What was Elaine Wynn doing in D.C.?


Hearing recently that Elaine Wynn was in Washington, D.C., I immediately wondered whether she was under consideration for an ambassadorship. It didn’t seem so far out of whack. After all, despite being a Republican, she was one of the first leading Las Vegans to back the presidential aspirations of Barack Obama. She would present herself well to foreign dignitaries.

But when she came back, during our interview  about her mentor, the late Claudine Williams, Elaine squashed my theory with the facts. She had gone to Washington, D.C., as a lobbyist, and not a gaming lobbyist. (More about that later.)

But while on the subject of ambassadorships, she said Obama’s appointment of Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. as ambassador to China was a brilliant move. “The only person emerging as a potential threat to Obama is Huntsman,” Elaine said. “It’s a ‘Team of Rivals’ situation where Obama reached across to a potential political enemy.” (“Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin described how President Lincoln appointed political foes to his cabinet.)

Elaine, at Danny Gans memorial at right, said Huntsman would be a political threat because “he’s a much more modern and realistic conservative than the people who are now controlling the GOP.”

And leaving no doubt she stands firmly in the moderate camp, Elaine described today’s Republican Party as “a demolished party because of its extremism.”

Her lobbying effort was not on behalf of Wynn Resorts Inc., it was on behalf of Communities in Schools and her experience there offered a peek into the contrasting styles of two first ladies.

As chairwoman of the nation’s largest dropout prevention organization, Elaine Wynn isn't shy about using her skills and clout to lobby for it, especially since the national dropout rate is a staggering 33 percent.

Several years ago, former first lady Laura Bush, a former librarian, supported Communities in Schools, hosting a tea at the White House to help out. She also gave the keynote address in November 2007 to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the organization that brings community resources into the school to help prevent dropouts. No doubt about it, Laura Bush demonstrated her commitment to helping fight the drop out rate.

Michelle Obama took a more hands-on approach.

When Elaine was in Washington to drum up support, she met with first lady Michelle Obama who “drove 15 minutes to go to a school and see what the work was like.”

Elaine accompanied the first lady to Ferebee-Hope Elementary in Southeast Washington, D.C., where students made presentations about the program. Michelle Obama visited a tutoring program and an after-school program operated by Communities in Schools. She also read to a class of third-graders during their story time.

Elaine spent the week working lawmakers and the Washington Post, trying to get money and publicity for a program she believes works.