Richard C. Holbrooke, President Clinton's choice to be the top U.S. delegate to the United Nations, has agreed to pay $5,000 to the Justice Department to settle civil charges that he violated federal lobbying laws in his contacts with the U.S. Embassy in South Korea, government officials and friends of Holbrooke said yesterday.
Officials said the settlement did not require an admission of wrongdoing by Holbrooke and should allow his nomination for the U.N. post to be submitted this month to the Senate for confirmation.
The terms of the settlement are expected to be announced in days, after a final review by senior officials at the department, including Attorney General Janet Reno. Government officials said it was highly unlikely that senior officials would order major changes.
The Justice Department had accused Holbrooke of violating federal lobbying laws when, shortly after having resigned from the State Department in 1996, he contacted the embassy in South Korea for help in setting up an appointment with the president of South Korea and other Korean officials.
Federal ethics laws bar officials leaving the government from a variety of contacts with former colleagues.
Democratic congressional officials said that because there were no allegations of criminal wrongdoing by Holbrooke and because the lobbying violations appeared to have been minor, his nomination should be approved with relative ease.
The nomination still has to be reviewed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and its often unpredictable chairman, Sen. Jesse Helms, a North Carolina Republican.
A leading congressional critic of the United Nations, Helms has promised that he will scrutinize the Justice Department investigation to determine whether prosecutors had treated Holbrooke leniently.
Friends of Holbrooke say the contacts were approved by senior State Department officials.
Former senior American diplomats say that Holbrooke had been asked to contact U.S. embassies as he traveled in his new job as vice chairman of the investment banking firm of Credit Suisse First Boston.
Holbrooke, who remained an unpaid adviser to the State Department after joining Credit Suisse, visited South Korea in the spring of 1996 to deliver a lecture.
He contacted Ambassador James Laney for help in setting up a meeting with President Kim Young Sam. Laney has said that the contact was "entirely appropriate" and that it would have been an insult to the embassy had Holbrooke not sought his help in scheduling the meeting.
The investigation of Holbrooke began in late June, when an anonymous letter to the State Department accused him of a possible violation of ethics laws involving his contacts for a consulting contract with the embassy in Hungary in 1995.
Pub Date: 2/03/99