Clone Alone


Hillary Clinton’s run for Pat Moynihan’s New York Senate seat will provide a textbook case of a New Democrat taking on the GOP. The carpetbagging First Lady fits the bill perfectly: favors the death penalty, against New Deal welfare, stoutly opposes single-payer national health insurance.

Since the right wing took Congress in 1994, the president has tried to refashion his New Democrats into a cloned version of moderate Republicans. Hillary is the best clone so far. Question is: Can Guiliani hack it against a clone?

As the Hillary bashing begins in earnest, her detractors will be keeping an eye out for the release of Ken Starr’s report on Whitewater and Travelgate, which could tie the First Lady into both investigations.

Starr has cleared Clinton of any criminal acts in the scandals, but Hillary is not off the hook. In fact, the bedraggled Starr team has drawn up a draft indictment accusing her of lying to investigators in Whitewater. According to The Washington Times, Starr has questions about Hillary’s role in legal representation of the failed Madison S&L real estate venture known as Castle Grande. Hillary represented Madison while at the Rose Law Firm. Rose records regarding this work were subpoened in 1994, but couldn’t be found. They mysteriously turned up in the White House living quarters in 1996.

In the Travelgate probe, a Washington grand jury heard evidence from FBI agents in 1997 about a suspected conspiracy among top White House officials, including Hillary, to cover up the May 1993 firing of seven White House Travel Office workers.

Vince Foster, the deputy White House counsel who committed suicide in 1993, suggested in a diary entry that Hillary was involved in Travelgate, writing: “Defend/HRC role whatever is, was in fact or might have been.” Hillary has said she “did not have a hand in making the decision” to sack the travel office staff.

Spinning Is Winning

Democrats Sniff Victory

An important aspect of the Clinton legacy could depend on what happens in the Balkans this week. If Clinton can emerge with what can be portrayed as a victory, he will be remembered as a president who waged war in the name of a humanitarian cause and won by air power alone.

Even if it’s not true, that’s how the war is being spun. Victory in Kosovo also will help recharge Al Gore’s sputtering campaign, providing him with a positive issue with which to frame his race, and giving Hillary a lift in New York. It will be a big victory, too, for the Democratic Party elite and a ringing endorsement for the high tech behind the air machine. It will have demonstrated how Clinton can run a war like an election campaign. Forget the generals. Use the spinsters at State and NATO. As Carville dished Monica, so Albright, Shea, and Rubin spun the war. Kosovo becomes the first shot in the 2000 presidential race, leaving the congressional
Republicans squabbling in disarray and even stealing the thunder from George W. Bush as he makes his first foray onto the campaign trail this week. Across America the war is a TV phenomenon: clean, distant, awe-inspiring. It represents a victory for the status quo.

The unpleasant business of occupation will come later. The humiliation of the Serbs, which Clinton seems to think he needs for true victory, could backfire. The so-called peacekeepers are clearly an occupation force. They confront the nightmare of returning refugees seeking vengeance. And they will have to contend with the KLA, which is fighting for independence, not autonomy. As the refugees return to Kosovo, the remaining population of Serbs, gypsies, and Slavic Muslims will leave. The occupation threatens to become a morass.

In the despair that is Yugoslavia there is little hope for the future. The democratic opposition still exists, and eventually it may rally around a figure such as Vuk Obradovic, a young, attractive former general who heads the Social Democratic Movement.

Footnote: Milosevic’s son Marko deposited $2.7 million in South African banks six months ago, according to the London Sunday Times. Marko also made inquiries about what visas and vaccinations were required to enter South Africa. Retiring president Nelson Mandela has said Milosevic would not be turned away if he fled to South Africa. But following Mandela’s statement, home affairs minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi issued his own statement, declaring that South Africa “would not allow the entrance of a criminal such as Mr. Milosevic, who would be regarded as a prohibited and/or undesirable person.”

Blood Trail, Cont.

New Probes in U.S., Canada

The mysterious saga of tainted blood from Arkansas prisons sold to Canada while Bill Clinton was governor in the ’80s took on a menacing twist last month with the apparent firebombing of an Arkansas prosthetics clinic and a break-in at the offices of the Canadian Hemophilia Society.

On Sunday night, the scandal, which has resulted in a large class-action lawsuit in Canada (see Mondo Washington, February 9, February 16), was the subject of the lead segment on the CNN newsmagazine CNN/Time.

