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November 1, 1998

NASD's Hilley Attacked in Partisan Bickering

By Jeffrey L. Winograd

The appointment of Democratic party activists to senior posts at Washington-based trade groups is raising a furor among some Capitol Hill Republicans.

Among the most recent batch of Democratic officials appointed is John Hilley, a former top aide in the Clinton White House. Hilley was named earlier this year as executive vice president for strategic development at the National Association of Securities Dealers.

His connections and experience in the White House and on Capitol Hill were clearly a factor in his appointment. But the appointment has drawn a stinging rebuke from House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

"The [NASD's] hiring of John Hilley is a very big mistake," DeLay told Traders Magazine. "In the face of creating a relationship with the Republican majority, for an organization to hire a highly-partisan Democrat gives me great concern because I won't deal with such organizations."

DeLay's comment echoed sentiment expressed by other Republicans when former Democratic congressman David McCurdy was named to head the Electronics Industry Association, a trade group based in Washington. The controversy was reported in several newspapers, including the Washington Post, and in several publications covering Capitol Hill.

As reported earlier, opposition from Rep. Tom Bliley (R-Va.) to Section 31 relief was attributed to Bliley's fear that he would be perceived to be helping hired liberal lobbyists.

DeLay complained that for the past 50 years a culture has taken root in Washington that places partisan Democrats "at the heads of all these trade associations, lobbying groups and other organizations."

Not surprisingly, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Hilley's boss, was critical of Delay's outburst.

Hilley was one of the White House negotiators involved in the balanced-budget agreement that was signed in 1997. Before that, he worked on Capitol Hill on policy issues for the Democratic party.

Pragmatic View

One Capital Hill pundit had a pragmatic view of the partisan bickering. The pundit said tempers could be cooled if the NASD appoints an even number of Republicans and Democrats to posts that utilize their political experience.

"Frank Zarb [chairman and chief executive of the NASD] believes he is the Republican mover and shaker at the organization, so who gives a curse as long as they have additional lobbyists who are Republicans," the pundit said. The NASD declined to comment.