This Week

Issue: "Motel 1600," Sept. 6, 1997

Labor pains

Four days after jubilantly claiming victory in the Teamsters union's 15-day strike against UPS, top Teamster Ron Carey found himself out of a job. A federal election overseer nullified Mr. Carey's narrow election last December as union president. The ruling came after an investigation revealed the Carey campaign had received more than $220,000 in illegal contributions. Mr. Carey, first elected in 1991 on a pledge to end decades-long corruption, insists he knows nothing about the illegal financing. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department is investigating whether officials of the Democratic National Committee improperly directed contributions to Mr. Carey's campaign in exchange for the union's assistance in 1996 congressional races. The Teamsters, seeking to put Democrats back in control of Congress, contributed more than $2.5 million to Democratic campaigns. Thickening the plot, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Republican chairman of a House investigative subcommittee, announced plans to probe the charges of illegal fund-raising in the Teamsters election.

Smoked out

On the eve of a trial that would have opened up 40 years of internal tobacco industry records, the nation's largest cigarette companies agreed to settle Florida's lawsuit against them by paying the state $11.3 billion over 25 years. The settlement-which came three days after the chairman of the company that owns R.J. Reynolds Tobacco conceded that "smoking plays a part in causing lung cancer"-compensates the Florida state government for the costs of treating sick smokers. It also includes money damages, punishing the industry for its allegedly fraudulent statements and conduct. In addition to cash payments, the tobacco companies-Reynolds, Phillip Morris, Brown & Williamson, Lorrilard, and U.S. Tobacco Co.-agreed to remove all their advertising billboards in the state and to take steps aimed at reducing smoking by minors. The Florida settlement came seven weeks after Mississippi settled its fight with Big Tobacco for $3.3 billion. Both state agreements would be superseded if Congress OKs a $368.5 billion national settlement won by 39 state attorneys general in June.

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Bill Clinton turned 51 on vacation on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts on Aug. 19. He enjoyed a clambake and birthday party put on by Hollywood friends Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson. Nevertheless, there was cause for a few more presidential gray hairs unrelated to the passage of time. While he was on vacation, Paula Jones got a court date; his vice president, it was revealed, made political fundraising phone calls on the taxpayers' dime; a former cabinet secretary was indicted; and Whitewater prosecutors gained another guilty plea from a witness who promised cooperation with the ongoing probe. "I am guilty": Speaking to a federal judge Aug. 28, those were the words of William J. Marks, business partner of Whitewater felon and former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. Mr. Marks pleaded guilty to a fraud charge that accused him and Mr. Tucker of arranging a sham bankruptcy that saved them $2 million in taxes. Mr. Marks's plea agreement includes a pledge that he will "truthfully and fully cooperate" in the Whitewater probe. To catch Espy: A federal grand jury Aug. 27 returned a 36-count indictment against former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. Arraignment was set for Sept. 10 in the case involving allegations Mr. Espy illegally solicited and accepted $35,000-plus in gifts from large food producers with business before his agency. One count charges the former cabinet officer with ordering a USDA employee to alter a document, requested by investigators, that showed a Tyson Foods lobbyist paid for him and his girlfriend to travel to an NFL playoff game. Don't leave home without it: White House officials acknowledged on Aug. 26 that Vice President Gore made up to 20 fundraising calls from his office without using a Democratic National Committee credit card. Mr. Gore claimed last year in a press conference that there was "no controlling legal authority" to show he did anything wrong, in part because he used a DNC credit card. Then, his staffers discovered calls on government long-distance lines. They quietly cut a check for $24.20 from the DNC to the U.S. Treasury to cover the cost of the calls. Also, The New York Times reported the number of fundraising calls Mr. Gore made from his White House office is actually twice the number previously admitted. See you in court: U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, an appointee of President Bush and former law student of President Clinton, set jury selection for May 27 in the Paula Jones sexual harassment trial. Judge Wright tossed out two of Mrs. Jones's complaints but said the chief issues in the trial-sexual harassment and emotional distress-could go forward. The judge refused a request by the president's lawyers to limit the scope of evidence gathering. That clears the way for Mrs. Jones's lawyers to gather and present evidence of a pattern of sexual indiscretion on the part of Mr. Clinton. Judge Wright predicted the trial would last about one week. "I'm just glad it's going to proceed and go forward," Mrs. Jones said.


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