The clinic that was damaged by fire, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, is owned by Michael Galster, who has long been pushing for an investigation of the scandal in the U.S. Fire officials who responded to a blaze which gutted Galster’s clinic on May 18 said they found a gas container in the attic where documents were stored. They said they were “90 percent sure” the fire was arson.

The fire occurred as Galster was consulting with Canadian hemophiliacs on a lawsuit they are preparing to file in the U.S. While Galster said he had given most of his key documents to the Canadians before the fire, others were destroyed in the blaze.

The break-in at the Hemophilia Society in Montreal occurred the same night. The Society has been at the forefront of a fight to expose the scandal in Canada. Mike McCarthy, a hemophiliac who has led efforts to expose the case, told the Ottawa Citizen he was convinced the Montreal break-in and the Arkansas fire were connected. “It’s too much of a coincidence,” he said, adding: “Someone is worried Mr. Galster and the victims are probing too close to the truth.”

In the 1980s, Arkansas prisoners were paid $7 a unit for blood, some of which was sold to a Canadian firm and entered the Canadian blood supply. Representatives of hemophilia groups claim that several hundred
hemophiliacs who received transfusions were stricken with AIDS and hepatitis C.

Suits Swamp Big Oil

POGO Settlement Opens Door

After a long love affair with Congress and one administration after another, Big Oil finds itself for the first time under serious attack in the capital. A tiny public-interest group has won a court settlement that may open the door to more citizen suits. Already, more than a dozen suits are on file, and they could end up hitting the industry the way the states attorneys general brought the tobacco giants to heel.

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) filed suit in June 1997 against Mobil and other oil companies, charging that they had underpaid royalties owed to the federal government for drilling oil in public-domain territories. The suit, brought under the False Claims Act— signed by President Lincoln, when it was aimed at Civil War arms profiteers— allows private parties to sue on behalf of the government and receive a portion of the amount recovered. If successful, a whistleblower can get from 15 to 30 percent of what the government ultimately recovers.

The complaint, originally filed in Texas,
alleged that Mobil, BP, Chevron, Exxon, and others underpaid royalties by calculating them based on “fraudulently deflated wellhead prices.” Two other groups sued on the same grounds, and the filings were combined. The Justice Department, after investigating, intervened in the case.

Eventually, Mobil decided to settle for
$45 million, with most of it going to the government. However, 18 percent of the total was divided among a group of complainants, including two former crude oil marketers, a wildcatter, a former director of properties for the City of Long Beach, California, and Danielle Brian, executive director of POGO. POGO got $1.2 million, and the group, in what turned out to be a controversial step, then awarded $720,000 to two government workers who had discovered the royalty underpayment.

Mobil’s settlement signals trouble for Big Oil, as the long-smoldering controversy over the major companies’ rip-off of government-owned oil is finally gaining political momentum. A May 1999 study by New York representative Carolyn Maloney alleges that major companies owe as much as $2 billion in underpaid royalties from oil produced on federal lands. After reviewing the evidence, a House subcommittee found that “publicly, the companies posted the price of oil they wanted the public to believe was market value, yet internally, they based the oil’s value on the much higher Alaskan North Slope spot price.”

To rectify the situation, the Interior Department has been trying to clarify the rate structure so that the companies will be be paying what they should be paying. But so far the industry has persuaded Congress to block the rules, most recently in language inserted in emergency appropriations for the Balkans war. Last week, three of Big Oil’s friends in the Senate — Alaska’s Frank Murkowski (who heads the Energy Committee), New Mexico’s Pete Domenici, and Oklahoma’s Don Nickels— sought to portray POGO’s awarding of part of its settlement money as a conflict-of-interest scandal, and asked the Justice Department to investigate. According to POGO, Justice gave the group verbal approval for the payment.

Highland Fling

The Bank of Scotland is vowing to cut its links with the U.S. evangelist/businessman Pat Robertson after Robertson said recently that Scotland is “a dark land” overrun by homosexuals.

“In Scotland, you can’t believe how strong the homosexuals are,” Robertson said on his 700 Club TV show. He added that he believes Scotland is violating its Christian heritage by its acceptance of gay and lesbian lifestyles. A spokesman for Robertson said the comments were taken out of context.

Additional reporting: Ioana Veleanu