Today's Papers

Chung Change

The Los Angeles Times says today’s top story is new revelations about White House fundraising. The New York Times says it’s Medicare fraud. And the Washington Post says it’s a proposed Iranian oil pipeline.

It has previously been reported that in March 1995, in the First Lady’s office on the White House grounds, a California entrepreneur named Johnny Chung, in order to gain presidential access for a delegation of Chinese businessmen, gave a $50,000 check to Hillary Clinton’s then-chief of staff. The White House line is that this event did not violate federal law because the $50K was not solicited, only passively accepted. But today, Chung–who has refused to cooperate with investigators unless granted immunity from prosecution–tells the LAT that yes it was. He says he wrote the check after he was told that he could help defray some bills relating to White House Christmas party costs that Ms. Clinton had run up with the Democratic National Committee. And Chung says that afterwards he was told that the First Lady definitely knew about his donation. Chung explains the transaction to the LAT this way: “I see the White House is like a subway–you have to put in coins to open the gates.”

The NYT Medicare story is that the General Accounting Office has just released a report uncovering widespread fraud, overcharges, and poor care in Medicare-funded services for the homebound elderly. The Times points out that whereas ten years ago, the government reviewed 60 percent of claims, last year it looked into only 2 percent of them.

The Post oil story is that “the Clinton administration has decided not to oppose a $1.6 billion pipeline that would carry huge quantities of Central Asian natural gas across Iran, the first significant easing of the economic isolation of the Tehran regime, according to U.S. officials and other sources.” The WP recently reported that a host of prominent former foreign policy officials including Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft had lobbied on behalf of various petroleum industry interests for just such an outcome.

The NYT has an interesting front-page profile of Ward Connerly, the millionaire black businessman who has emerged from the campus politics of the University of California to become the nation’s most active opponent of racial preferences. The story describes a racially mixed and fractured family, “whose secrets seem to leap from the pages of Faulkner.” Also, Connerly tells the reporter about an SAT study that shows that blacks from families earning more than $60,000 a year were outscored by whites and Asian-Americans whose families earned $20,000 or less. “You hear that black kids need a preference because there’s no one encouraging them to go to college,” Connerly says. “Well, these upper-income kids have parents who are doctors, lawyers, professors, so you can’t conclude the problem is at home.”

It’s hard to believe that an explosion that vented plutonium into the atmosphere at the country’s largest nuclear weapons storage facility doesn’t make anybody’s front page, but in fact you have to go inside the LAT and WP to read about the “near-complete breakdown in emergency response” at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation two months ago after an accident there, “exposing workers to a toxic plume and leaving outside authorities unaware of the danger until hours after the event.”

One explanation is that so many column-inches and so many reporters are instead assigned to “hot” stories regardless of their real import. Today’s NYT has an 1800-word piece showing that Andrew Cunanan is still dead. And that’s paltry besides the WP’s 4,000-word front-page effort on the same subject, to which the paper saw fit to assign 14 staffers.