Clinton can expect a long, varied list of requests Advocacy groups see a new chance to stake claims

November 06, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- They're hungry, they're impatient, and they want a piece of the Clinton action.

Scores of interest groups out of the loop during the Reagan and Bush administrations are dusting off their agendas, plotting strategy and figuring out how to place loyalists in the new Clinton administration.

"The pressures from groups out in the wilderness for 12 years will be enormous," says Stuart Eizenstat, who faced similar demands as Jimmy Carter's domestic policy adviser.

Unions want a striker-replacement bill. AIDS activists want more research money. Abortion-rights groups want abortion-rights legislation. Low-income advocates want more social welfare spending. Women's groups want a family leave bill. The list goes on and on

President-elect Clinton "is going to get no slack," says Julie Davids, an AIDS activist.

E. Pendleton James, who was Ronald Reagan's personnel director, says Mr. Clinton had better be prepared for an onslaught of demands.

"It's going to happen -- in some cases with almost viciousness," says Mr. James. "These movers and shakers have been sitting on the outside for 12 years, sometimes angry as the dickens, and now it's their turn at the bat. They're going to feel he owes them."

And so many groups can lay claim to a piece of the action.

Labor unions helped Mr. Clinton win Michigan, Pennsylvania and other key industrial states. Without the support of African-Americans, Mr. Clinton would not have carried Louisiana, Georgia, Ohio and New Jersey. Hispanics helped Mr. Clinton carry New Mexico. Jews helped Mr. Clinton carry New York.

"We hope that President-elect Clinton remembers that working women helped put him over the edge. We certainly hope he remembers that," says Barbara Otto, spokeswoman for 9 to 5, the National Association of Working Women.

Among the group's priorities, Ms. Otto says, are a family leave bill, tougher federal enforcement of sex-discrimination laws, more child-care money, pay equity and less electronic surveillance in the workplace.

"We delivered a crucial voting bloc that helped elect the next president of the United States," says Urvashi Vaid, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The group has issued a "Presidential Transition Document" that, among other things, calls for Mr. Clinton to meet within his first 100 days with gay and lesbian leaders, appoint openly gay and lesbian officials to his administration, push for a gay civil rights bill and support federal grants for artists representing homosexual themes.

Organizations are going through a list of similar demands.

At the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, acting President David Andrews says Mr. Clinton should "swiftly repeal the gag rule on family planning health professionals . . . ."

Mr. Eizenstat sees parallels with the arrival of the Reagan administration.

"It's not dissimilar to the situation which President Reagan faced with his right wing in 1980 where there was enormous pressure for him to adopt the conservative social agenda," says Mr. Eizenstat.

But a major reason Mr. Reagan was successful at the outset of his presidency, Mr. Eizenstat says, was that he put the conservative social agenda on a back burner and concentrated on his economic agenda. Mr. Eizenstat says Mr. Clinton will need do the same with liberal activists.

How Mr. Clinton responds remains to be seen.

He and his aides have suggested that his focus at the outset will be on the economy and health-care reform.

But longtime Clinton observers in Arkansas say he has a tough time saying no to people.

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