Republican leaders should not let partisan politics factor into their investigation of, and confirmation hearings for, Alexis Herman as secretary of labor. Although the leaders must look at any role she might have played in alleged campaign financing abuses, they have just as much to lose as the White House and the Democrats and Ms. Herman, if they use this confirmation as an opportunity for political point-scoring and she is not confirmed as the next secretary of labor.
One important point in Ms. Herman's favor is the likelihood that she will keep some of the current assistant secretaries, including Assistant Secretary Olena Berg.
Before she was nominated four years ago, Ms. Berg was a virtual unknown in the private pension arena. Since then, she has proven to be a creative, consensus-building administrator.
She primarily stuck to the agenda she laid out in 1993 that included beefing up Labor Department enforcement efforts, improving information disclosure for participants and creating speedier approvals for prohibited transaction class exemptions for certain investments needing quick decisions.
It would seem both the Clinton administration and institutional investors - who all have given her high marks - would want her to stay in place.
Republicans should do a thorough job of making sure Ms. Herman is an appropriate candidate to succeed Robert Reich as secretary of labor. But if she is not confirmed for purely political reasons, Republicans will have put themselves into a pickle and need to be prepared for the next candidate.
Ms. Herman seems more acceptable to the Republicans than some of the previously mentioned names, including former Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford; Maria Echaveste, administrator of the Labor Department's wage and hour division; and Thomas Donahue, former secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.
Questions are being raised about any role Ms. Herman, the former director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, had in organizing coffees tied to fund-raising efforts held at the White House during last year's election campaign. One in particular, which included top financial executives and Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig, is the primary event in question.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., has said he assumes Ms. Herman will be confirmed if she can document her limited involvement in setting up the coffee. This type of question and those by Sen. James Jeffords, R-Vt., chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, which is in charge of Ms. Herman's confirmation hearing, is exactly how Republicans should proceed.
What needs explaining here is that the role of the White House liaison's office is to generate public support for the president's ideas, but how far this role extends in a campaign is unclear.
Republicans and Democrats could easily slip into their old adversarial antics with these questions at hand. There already has been some partisan jostling between party leaders on how much money the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, led by Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., should be allotted for the entire investigation of campaign finance abuses.
Clearly, if battle lines are drawn between the Republicans and Democrats on this nomination, the only winner will be the AFL-CIO.
Let's have a fair and impartial hearing. It will be best for the country, and probably best for pension funds and their managers.