Review & Outlook
January 28, 2000
(from paragraph 4 and on)
Orrin Hatch, who dropped out
of the Presidential race this week, deserves considerable thanks
for placing before the electorate the damage done to our system
of politics by the Clinton Presidency. He charged Bill Clinton
with "a unique and historic brand of wrongdoing," to
wit: "Whenever a politician wants to halt a corruption investigation,
he not only stonewalls the probe but claims a vast conspiracy
against him and then launches embittered political attacks on
Senator Hatch returns to his
post as chair of the Judiciary Committee, where he should now
continue this act of public service by undertaking long overdue
oversight hearings of much unfinished business.
In the year since President
Clinton's impeachment trial, White House spin has cast the Clinton
scandals as mere private failings. In fact, the essence of the
Clinton scandals is the corruption of justice, only the most visible
aspect of which was Judge Susan Webber Wright's condemnation and
fining of the President for his "willful" obstruction
of a civil lawsuit.
in the Lewinsky scandal has been at least equaled in its derailing
of the investigation into the 1996 Clinton-Gore fund-raising scandal.
By keeping almost all investigations "ongoing," the
Clinton Justice Department has been able to thwart Congressional
oversight committees from gaining access to documents that would
show how serious main Justice's probe really was.
John Huang, Charlie Trie and
the other ringleaders of schemes to import illegal foreign cash
into the Clinton-Gore campaign all negotiated plea bargains that
have led to no further indictments of such higher-ups as Clinton
pal and Indonesian businessman James Riady, who Mr. Huang has
fingered as having set in motion his fund-raising efforts. "After
all this wrongdoing, no one is going to jail,"
Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman
observed. Senator Hatch should try to find out why. Senator Lieberman
has also been harshly critical of Justice's mysterious rejection
of an FBI request to wiretap now-indicted scientist Wen Ho Lee
over his possible role in transferring nuclear secrets to China.
But no failure at Justice quite
matches the bizarre handling of various union leaders and Democratic
National Committee officials involved in the 1996 re-election
of Teamsters President Ron Carey. After several guilty pleas,
the investigation has bogged down despite compelling evidence
that key backers of Vice President Gore were involved.
Mr. Carey was removed from
office when it was shown that $885,000 distributed by the Teamsters
to the Clinton-Gore campaign were illegally made in exchange for
contributions to the Carey campaign. Last November, Teamster PAC
director William Hamilton was found guilty of embezzlement for
his role in the illegal swap.
But he wasn't the only union
official involved. Gerald McEntee, the president of the powerful
AFSME government employees union, admitted to Judge Kenneth Conboy,
the federal election officer, that he had passed $20,000 in cash
from a vendor of his to the Carey campaign. Trial testimony revealed
that Richard Trumka, the No. 2 official of the entire AFL-CIO,
personally turned over AFL-CIO funds to the Teamsters as part
of the swap.
Mr. Trumka has taken the Fifth
Amendment both before a Congressional committee and Judge Conboy.
He remains in office because AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has
ignored a 40-year-old AFL-CIO rule calling for the removal of
union officials taking the Fifth. But neither Mr. Trumka nor Mr.
McEntee has been shy about appearing at Iowa union rallies with
Vice President Gore, who can thank union backing for his solid
win in that state's caucuses. Meanwhile, Mr. Hamilton, who faces
up to 30 years in prison, has written a swaggering letter to the
Washington Post dismissing the entire Teamsters scandal. Unusual
behavior for someone just prior to his sentencing.
All this leads one to wonder
if the code of silence and Justice inaction that has permeated
every Clinton scandal is now emboldening Messrs. McEntee and Trumka
to think they're home free, like so many other Clinton scandal
figures. Mr. Gore's own swagger suggests he's feeling pretty home-free
on these matters himself. The Vice President has taken so little
heat during the campaign for his role that he hasn't even hesitated
to appear with Messrs. McEntee and Trumka, despite the recommendation
of a 1988 White House Commission on Organized Crime that no current
or future President should be seen with a labor leader under investigation.
Senator Hatch could start his
post-campaign activities by asking Justice if its inaction in
the Teamsters case means that Mr. Gore's allies are no longer
being probed. Has a deal been cut to make all these matters "ongoing"
into the black hole of a Gore Presidency? The point is that these
were not in fact "private" failings. They were explicit
abuses in institutions that belong to the public.