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"There'll be an argument over what will be legal and what will be illegal."--Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), on why the scope of campaign-finance hearings should be expanded, which it wasEDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top


FIRST, THERE WERE PILOTS Defending the Profession, a hard-line group of American Airlines pilots that helped defeat a tentative contract in January. Now, a counterinsurgency of sorts, dubbed Voice of Reason (VOR), is pressing its own campaign, with hopes of avoiding a crippling strike Apr. 17.

VOR is asking the company's 9,300 pilots to sign a petition calling for a rank-and-file vote on the compromise recommendations of a Presidential Emergency Board--even if, as expected, the Allied Pilots Assn.'s leadership balks at the deal. The board, due to issue its report by Mar. 17, was formed by President Clinton on Feb. 15, halting a brief pilots' strike for at least 60 days. Management is likely to back the board's proposals, and the VOR thinks the union's rank-and-file would, too. The two sides have agreed to mediate the dispute, with the panel's assistance.

Union leaders say they have no plans to poll members. Detractors fear the VOR's efforts will undercut the union's position. But the new group, says pilot Carmen Villani, an organizer, is working within the union to help "the leadership know exactly where the membership stands." On one key issue, the group believes most members will accept letting lower-paid, non-APA pilots fly commuter jets, with some restrictions.By Wendy Zellner EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top


THE NOMINATION OF ALEXIS Herman as Labor Secretary, due for a Mar. 18 Senate hearing, is hitting even heavier weather and may be delayed. Some senators want to scrutinize two overseas trade missions for women business owners that Herman led in 1995 and 1996 for the late Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown. One ex-Commerce official says it was "definitely strange" to tap Herman, a White House aide, to lead the trips--but felt her close tie to Brown was the reason.

The senators are particularly interested in one plane guest on a trip to Mexico: Caryliss Weaver, vice-president of Alignment Strategies, a Potomac (Md.) consulting firm that bought Herman's diversity consultancy, A.M. Herman & Associates, two years earlier for between $50,000 and $100,000. Weaver and her sister, Vanessa, Alignment's owner and president, gave $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee in November. Neither sister would comment. A White House spokesman says although Herman suggested Alignment be invited, "it's ridiculous to assert that was some kind of payoff for buying her business."

Also under scrutiny: meetings her White House office hosted for policymakers, on government time, with women's groups and other special interests. Senators suspect the events were really political--and thus illegal. Clintonites say they weren't.By Paula Dwyer EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top


Rocker David Bowie has floated a $55 million, 10-year bond issue at 7.9%, backed by music royalties. So Dorsey & Whitney, a Minneapolis law firm specializing in asset-backed securities, commissioned a poll on which celebrity would be the best investment. Their query listed relatively young names, with decades of earning power ahead. In deeming Oprah Winfrey No.1, the public shows it doesn't expect to tire of the talk-show queen.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

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