired in 2000.

One of the more interesting spouses on the list of sponsors is Catherine Stevens, wife of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). The Alaska Senator had a tempestuous relationship with Daniels while he was at OMB, although he said more recently he understood Daniels was just doing his job.

This fall, other class of 1994 members are expected to pitch in and help McIntosh.

According to the McIntosh campaign, former 1994 classmates and GOP Reps. Mark Sanford (S.C.) and Steve Largent (Okla.) are scheduled to headline events starting in early September. Sanford is now governor of South Carolina and Largent, a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, lost a gubernatorial bid in Oklahoma last year.