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AFT Affiliate in New York Among Top Backers of Clinton Campaign

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The political-action committee of New York State United Teachers, that state's affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, has been the second most important source of campaign financing for President Clinton in his political career, according to a new book.

The state union's PAC has donated $101,819 to Mr. Clinton, reports The Buying of the President, which was written by Charles Lewis and the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C.

Only the combined contributions from Goldman Sachs, a New York-based investment-banking company whose employees have given Mr. Clinton $107,850, outspent the teachers' group.

The book chronicles the history of political contributions to 10 announced 1996 presidential candidates and five "wild cards." Some of the subjects, such as Gov. Pete Wilson of California and retired Gen. Colin L. Powell, have either dropped out of the race or declared that they will not be candidates.

No candidates other than Mr. Clinton had teachers' union PACs among their top backers.

While the book doesn't indicate when NYSUT helped fatten Mr. Clinton's coffers, a center official said all of the expenditures came during his 1992 presidential campaign. The official said the money was not directly donated to the campaign, but spent on media ads on the candidate's behalf.

Presidential candidates cannot accept contributions for the general election if they seek public financing. But donations to political parties are unlimited, and both the AFT and the National Education Association gave money to the Democratic Party in 1992.

The book notes that the unions each made a $100,000 loan to Mr. Clinton's 1993 presidential inaugural committee, as well.

Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan has canceled a television ad that included pictures of the space shuttle Challenger exploding. Its intent was to feature Mr. Buchanan's crisis-management skills when serving as a senior adviser to then-President Reagan.

But when friends of of Christa McAuliffe, the NASA "teacher in space" who died in the disaster 10 years ago this month, complained, Mr. Buchanan decided to revise the ad rather than "get mired over something we didn't expect," a campaign spokesman told reporters.

The Concord, N.H., teacher, who was picked for the tragic flight through a nationwide competition, was 37 when she died.

Former Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander has revived his "GI Bill for Kids."

The GOP presidential contender unveiled his vision for a decentralized federal government earlier this month, and the school-voucher proposal he pushed as President Bush's education chief was part of the plan.

Proposed in 1991 in a package of education reforms that included national testing and voluntary national academic standards, the legislation would have allowed parents to use federal dollars to help pay tuition at the public, private, or parochial schools of their choice.

House Democrats backed a more limited voucher plan as part of their alternative to the Bush bill, but it was later dumped and the underlying bill never passed.

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank, Mr. Alexander proposed spending $1 billion on "scholarships for children that need them," but did not offer details.

Mr. Alexander's domestic proposals also include converting $25 billion in federal job-training programs into "vouchers for workers changing jobs," reducing federal welfare spending and using the savings to finance a tax break, enacting a tax credit for charitable contributions, and establishing a part-time Congress.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that replicas of Mr. Alexander's trademark red-and-black flannel shirt are selling briskly in Tennessee department stores.

Mr. Alexander first wore such a shirt during his successful 1978 campaign to become Tennessee's governor, when he logged more than 1,000 miles walking around the state. More recently, the candidate has worn the shirts during his walks around New Hampshire. Red and black are his campaign's colors.

In two months, the Profitt's department-store chain has sold all but 60 or so of its stock of 780 the shirts, the newspaper reported. The article quoted Mr. Alexander as saying that neither he nor his campaign would profit from the sale of the shirts, which cost $39.50 each.

Sen. James Jeffords, R-Vt., has endorsed Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole's White House bid, although the moderate Mr. Jeffords has differed with Mr. Dole on educational and other matters.

Mr. Jeffords is the 25th GOP senator to endorse the front-running Dole candidacy. He chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities, and is in line to chair the full Labor and Human Resources Committee when Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum, R-Kan., retires at the end of this year.

The two men disagreed recently on a proposal to give poor District of Columbia students publicly financed "scholarships" to attend the private or public schools of their choice.

Mr. Dole backs the idea. Mr. Jeffords, a key player in negotiations on the underlying bill, has opposed it, although he is working on a compromise plan that he could accept.

The Weekly Reader, a national newspaper for children, has invited 8 million students to sign a petition urging the White House to pay more attention to child-related issues.

The publication, which is also surveying the students on their top five political concerns, hopes to present the petition to the president-elect after the election.

It states: "We the Young People of the United States, respectfully ask our nation's leaders to pay special attention to our concerns."

The newspaper has been "the voice of America's children for the last 10 presidential elections," said the paper's executive editor, Forrest Stone.

--Mark Pitsch
& Robert C. Johnston

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