William J. Bennett told President Bush today that he had changed his mind and would not accept the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee. He cited financial reasons.
Bennett, who recently resigned as the nation’s drug policy director, told President Bush in a letter that taking the job would conflict with planned outside interests, including a book contract.
Therefore, Bennett told Bush, he was turning down the offer “with the deepest reluctance.” The White House released a copy of the letter.
Presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said Bush was disappointed about Bennett’s withdrawal but “there just didn’t seem to be any way to do it.”
Fitzwater said a book contract worth “several hundred thousand” dollars was at stake. Bennett had gotten an advance, “and spent it. He’s either got to write the book or pay it back,” Fitzwater said.
No replacement has been selected, Fitzwater said, but one probably will be found soon.
Bennett, a conservative, was chosen for the top party post in November when President Bush decided to replace ailing Lee Atwater.
One senior congressional GOP source said there had been continuing, serious questions among party activists about the wisdom of Bush’s choice. “He doesn’t have any practical experience, he hasn’t run a campaign,” the official said of Bennett.
Bennett told reporters that lawyers, including White House counsel Boyden Gray, had indicated that ethics considerations involved in financial activities he wanted to conduct presented enough of a “gray area” for him to turn down the job.
The conflicts, he said, would preclude him from carrying out a Simon & Schuster book contract, as well as consulting and speaking engagements he wanted to do.
“I didn’t take a vow of poverty,” Bennett said.