This year's presidential election may be the first in which gay and lesbian voters play a decisive role. That could be bad news for George W. Bush, who last April held a widely publicized meeting with a dozen gay Republican backers, amid hints that he'd like to corral homosexuals into his compassionate-conservative corner. "I welcome gay Americans who support me," said Bush. But just how many of them will there be? Bush's tenure in gay-unfriendly Texas has saddled him with a record repellent to many gay voters. His party is still the home of a powerful antigay constituency.
Despite some eleventh-hour heroics by environmentalists, the Republican Congress has been offering lots of goodies to industry polluters -- thanks largely to the corporate lobbyists who wrote much of the legislation.
When 58 House Republicans bucked their party leadership
in November and voted down 17 budget riders designed to give particular
industries special dispensation from environmental laws, it seemed like the
corporate lobbyists had finally been beaten back. Until then, the story of
environmental legislation in the 104th Congress was of unprecedented industry
influence--corporate lawyers for well-known polluters ghostwriting amendments,
even whole bills.
The National Rifle Association knew its stance on assault weapons was unpopular, so in 1994 it went underground, took advantage of loopholes in the campaign finance laws, and waged a stealth campaign to unseat Democrats in vulnerable districts.
Anybody doubting the political clout of the National Rifle Association should speak to the members of Congress-and the now former members-who supported President Clinton's ban on assault weapons as part of the 1994 crime bill. In the campaign cycle surrounding that close vote, the NRA spent some $70 million on political activities, including nearly $7 million through its political action committee, much of it targeting Democrats who had supported the measure. Although polls showed the majority of Americans approved of the weapons ban, the NRA campaign was by most accounts a success.