REPUBLICANS and Democrats agreed on one thing before Rep. Dan Burton's Oversight Committee hearing, and that is the high level of integrity they ascribe to Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh. But it isn't their integrity that is at issue, at least not yet. It is the lack of integrity in the Clinton White House that has spread like cancer throughout the administration.
Hardly a day goes by without some new revelation or discovery of documents long under subpoena but conveniently "overlooked" by staff people ignorant that such documents were covered under any one of numerous requests.
Bundles of bills
There were several new revelations last week. The Los Angeles Times reported in a front-page story that a man named Antonio Pan allegedly took envelopes stuffed with bundles of $50 and $100 bills through several middle-income Asian-American communities in Los Angeles. The newspaper reported that Mr. Pan dispensed most of the $80,000 to businesses and acquaintances and received in return checks made out to "DNC," the Democratic National Committee. Whose cash was this, and who hired Mr. Pan, who has ties to Indonesia's Lippo group and its owners, the Riady family? The Times says the money originated in the Bank of China in the account of a Macao businessman named Ng Lap Seng. And it reports the money made its way to the Washington, D.C., bank account of another close Clinton friend, Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie. Messrs. Pan and Trie are conveniently not in the country.
Newly "discovered" documents turned over to House and Senate committees include references to President Clinton making phone calls to big political donors and referring to White House coffees as "money" events. Why isn't this, the illegal raising of campaign money inside the White House, the "specific and credible evidence" the attorney general says she needs to name an independent counsel?
The White House has denied any fund-raising or intentions to raise funds at the coffees.
An apparent cover-up
Janis Kearney, special assistant to the president and records manager for the Oval Office, turned over papers to the White House early last month, which gave them to Congress last Monday. The papers summarize the president's daily activities between November 1995 and December 1996, and depict White House efforts to deal with the growing controversy over fund-raising as the election approached. As usual, White House counsel Lanny Davis expressed ignorance, a favorite word of his, about why exactly Ms. Kearney did not produce the documents when they were requested. Mr. Davis denied Mr. Burton's charge of a White House cover-up.
If ever there was the appearance of, if not actual, conflict of interest, the specter of Attorney General Reno investigating the very president to whom she owes her job is one. Again, it isn't a question of her integrity. It is a question of what the independent counsel statute was designed to do. Ms. Reno was asked by Rep. Chris Cox, a California Republican, whether she has even begun a preliminary investigation of Antonio Pan or Charlie Trie or another infamous fund-raiser, John Huang. In each case, she said she had not.
When will the lies, the stonewalling and the cover-ups catch up with this bunch? Unless Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr is preparing a bombshell of nuclear strength, it appears it may never, at least not as long as those who are accountable to the administration remain in charge of the investigation.
Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.
Pub Date: 12/12/97