Corruption on a grand scale Campaign abuses: Reno should appoint independent counsel to investigate both parties.


ATTORNEY GENERAL Janet Reno, the most independent member of the first Clinton cabinet, should be retained to fulfill that role in the second Clinton cabinet because of widescale corruption in the 1996 election campaign. She has already proved her bona fides by appointing four independent counsels to investigate various allegations against the administration. Now she needs to do so again as evidence of illegal or improper contributions to the Democratic National Committee multiply on a daily basis.

The conduct of both major parties in their Wild West scramble for an unprecedented $1.6 billion was a national disgrace. It made a mockery of post-Watergate reforms in 1974 and highlighted the hypocrisy of political leaders, including President Clinton and former Sen. Robert Dole, as they inveighed against a system they exploited to the hilt.

Listen to Fred Wertheimer, former president of the watchdog group, Common Cause: "This year we've seen a record-shattering $200 million in contributions made outside the federal law, mostly from business interests. We've seen huge amounts of foreign money raised by the elusive Democratic operative John Huang from an Indonesian conglomerate and others, hundreds of six-figure checks from corporations and business executives to the Democrats and Republicans, a first-ever $20 million advertising blitz funded by union dues to win back Democratic control of Congress, Senator Dole's finance vice chairman convicted for laundering contributions, President Clinton personally involved in a $35 million ad campaign circumventing the campaign finance laws."

Since this blast by Mr. Wertheimer, the DNC has had to to return a $325,000 contribution from a businessman with Indian connections, Yogesh K. Gandhi, and $50,000 from a Greek citizen, George Psaltis. Contributions from all foreign sources should be made flatly illegal. While the activities of Mr. Huang, suspended chief fund-raiser for the DNC, has sparked national outrage on this score, the largest abuses come from domestic sources -- especially corporations and labor unions.

Several Republican congressmen have asked Ms. Reno to appoint an independent counsel to investigate DNC operations. She should do so, even though this will irritate administration loyalists who seek her ouster, and go a step further by having the entire campaign finance system probed. Only in this way is there an outside chance that a sufficient degree of public anger will be maintained to force the 105th Congress to take action.

Pub Date: 11/10/96

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