December 17, 1999
Bill McAllister Denver Post Washington Bureau Chief
WASHINGTON – Watch out Jay Leno and David Letterman. Colorado’s Jim Nicholson is playing standup comic. Thursday morning, the Denver lawyer had them howling at the Republican National Committee headquarters.
His timing may not match that of Leno or Letterman, but Nicholson, RNC chairman, had a Santa hat and all the props needed for a boffo TV satire of the Democratic Party’s two presidential candidates.
At the “Gore Store’ Among the offerings at Nicholson’s “Gore Store”:
Color posters of “The World According to Gore,” an upside- down globe.
Copies of the vice president’s environmental book, “Earth in the Balance,” complete with “energy-efficient candles to read by.”
Gore “You name it, I’ve done it” business cards that list the vice president’s occupations as tobacco farmer, mule driver, homebuilder, book inspirer (“Love Story”), Love Canal discoverer and Internet inventor.
Computer mousepads that picture the vice president and carry his claim to have helped invent the Internet.
“Alpha Male” baseball caps created in honor of Gore adviser Naomi Wolf who supposedly urged Gore to exhibit a more aggressive “Alpha Male” image on the campaign trial.
There also was a “Bill Bradley Speech Survival Kit,” a coffee mug bearing an image of the former New Jersey senator, but containing a bag of strong caffeine-laden coffee. “If you’re listening to a Bradley stump speech, this gift could be the difference between you and an hour-long nap,” Nicholson quipped.
Aides say the store was Nicholson’s idea, a way to poke fun at two Democratic contenders and raise money for charity at the same time.
Not just any amount of money was Nicholson’s plan, but as much money as Gore reported giving to charities in 1997. That amounted to $353, according to Gore’s tax returns.
As it turned out Thursday, the money poured into the RNC’s Capitol Hill headquarters. Party staffers jammed the small sales counter. Nicholson and RNC press aide Stephanie Mangino quickly sold out of most of the items, from the $15 Alpha Male baseball caps to the $10 Bradley mugs.
“It took us 10 minutes to raise as much money as Al Gore gave in a whole year,” said an excited RNC press secretary Mike Collins, who bought an Alpha Male cap. Indeed, Nicholson said orders started coming in Wednesday afternoon when Washington radio stations began carrying news of the store’s planned opening.
By the time Nicholson was cleaning out the last items from the sales counter, the store’s total sales had hit $550 and telephone orders were still coming in.
“Why, we could have done away soft-money donations, if we had known we could have done this well,” joked Cliff May, RNC communications director.
“Nicholson sells out’
The store was Nicholson’s idea, said Collins, who admitted he was skeptical. “Boss, I just don’t know,” the press secretary said he first cautioned the chairman.
“But his instincts are right on the money,” Collins conceded as he looked over a crowded scene of TV camera crews recording the event.
All the money raised was to be donated to the United Way campaign here in the nation’s capital.
As Nicholson posed with “sold out” signs, Collins shouted out another headline: “Nicholson Sells Out.”
“For charity,” the chairman quickly added.
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