This Week

Issue: "Urban mission fundraising," Sept. 27, 1997

I'd rather bait and switch

Anti-tobacco lawyers are angry with President Clinton's 11th-hour objections to the $368.5 billion settlement hammered out this summer between industry heavyweights and state attorneys-general. Mr. Clinton on Sept. 17 said he wanted federal fines to raise the cost of cigarettes by $1.50 per pack if teen-smoking-reduction targets aren't met; under terms of the settlement agreement, the fines are sufficient to raise prices 62›. The settlement requires legislation in Congress to implement several of the key terms of the agreement. Richard Scruggs, one of the lawyers who negotiated the deal, says it is "disingenuous" of the president and his administration "to act like it needs to be improved when they blessed it at the time. They got a bunch of AGs way out on a limb and allowed it to be sawed off-in fact, participated in sawing it off." Mr. Clinton made no specific proposal, but staked out a hard-line position favored by liberals as Congress prepares to debate the implementing legislation. Spokesmen for tobacco companies suggested liberal support for the deal might actually improve prospects for congressional approval.

"Certifiably crazy"?

Paula Jones alleges Gov. Bill Clinton, after having a state trooper escort her to his hotel room, complimented her figure; now, President Clinton's IRS is eyeing Mrs. Jones's financial figures. "We do dumb things from time to time, but we are not certifiably crazy," presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said on Sept. 15, denying that the White House ordered the audit. Mrs. Jones's spokesman Susan Carpenter-McMillan called the timing of the audit "very peculiar" and cited White House officials' 1992 calling down the FBI on travel office chief Billy Dale and bringing trumped up charges, which he was quickly acquitted of at trial. "The impression the American public has is that the Clinton administration can be very Nixonite toward their detractors," Mrs. Carpenter-McMillan said. Meanwhile, settlement talks continued between the parties. "We had a cordial and candid conversation," Clinton lawyer Robert Bennett said, declining further comment.

Washington in brief

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Maverick diplomat: Raymond Flynn, the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican who during his tenure ran afoul of the Clinton State Department over his pro-life views, announced he will leave the post, effective Sept. 20. A former mayor of Boston, Mr. Flynn will join the Massachusetts governor's race, a contest that changed significantly after Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) dropped out because of negative publicity concerning his divorce. In April 1996, when the president vetoed legislation that would have banned partial-birth abortions, an official Vatican statement pronounced the veto "shameful." Mr. Flynn said the Vatican is "absolutely right on this." A kiss goodbye: Another Massachusetts politician, William Weld, also announced he was headed home. In quitting his quest to become U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Mr. Weld bitterly attacked Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who blocked his nomination. "I wouldn't go on bended knee and I wouldn't kiss anything," the would-be diplomat said at a White House news conference. President Clinton did not appear for the Q&A session. And stay out: By an overwhelming 289-65 margin on Sept. 18, the House of Representatives revoked the floor privileges of former California congressman Robert Dornan. All former members of Congress enjoy such privileges. The action stems from a heated exchange of insults on the floor between Mr. Dornan and New Jersey Rep. Robert Menendez on Sept. 16. Mr. Dornan is in a battle to regain the seat he lost, he contends, because of voter fraud, which the House is investigating. Democrats contend Mr. Dornan used his floor privileges to press his case, a charge he denies. Ethics reform: The House voted 258-154 to clean up the way it cleans up its act. New rules on ethics allegations place new time constraints on the ethics committee's handling of complaints, tighten the standard of proof the committee must meet before formally charging members, require committee members to take an oath not to disclose confidential information, and allow the committee to pursue sanctions against those who file frivolous complaints. By a narrower 228-193 vote, the House ended the practice of allowing nonmembers of Congress to file complaints. "Fraud tax": That's what President Clinton called the portion of taxpayers' Medicare payroll taxes-about four of every 10 dollars-lost to overbilling and fraud at the hands of shady home health care providers. On Sept. 15, he announced a six-month moratorium blocking all new home health businesses, which have been entering the federal program at a rate of 100 a month. The president also ordered that current Medicare-certified home care providers reapply every three years, and that businesses treating fewer than 10 patients be barred permanently from the system. Three in a row for the Army: On a voice vote Sept. 16, Army Gen. H. Hugh Shelton-a Green Beret and decorated Vietnam War veteran-won U.S. Senate confirmation to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He follows two other Army chairmen: John Shalikashvili and Colin Powell.

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