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Federal File: The rumor mill; No conflicts; Power post

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As President Clinton and his new Administration focus on filling sub-Cabinet posts, speculation is running rampant among political observers. Interviews with transition sources and with some of those rumored to be candidates have yielded a few clues about who is under consideration:

  • Many Congressional aides are apparently interested in moving to the executive branch. Candidates for the position of assistant secretary for legislation in the Education Department include Tom Wolanin, a top aide to Rep. William D. Ford, D-Mich., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee; and Richard Jerue, an aide to Rep. Pat Williams, D-Mont. Both are known primarily for their work on the Higher Education Act, which was reauthorized last year.

Michael J. Hall, the clerk of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, is a candidate for the departmental post of assistant secretary for budget and management.

John F. Jennings, the chief counsel to the Education and Labor Committee, was contacted by the transition team, but says he is not interested in a position within the department.

Other current and former Capitol Hill aides are also the subject of rumor, but their inclusion on candidate lists could not be confirmed last week.

Some lobbyists who represent state education agencies are also said to be in the running for the Education Department legislation post.

  • Sharon Robinson, the director of the National Education Association's National Center on Innovation, is said to be a candidate for assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.
  • Candidates said to be under consideration to be assistant secretary for educational research and improvement include Michael Cohen, an education analyst who advised the Clinton campaign and has been a key member of the transition's education-policy team; Susan Fuhrman, the director of the Center for Policy Research in Education at Rutgers University; Eva L. Baker, a co-director of the Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing at the University of California at Los Angeles; Dena G. Stoner, the executive director of the Council for Educational Development and Research; and Lauren Resnick, a co-director of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh and a co-director of the New Standards Project, a partnership of 17 states developing a model student-testing system.
  • Marshall S. Smith, the dean of the school of education at Stanford University, who has been one of the most frequently mentioned possibilities--for either the now-filled post of deputy secretary or the research job--is probably not a candidate at all.

The appointments process has been kept within a tight circle of close advisers, and much of the gossip may prove to be entirely without foundation.

Transition sources say that even some people who are under consideration for jobs have not been contacted and do not know for sure that they are candidates.

Madeleine M. Kunin was not among the often-discussed possibilities for an education post, and her name did not surface in the rumor mill until shortly before transition officials announced that the former Vermont Governor would be nominated to be deputy secretary of education.

Ronald H. Brown, the former Democratic Party chairman who has been nominated to be Secretary of Commerce, has taken a beating in the media in recent weeks over a big bash several large corporations were planning to throw in his honor. Critics charged that the corporate donors could be affected by official decisions Mr. Brown might make later.

The gala was canceled, but the executives were not the only ones left holding the bag. Mr. Brown also decided not to attend two other scheduled parties, one of which was an event sponsored jointly by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

The party was held as scheduled--with banners and stickers reading "A Salute to Ron Brown,'' but without the salutee.

"I was supposed to introduce Keith Geiger, and Keith Geiger was supposed to introduce the guest of honor,'' Albert Shanker, the A.F.T. president, told the crowd. "We've all been reading the paper. So I'm able to do my job, but ...''

While there is little connection between education and Mr. Brown's new job, Mr. Geiger, the N.E.A. president, noted, the Cabinet nominee "didn't want to take a chance on another story about a conflict of interest.''

"There's not a person in this room who is going to leave saying, 'I'm so disappointed he didn't come,' '' Mr. Geiger said in an interview. "We're all having a good time anyway.''

"We had to have the party,'' one A.F.T. official said. "We'd all bought our dresses already.''

Mr. Brown may have been a no-show, but the unions' work in behalf of the Democrats was rewarded in another way last week--with high-level representation on the Democratic National Committee.

Debra DeLee, the director of governmental relations for the N.E.A., was named one of five vice-chairmen.--J.M.

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