Today's Papers

Fowler Deeds

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with local political stories but their national leads concern the testimony before the Thompson committee of the most prominent DNC official to appear thus far. USA Today leads with the shocking fine print in a foreign relations bill. The Washington Post goes with the latest dustup between NATO peacekeeping forces and Bosnian Serbs.

The big news at the fundraising hearings, says the NYT, is the admission by witness Donald Fowler, the Democratic Party chairman during the 1996 election, that on several occasions, he intervened with Clinton administration officials on behalf of large party donors. Perhaps the most questionable piece of networking is one that Fowler testified he couldn’t recall, but which documents revealed for the first time yesterday strongly confirm: namely, contacting the CIA at the behest of Roger Tamraz, an international financier “with a questionable reputation” (says the Times) who was angling for Clinton administration support for a proposed Caspian region oil pipeline, and who had given the Democrats $300,000.

The NYT says such interventions are probably not illegal, but against DNC guidelines, which state: “In no event should any DNC staff ever promise a meeting with or access to any government official or agency in connection with a donation, or ever imply that such contact or access can be arranged, or ever contact an administration official on behalf of a donor for any reason.” When this rule was quoted to Fowler yesterday by Republican Sen. Susan Collins, his response was: “I am not a staff member of the Democratic National Committee. I was a chair of the Democratic National Committee, and there is a clear difference there.” The LAT in its Fowler story emphasizes a part of his testimony that the NYT mentions only in passing: that the fund-raising scandal was really more the responsibility of then-presidential adviser Harold M. Ickes who, Fowler said, often countermanded his advice.

Both of the Times run strong companion pieces to their hearing coverage. The NYT weighs in with the news that during the last election cycle, the DNC took at least $2 million in contributions restricted to generic use by the party that, in violation of election laws, it then spent directly on President Clinton’s re-election campaign. And the LAT delves into another aspect of Tamraz’s activities: his secret talks with top aides of–talk about covering your political bases–Boris Yeltsin to discuss donating $100 million to Yeltsin’s presidential campaign in return for his support for the Caspian oil project.

In covering President Clinton’s goal of getting “fast-track” authority in order to enter into free-trade agreements with more countries, the Wall Street Journal notes, in a lions-den reporting strategy, that even in the Missouri congressional district of arch-protectionist Dick Gephardt it is obvious that, post-Nafta, firms are creating jobs and increasing pay due to increased export sales. In fact, the Journal accompanies the piece with a chart showing that only three states–Oklahoma, Washington, and Alaska–are exporting fewer goods since NAFTA.

USAT flyspecks the latest revision in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, engineered by Jesse Helms, which puts corporations–including at least seven big tobacco companies–at the head of the line of claimants to $1.3 billion in Iraqi funds frozen in U.S. banks, and puts Pacific Gulf war veterans, many of whom are suffering the effects of Iraqi chemical munitions, at the end of it.

Incidentally, it’s nice to see that USAT isn’t afraid to express an opinion within a news story–generally a no-no at the other majors. Note the scare-quotes in the following: “The only veterans covered…would be injured survivors of Iraq’s 1987 missile attack upon the frigate USS Stark. Families of the 37 sailors who died in that ‘accidental’ incident already had been given $27.3 million in compensation by Iraq before the gulf war.”