MIAMI - John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, caused a stir
in May by accusing the Cuban government of transferring bioweapons technology
to rogue nations. Nineteen months ago, he caused a different stir - bursting into
a Tallahassee library on behalf of the Bush-Cheney campaign to stop a recount
of Miami-Dade County ballots.
''I'm with the Bush-Cheney team, and I'm here to stop the count,'' he was
quoted as saying in news reports at the time.
Matt Schlapp, a former congressional aide, is White House special assistant
to the president and deputy director of political affairs. In November 2000, he
was part of the supposedly spontaneous window-pounding protest at Miami-Dade County
Hall that brought to an end the first recount of Miami-Dade ballots.
Sue Cobb, a Coral Gables developer, today is the US ambassador to Jamaica.
Twenty months ago, the generous Republican donor volunteered her legal skills
to the Bush-Cheney campaign - working as part of the legal team that contested
recounts in Miami-Dade.
Although they now serve President Bush in sharply different roles, they are
among more than 50 political appointees found by the Miami Herald to have served
as troops in the frantic Florida recount battle that followed the Nov. 7, 2000,
Political patronage has long been a reward for campaign loyalty. But the distribution
of plum jobs to those who worked in Florida after the 2000 election suggests that
that service became a kind of political merit badge that carried a special benefit.
''Work on the recount is the indispensable connection for work at the Bush
administration,'' said Jeffrey Toobin, author of ''Too Close to Call: The 36-Day
Battle to Decide the 2000 Election.''
Just how many Bush appointees actually served the Bush-Cheney campaign in
Florida is unclear. The White House declined to provide a list of administration
officials who worked for the Florida campaign.
Florida lawyer Barry Richard, a Democrat who was hired by the Bush campaign
to fight its legal battle over the recount, said there were 192 lawyers of record
on various court cases around the state.
To identify the appointees, the Miami Herald conducted dozens of interviews
and studied White House nominations and government staff directories - then matched
names to news accounts, photo captions, and several books about the episode. In
addition, some appointees included their recount roles in news releases, or accounts
in university and law journals.
Most were lawyers who worked all-nighters in Tallahassee and across South
Florida as ballot observers and political operatives as well as litigators and
behind-the-scenes writers of legal briefs.
White House officials defended the appointments, noting that many appointees
take big pay cuts when they move into government jobs. Appointees with Florida
service to the Bush-Cheney recount effort make from $52,300 a year to $166,700
for Attorney General John Ashcroft, who also passed through Tallahassee during
Several of the people who served as political operatives and lawyers say there
was no explicit quid pro quo in their decision to come to Florida to do battle
with the forces of Democratic candidates Al Gore and Joseph I. Lieberman. But
they acknowledged that the service helped them draw the attention of the Bush
The Florida team included major figures in the Bush administration, notably
Theodore Olson, the current solicitor general, who worked on the case in both
Tallahassee and Miami, then argued candidate Bush's case before the US Supreme
Court, and Robert Zoellick, now the US trade representative, who served as a virtual
chief of staff to James Baker, Bush's main Florida strategist.
There are many whose roles in Florida went largely unremarked at the time:
Five lawyers who did research and wrote briefs to fight Florida court challenges
are now deputies in the White House counsel's office.
Three senior strategists in Tallahassee now hold $130,000-a-year jobs as general
counsels to Cabinet departments.
Three members of the window-pounding crowd that on Thanksgiving Eve helped
persuade the Miami-Dade County canvassing board to abandon the recount are now
members of the White House staff.
Former Texas Transportation System chairman David Laney left his Austin law
firm to serve as a ballot recount observer in Volusia County. Bush appointed him
recently to the seven-member Amtrak Board of Directors, a federal post touted
by Laney's firm as a ''leadership role in the transportation arena.'' It has no
salary but pays a per diem and travel expenses.
Kevin Martin, now a $130,000-a-year commissioner at the Federal Communications
Commission, was one of the first Bush-Cheney people to arrive in Miami from Washington,
on Nov. 8.
New York lawyer Brad Blakeman, who helped organize protests in South Florida
and appeared in one Associated Press dispatch at the time as a ''Broward County
GOP volunteer,'' today is director of White House scheduling.
Stuart A. Levey, associate deputy attorney general, represented Bush-Cheney
in Martin County.
Boca Raton developer Ned L. Siegel, long a generous GOP donor, has been nominated
by Bush to serve as a director of the Overseas Private Investment Corp. During
the recount crisis, he sued Theresa LePore, Palm Beach County supervisor of elections,
in a bid to stop the manual recount of the troubled butterfly ballots on constitutional
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company