By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
According to Back From the Dead, Dole campaign manager Reed and Fabrizio "were frustrated" by their inability to control Sipple and Murphy, and Reed insisted that the pair leave. Asked if it was possible that the FBI is examining the circumstances under which they were asked to leave the campaign, Sipple said there "are dozens of possible scenarios" for what, exactly, tripped the FBI inquiry.
"There was interpersonal, understandable acrimony that went on," Sipple acknowledged. Both men, however, denied the account, given by a Voice source, that they refused to show the Dole campaign their accounting books upon leaving the campaign. "There were lengthy meetings with the campaign's accountant and attorneys," Sipple said. "We went through hoops."
The question is: even if the sums paid to Dole media consultants were huge, does any of this violate the law? Fabrizio insists that it's all aboveboard, and points to a January 4, 1998 Washington Post article indicating that some of Clinton's '96 campaign consultants reaped profits of six- and seven figures.
"It is conceivable," says one former Dole staffer, "that the FBI has been misled to believe that what are actually standard campaign arrangements were, in this case, 'kickbacks."'
Another prong of the FBI inquiry appears to concern the Dole campaign's contracts for telemarketing services during the '96 primaries. More than any presidential campaign in history, the Dole campaign made extensive use of the controversial technique known as "push polling." Like regular pollsters, push pollsters call potential voters seeking to know how they will vote. But push pollsters also plant negative information about a campaign rival, often without identifying themselves as working for a particular candidate.
For example, the Dole campaign made tens of thousands of calls before the Iowa caucuses. In some of those calls, according to a Wall Street Journal article, the recipients were told that Steve Forbes's flat tax proposal "would cost [farmers] more in tax money."
The Dole campaign paid a New York--based company called Campaign Tel just over $1 million in a single month--January 1996--for these services, according to FEC records. (By comparison, Fabrizio's traditional polling firm received a $20,000 monthly consulting fee during the general election, and generally charged between $10,000 and $30,000 for an individual poll.)
Former Dole advisers have told the Voice and Kansas City Star that the FBI asked them questions about possible kickbacks connected to Campaign Tel's contracts. Steve Goldberg, who ran Campaign Tel during the 1996 election, did not return Voice calls seeking comment. When asked last fall about kickback allegations, Goldberg told Capital Style the charge was "ludicrous," adding: "I'm pretty certain it wasn't going on."
Media Scorecard: Of all the media noise made over Israel's 50th anniversary, the best package by far was in The Economist. One of the British mag's stories, for example, reminded readers that--despite the U.S. media's lazy focus on "Israelis" versus "Arabs"--one out of five Israeli citizens is an Arab. The worst was New York 1's coverage of Governor George Pataki's visit--in addition to being boring, the handshake-by-handshake treatment seems highly questionable in an election yearHow hard is it to work at the Daily News? Jim Mulvaney, recently departed deputy managing editor, has been saying that he was even second-guessed on how he should name his computer files. When he tried to slug a file "shot," a higher-up corrected him: "Make it shoot!" Talk about ahead of the curve--even before Steven Brill's media mag Content has published its first issue, an anonymous newsletter parodying it has already surfaced. Entitled disContent, it bills itself as "doggedly watching the watchdogs-watching watchdog."
Research: Kaelen Wilson-Goldie