This Week

Issue: "Evolution Counter-Revolution," March 1, 1997

More campaign cash

The presidential motorcade was rolling down Manhattan's West Side Highway on the way to the posh East 96th Street townhome of Shelby and Katherine Bryan when the government limos passed a grocery store with an electronic billboard taunting the president: &quotHey Mr. Clinton. Coffee at Fairway is 65 cents. Coffee at the White House is $200,000. And ours tastes better." Ironically, the president was traveling to another high-society fundraiser Feb. 18--for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee--which some attendees paid $25,000 or more to attend. Arriving at what one press report described as an &quotopulent" home, the president walked past gold-painted chairs and yard-high candles to mingle with the well-heeled donors. He thanked the attendees for giving generously, &quotknowing you might be targeted for the exercise of your constitutional right." And then the president urged his benefactors to support a new campaign-finance bill that would outlaw unlimited soft-money gifts like those they had just given. The president's men left the affair with checks totaling $1.2 million for Democratic Senate candidates. Published reports that day reported more bad news for another prodigious Democratic fundraiser, John Huang. According to the reports, records show that Mr. Huang had raised $150,000 for the Democratic National Committee even before officially leaving his post at the Commerce Department. That raises the likelihood that Mr. Huang violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from raising political funds while on official business.

No trouble with Hubble

The space shuttle Discovery touched down Feb. 21 with its seven astronauts all smiles, fresh from executing repairs--375 miles above the earth--on the Hubble Space Telescope. The nearly flawless mission featured five spacewalks, as the crew added sun-screening insulation and installed state-of-the-art scientific gear to allow the $2 billion telescope to look deeper into God's universe. This was the second repair and maintenance mission for Hubble. A third is scheduled for 1999.

Crime and punishment

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In a surprise admission the day his New Jersey murder trial was to begin, a part-time Hebrew teacher wept as he told the judge how he strangled his 12-year-old daughter and killed his 10-year-old son. Avi Kostner said he was angry that his ex-wife--a convert to Christianity--wasn't going to raise the children in the Jewish faith. His attorney will argue that Mr. Kostner is mentally ill. In Alaska, a shotgun-brandishing 16-year-old high-school junior killed the school principal and wounded three fellow students. He chased classmates through the hallways at gunpoint before being subdued by police. A 13-year-old murder suspect in Atlanta will be tried as an adult. According to police, in January Michael Lewis shot a man three times in the chest as the man's two young sons looked on. The apparent reason: The man had not shown the young Lewis proper respect.

A 15 percent tip

On a late-summer afternoon in 1996, Democratic National Committee fundraiser John Huang treated Virginia businessman Rawlein Soberano to a lunch of chicken and pasta at the Cafe Promenade in Washington's Mayflower Hotel. And before he could say, &quotCheck, please," Mr. Huang had already offered a 15 percent tip. As Mr. Soberano tells it, Mr. Huang asked if Mr. Soberano's Asian American Business Roundtable would be willing to accept a $300,000 payment, in exchange for which Mr. Soberano would write a check to the DNC for $255,000 and skim off $45,000 for his trouble. &quotI said, 'John, this conversation never took place,'" Mr. Soberano told The Washington Post's Bob Woodward. But it did, he now insists: &quotI knew when you do this kind of thing, it's no different from laundering money from the drug lords." Actually, it is. Federal drug-laundering statutes apply only to the proceeds of illegal activity. Because Mr. Soberano says he rejected Mr. Huang's offer immediately, he never learned the source of the funds. But Mr. Woodward's shocking Feb. 20 story in the Post marks the first direct allegation that Mr. Huang deliberately sought to conceal the source of a contribution to the DNC. Mr. Huang is the target of congressional and Justice Department probes of illegal fundraising. Two weeks ago, Mr. Woodward revealed that the Justice Department is looking into evidence the Chinese embassy was involved in helping to steer funds to the DNC; that story also included evidence from Mr. Huang's own expense account suggesting his involvement with the embassy. Not surprisingly, Mr. Huang was unavailable for comment, but the Post did quote a lawyer said to be representing the DNC fundraiser. &quotMr. Huang would never have said anything other than that we need your help," said the lawyer, who, inexplicably, refused to be identified. If this is so innocent, why would the lawyer seek to maintain anonymity? The anonymity won't last long anyway. On the day of the Washington Post disclosures, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) became the first Democrat to break ranks and demand that Attorney General Janet Reno name an independent counsel to take over the Justice Department probe of the White House/DNC campaign-finance irregularities. And subpoenas are flying all over Capitol Hill as both House and Senate investigating committees prepare for their formal inquiries. President Clinton, meanwhile, continues to call for new campaign-finance laws. His energies would better be spent urging those who act in his name simply to obey the current ones.


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