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Calling Archibald Cox.

Attorney General Janet Reno must immediately appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Bill Clinton's campaign-finance scandal. His legal and ethical violations have reached such lows that anything short of a full-scale, independent investigation would call into question the legitimacy of his office.

"Mistakes were made," he said at a January press conference. That Nixonian passive is putting it mildly.

The Clinton Administration, often with the direct, personal involvement of the President, appears to have systematically violated the campaign-finance laws of this country.

He has solicited funds in the White House, which is against the law.

His election campaign solicited and accepted illegal contributions from foreign individuals and foreign companies.

He allowed chief executives of foreign companies extraordinary access to the White House and input on U.S. policy affecting them.

He met with a senior arms dealer from China, as well as a reputed Mob associate, in the White House.

His election campaign accepted contributions from people who did not have the wherewithal to give them. This smacks of money-laundering.

He has regularly met with huge domestic contributors about official policy that they have a commercial interest in. This borders on bribery.

He and his Administration have repeatedly lied or dissembled about these activities.

He has turned the White House into a Disney World for anyone willing to pay $250,000 at the gate.

Here is one example. On June 18, 1996, a Thai businesswoman by the name of Pauline Kanchanalak came to one of Clinton's infamous White House coffees. She brought with her the three top executives of Thailand's largest multinational corporation, the C.P. Group, as The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal reported. The topic of the hour-long meeting was U.S. policy toward China, where the C.P. Group has large operations.

The same day as the coffee, Kanchanalak gave $85,000 to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and her sister-in-law chipped in $50,000. The DNC's own records listed the "event location" as "WH coffee."

Kanchanalak is a legal U.S. resident, and therefore entitled to contribute to campaigns. Her family has contributed $650,000 to the DNC and state Democratic parties since 1992. The DNC was forced to return $253,000 of Kanchanalak's contributions after she admitted that the money had come from her mother-in-law.

Kanchanalak has benefited from her investments. She convinced the Clinton Administration to back the U.S.-Thai Business Council, and she almost succeeded in getting U.S. Export-Import Bank financing for a chain of Blockbuster Video stores in Bangkok that would have benefited a Thai conglomerate.

Why did she and the executives of Thailand's largest multinational get a chance to weigh in on U.S.-China policy? Why did she meet three times with National Security Council staff in her many visits to the White House? Did she influence U.S. policy, or profit from being privy to the inner workings of the White House?

Another question: Who was John Huang really working for? He, remember, is the guy who raised $3.4 million for the DNC over the last few years, though $1 million had to be returned because it came from illegal sources.

For a while there, he was the senior U.S. employee of the Lippo Group, a giant Indonesian company, whose associates have contributed lavishly to the DNC. Then, with the blessings of his Lippo boss, he went to work at the Commerce Department, where he participated in meetings of the Indonesian Working Group, which included members of the Export-Import Bank, the State Department, and the CIA.

He also brought his boss, James Riady, to the White House for meetings with Clinton. Riady encouraged Clinton to warm up to Suharto, Indonesia's brutal dictator, and to downplay human-rights violations in China, where the Lippo Group operates.

Was Huang doing all this for Clinton? For Lippo? For Indonesia? For China? New York Times columnist William Safire, who helped break the scandal, makes the sinister case for China, suggesting that Huang could be a foreign agent.

And what effect did Huang's meddling have? Clinton has, after all, warmed up to Suharto and down-played human-rights violations in China.

Safire also raises questions about the Lippo Group's donations to Webster Hubbell, Clinton's former associate attorney general. After Hubbell resigned in disgrace, the Lippo Group retained him on a six-figure consulting contract. This was before Hubbell was convicted of a felony. Safire asks whether Lippo was providing hush money. "Consider: The financially desperate Hubbell, who could have sunk the Clintons if he turned against them, received a bundle from the same Asian crew bankrolling Clinton's campaigns. He then loyally zipped his lip and spurned leniency from the Independent Counsel," Safire wrote.

Then there are the American bankers. As has been widely reported, Clinton had coffee with some of the nation's largest bankers on May 13, 1996. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury, Robert Rubin, and the Comptroller of the Currency, Eugene Ludwig.

