FBI Probes Dole TV Ads

In early September, according to published accounts, campaign manager Scott Reed and pollster Tony Fabrizio were frustrated by their inability to control Sipple and Murphy, and terminated the campaign's contract with New Century. This was at the same time that $62 million in federal funds became available to the campaign. A GOP source says he told the FBI that, upon being terminated, Murphy and Sipple refused to show their accounting books to the campaign.

In the last nine weeks of the campaign, then, decisions about millions of dollars for media advertising were being made by the campaign's top political officials. One GOP source told the Voice that this is the period that the FBI is particularly interested in. However, the range of people contacted by the FBI suggests that the entire campaign, even as far back as the early '96 primaries, is under investigation.

However sweeping the inquiry, several normally loquacious GOP consultants are reluctant to discuss it. Attorney Gary Bostwick, who has represented Sipple in other matters, declined to give out Sipple's phone number and said that Sipple is generally not speaking to the media since a Mother Jones story last year published allegations that he had abused his first two wives. (Sipple denied the charges; his suit against the magazine was dismissed.) Sipple has reportedly discussed working on the presidential campaign of Texas governor George W. Bush Jr.

Murphy, Fabrizio, and Reed did not return messages left at their offices all last week.

Who's the Hack?

Is someone hacking into computer systems to provide Mother Jones with stories?That's the sensational charge made in a Thursday Washington Post column. In a May/June Mother Jones article called "So You Want To Trade With a Dictator," Mother Jones contributor Ken Silverstein exposed several documents from the office of Washington lobbyist Anne Wexler. The story details how Wexler helps companies who do business with brutal foreign governments keep Congress from cracking down on them. One especially interesting item was a list of incoming phone calls to Wexler's office on September 18, 1997, including an officious wedding anniversary greeting from The New York Times's R.W. Apple Jr. and his wife ("Heaps of Love!!").

Post columnist Bill McAllister wrote about the piece on Thursday, quoting Wexler saying she "can't figure" how Silverstein got that call list. "We figure someone hacked into our computer," she said.

This offends Silverstein, whom the Post did not call for comment. "Hacking into computer systems is a crime," he told the Voice. McAllister points out that Wexler "said she believed someone had broken in, but didn't say--nor did I--that it was the magazine." A fair point. But if it had been the other way around--that is, if Mother Jones implied that Anne Wexler was benefiting from someone's illegal hacking--don't you think the Post would call Wexler for comment? McAllister's defense is that "the magazine had never suggested that [Silverstein] was available for an interview or told me how to reach him."

Silverstein's suggestion: "How about 411? I'm in the D.C. phone book."

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Media Scorecard: Congressional hearings can contain at least as much grandstanding as newsbreaking. But recently it seems like The New York Times has decided they contain no news at all. A hearing last week revealed that, even after disclosures that the New York State Psychiatric Institute gave experimental doses of the now-banned drug fenfluramine to dozens of mostly black and Latino New York kids, such experiments continue to go on, with the FDA's blessing. This did not prompt the paper of record to add to the one measly story it's published on this controversy (initially broken by the New York Post; see Mark Schoofs's story in this issue for more). Similarly, Congress has for weeks been openly investigating charges that the garment workers' union has colluded with manufacturers against some members' interests. On Monday this ended up on page one of the Times--weeks after the Voice put this story on its cover....What's a paper to do when a member of Congress from the party of virtue--Indiana's Dan Burton--calls the president a "scumbag"? The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune put the word in headlines; a Daily News column used "s- - - bag"; the ever-proper Times fell back on "a vulgarity for a condom."

Research: Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

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