Low Friends in High Places


Like a Norma Rae, U.S. Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton captured the official support of the New York State AFL-CIO last week. But like the first lady of Wal-Mart that she actually is, Clinton has close ties to anti-labor forces, according to her newly released campaign-finance report.

But there’s something for everybody—including privacy advocates and those battling racial discrimination—to dislike in a campaign that raised $4.8 million in just the past three months while spending $5.5 million. And her enemies in the vast right-wing conspiracy will be happy to find out that her contributors include a former United States senator linked to a current Arkansas scandal involving purported Chinese sex slaves.

Here are some lowlights from Clinton’s July 15 quarterly report.

The Senator Who Won’t Leave

David Pryor, a longtime buddy of the Clintons and former senator and Arkansas governor, hasn’t been a member of Congress since 1996, but he’s still doling out campaign contributions from his David Pryor for U.S. Senate Committee. On May 8, his committee gave $1000 to Hillary’s campaign—the day after yet another ex-senator from Arkansas, Dale Bumpers, also gave Hillary $1000.

But that’s probably the last thing on Pryor’s mind now. David J. Jones, a former Arkansas TV mogul, is on trial in federal court in Little Rock for allegedly importing Chinese women for sexual purposes while rounding up favorable treatment for them from immigration officials and other people in government. The indictment doesn’t name the “public officials” who wrote letters for Jones or offered other aid, according to a recent story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. However, the paper reports that court documents have named Pryor, who calls Jones a good friend, as an official from whom Jones sought help in 1992, and Pryor has told reporters that he may be called as a witness.

As if that’s not enough to keep the pensioned ex-senator scrambling, Pryor founded the Clinton Legal Expense Trust, which has retired “more than half” of the first family’s $11 million legal debt, according to news reports. And he’s a trustee of the Clinton Presidential Library, a Little Rock project that has sparked jeers and protests over its secretive funding and free use of public land.

All of which will give Pryor plenty to talk about starting next month, when he takes over as director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He was a fellow in the program last year but dropped out in midsemester. Pryor told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in April that he hopes his new job will enable him to help combat some of the cynicism about politicians’ thirst for power and personal gain that causes young people to drop out of the political system. “If I can have even a very, very minor role in helping reverse that trend, I think that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

Look for Pryor to have a very, very minor role in reversing that trend.

Labor Pains

The infamous Dr. Allan Zarkin carved his initials on the belly of an obstetrics patient at Beth Israel Medical Center, and the hospital was fined $14,000 by state health officials, but patients and workers at Beth Israel have reason to worry about other slashes.

Last month, officials of Continuum Health Partners, owner of Beth Israel and of St. Luke’s in Harlem, pleaded poverty and announced layoffs. Newspaper reports said the cuts, strongly protested by Local 1199 workers, likely will have the most impact on obstetrical services for the poor.

Luckily, Continuum had enough money to ship $2000 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign on May 2.

The Prying Game

Hillary Clinton, who has so far rarely granted interviews in the Senate race and has stoutly defended her family’s privacy, would face some tough decisions in Congress regarding the ever increasing electronic snooping into Americans’ business by private companies collecting data. But as a former board member of Wal-Mart and hobnobber with corporate types, she’s already friendly with Acxiom Corporation, referred to recently as “the largest data-mining company in America.” Its executives have been heavy supporters of Democrats, including Bill Clinton.

Acxiom, based in Little Rock, does nearly $1 billion worth of business a year by performing such tasks as purchasing information about unwitting consumers and selling it to debt collectors and other businesses. Last month, however, the Federal Trade Commission issued regulations cracking down on the trade in such data. “Congress simply said that it’s time for consumers to regain some control over their personal financial information,” an FTC spokesman was quoted as saying.

In the area of corporate welfare, Acxiom is still out of control. Last spring, according to press reports, municipal officials in Little Rock agreed to finance a $36 million bond issue to help this wealthy company build an office tower. As part of the deal, Acxiom won’t pay property taxes on the building for 30 years.

Thanks in some measure to such public largesse, the company’s doing great. Acxiom’s PAC gave Hillary $5000 on May 8, and company official Charles D. Morgan Jr. chipped in $250 of his own the same day. And last February, the company dumped $20,000 of soft money into two Democratic congressional campaign committees.

Norm Mineta (D-Lockheed)

In October 1995, California congressman Norm Mineta, one of the most prominent Asian American politicians in the country, shocked his constituents by resigning from the U.S. House in midterm to take a high-paying job with Lockheed Martin, the nation’s No. 1 defense contractor.

Critics blasted the San Jose Democrat for not waiting until the end of his term to retire and simply walking off his job—not to mention his going to a company almost completely dependent on government contracts. But they spoke too soon. It seems that, in one respect, Mineta hasn’t left Congress: His campaign committee is still active, having handed out nearly $15,000 to various politicians in just the past three years. And on May 2, the Mineta for Congress Committee sent $1000 to Hillary Clinton. Great timing for Clinton that Mineta still hands out money. But Mineta’s the one who’s had impeccable timing.

Nine days before he left Congress, he voted in favor of a road projects bill that included a 30-year, $600 million California tollway contract for the division that he was going to head up for his new employer. “Even by cynical Washington standards, this is extraordinary,” Charles Lewis, director of the watchdog group Center for Public Integrity, told the Associated Press at the time. “It is not just extraordinary, it is disgusting. He should have bent over backwards to avoid the slightest appearance of conflict of interest with his prospective employer.”

In addition to his Lockheed salary, which he refused to reveal when he took the job, Mineta pulls down a $75,420 annual congressional pension. Now, he’s about to be named secretary of commerce for the last six months of the Clinton administration.

None of this was talked about by Hillary during her recent tour of a Lockheed plant in upstate New York, according to press accounts. Meanwhile, Mineta’s timing is still great. He’s about to leave Lockheed just before the company wades into a monumental lawsuit filed against Lockheed in Georgia by black employees who are charging racial discrimination.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 25, 2000

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