This access impressed the bankers. Said the chairman of the East Coast Bank Corporation, "Several of us don't recall having an opportunity for bankers to visit with the senior regulator, Mr. Ludwig, with his boss, the Secretary of the Treasury, and his boss, the President."

Oh, there were two other persons present: the top fundraisers for the Democratic Party. The Clinton people aren't known for their subtlety.

When asked at a press conference on January 28 about the propriety of such meetings, Clinton averred that maybe the Comptroller of the Currency shouldn't have been there, but other than that, such meetings are not only "appropriate," they "are a good thing." To justify this ludicrous statement, Clinton went into false-modesty mode: "I never learn very much when I'm talking, and I normally learn something when I'm listening."

Not to worry, Clinton said. All the bankers got from him was "a respectful hearing."

This strains credibility, since Clinton is being very nice to the banking industry these days. The day before the story broke about Clinton's coffee with the bankers, The Wall Street Journal reported that Rubin is favoring a policy change "to let banks own and be owned by commercial companies, breaching the long-standing wall between banking and commerce."

And even if Clinton's plea of innocence is true, when do the rest of us get our "respectful hearing" with the President? As George Stephanopoulos told The New Yorker, "The problem is that you can't help having your perspective shaped by the people you talk to. And access comes from money."

Many of the 103 coffees the DNC set up at the White House were just glorified shakedowns. One held on May 1 was with a handful of U.S. small businessmen; four of them gave checks of $100,000 each to the DNC within the week.

In Clinton's White House, everything is up for sale except the Rose Garden. But for a price, he might sell that, too--or at least charge for a sniff of the flowers.

He has rented out the Lincoln Bedroom at $100,000 a night; he's auctioned off rides on Air Force One, dining at the White House, golfing with the President, even jogging with the President.

In a recent issue of The New Yorker, Jane Mayer describes a particularly tawdry event, billed as A Day at the White House, for people who donated $250,000 to the Democratic Party--"the largest sum ever assessed for attendance at a political event." In exchange for their contributions, guests got "an opportunity to wander the White House grounds, play tennis on the White House court, take a dip in the White House pool, and bowl a few frames in the White House lanes, and best of all, a friendly, informal barbecue with the President and the First Lady."

Since it is illegal to solicit campaign contributions on federal property, Democratic fundraisers simply invited their guests to pay in advance.

In his press conference, the President said that "way over 90 percent" of campaign contributions during the recent elections were legal. Evidently, breaking the law isn't so bad if you can keep it down under that 10 percent mark.

During the election, Clinton claimed the Lippo meetings at the White House were strictly "social calls."

He tried to tell us that John Huang was not involved in policy matters relating to the Lippo Group.

He had us believing that all the campaign contributions were legal.

His legal-defense team (busy folks there) made "a deliberate decision to conceal" the illegal donations totaling $460,000 that Charles Trie, a Chinese-American businessman, dropped off in two bulging manila envelopes, according to The Washington Post.

The rest of the Administration seems to be afflicted with an acute and contagious case of memory loss.

Al Gore claimed not to know that he was at a fundraiser when he visited the Buddhist temple in Los Angeles last April, an event organized by John Huang, where monks and nuns managed to make donations to the DNC. The temple is tax-exempt, and it is illegal to raise money there. One nun has since confessed that the money she donated was not her own.

Comptroller of the Currency Eugene Ludwig claimed not to know that there were DNC fundraisers at the barkers' coffee.

Robert Rubin pleads a similar case of amnesia. He said "he had no memory of seeing Donald Fowler, the Committee's chairman, and Marvin Rosen, the Committee's finance chairman, at the meeting, although he said he did not doubt they were, as they have said," The New York Times reported.

Alexis Herman, Clinton's nominee for Labor Secretary, who helped set up the barkers' coffee, also claimed ignorance about the nature of the event.

Clinton says he never heard about Webster Hubbell's Lippo parachute until it came out in the press, even though Clinton's close aide Bruce Lindsey knew about it months before.

Is there a pattern here?

It is long past time for Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the serious wrongdoing rife in the White House. Bring on the subpoenas.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:campaign finance reform and investigation
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 1, 1997
Words:1673
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