Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "It's Bush vs. Gore," March 18, 2000

but fundraising scams elicit a big-network yawn
'It's a hard day'
Do Democratic fundraising scandals ever cease? A Justice Department task force subpoenaed at least a dozen donors and fundraisers who were "somehow connected" to the 1996 campaign of U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli. The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that investigators are trying to learn whether fund-raisers and Torricelli campaign staffers encouraged a practice known as "conduit financing." That's when a donor evades the $1,000 federal limit on campaign donations by funneling money through others. Mr. Torricelli himself is not a focus of the investigation. Another former Democratic fundraiser, Maria Hsia, was convicted of five felony counts for arranging more than $100,000 in illegal contributions to Democrats during the 1996 campaign. The immigration consultant from Los Angeles started raising money for Al Gore more than a decade ago. Among the evidence introduced at the trial was video footage of Vice President Gore attending a now-infamous donor event at a Buddhist temple in California. A judge's order is keeping the tape out of the public eye. After the Hsia verdict, Mr. Gore acknowledged her friendship and political support but wasn't pressed by reporters for any more than his canned statement: "A jury has rendered its verdict and it's a hard day for her." A hard day for Mr. Gore is what Republican operatives sought in the news media-to no avail. Ms. Hsia's conviction received scant coverage on TV news, according to the Republican National Committee, which urged protest calls to network anchors. "I think it's neglect," Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson said. "If she had been a Republican operative who had brought money to a Republican candidate, there would have been an absolute uproar in the media and there should have been in this case." NBC's Nightly News did not even mention the story, he noted. ABC spokeswoman Eileen Murphy brushed off the criticism: "It's politics." GOP campaign committee settles on soft money
... for Republicans, too
Democrats aren't alone in facing penalties for campaign irregularities. The National Republican Senatorial Committee agreed to pay a $20,000 penalty for using unregulated soft money to help elect GOP congressional candidates, according to the Federal Election Commission. In the closing weeks of the 1994 campaign, the fundraising group gave $175,000 to the National Right to Life Committee to conduct get-out-the-vote drives in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and other states. Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania and Rod Grams in Minnesota benefited. While both of them won their races, the FEC said the candidates themselves did nothing inappropriate. NRSC officials denied any wrongdoing but agreed to settle the case to avoid going to court. "Simply put, seven years of your process was penalty enough," general counsel Craig Engle wrote the FEC.

Ups & Downs of the Week
Awareness of fetal-parts trafficking: One cheer for ABC News, whose 20/20 newsmagazine caught up with a story WORLD reported five months ago about the selling of aborted children's organs and limbs ("The harvest of abortion," Oct. 23, 1999). The ABC piece prompted a congressional hearing held last week. Why just one cheer? The piece bent over backwards to whitewash the abortion industry. The problem, as ABC put it, was not the trafficking of human remains, but the shameless profiteering from it. The made-for-TV marriage of Rick Rockwell and Darva Conger: The unhappy bride from Fox TV's now-defunct Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire? filed for annulment, arguing that "neither the contestants nor the show's producers seriously contemplated creating a proper marriage."

Close call for Southwest flight
'Jet Bomber'
Southwest Airlines Flight 1455, from Las Vegas, barreled right off the runway at Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport last week and hit a car. The airliner skidded through a fence while landing and wound up on a city street, just missing a gas station and slightly injuring 15 of the 142 people on board. "I felt like we were a jet bomber," passenger Kevin McCoy said. "We were coming down so fast, so steep. I've never experienced an approach like that before. It was almost like a sudden dive." Southwest CEO Herb Kelleher said the crew did not report mechanical problems during the flight. Sudan tries bombing charity hospital into submission
Defiant relief agency: We won't be intimidated
Bombs twice fell on a hospital in southern Sudan run by Samaritan's Purse, the North Carolina-based relief organization headed by Franklin Graham. In the first attack, on March 1, Sudan's Russian-made MU2 Antonov aircraft dropped 12 bombs on the compound, killing two people and injuring a dozen more. Workers at the hospital said 15 more bombs were dropped in a second attack, on March 7, but all landed at least 50 yards from the already damaged facility, and no one died. Four Americans work at the hospital, which was treating 100 patients at the time of the attacks. The hospital has treated over 100,000 patients in 2H years of operation. The first attack came on the day that Samaritan's Purse, along with 23 other relief organizations, signed an agreement with Sudan's leading rebel group to continue supplying food and medicine to rebel-controlled areas in the south. The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has been pushing for increased say over aid distribution, now largely controlled by the hard-line Islamic regime in Khartoum. Government officials have prohibited UN and private aid agency deliveries into areas that are predominantly Christian and controlled by the SPLA. Eleven international agencies, including CARE, Oxfam, Save the Children, and World Vision, refused to sign the agreement and pulled staff out of the region March 1. "Three years ago, we decided not to play the malicious games of the Sudan government by allowing them to dictate who we could and couldn't help," said Samaritan's Purse projects director Ken Isaacs. "We didn't do it then and this bombing will not make us do it now." Agency reports 35 missing amid worst flooding in 50 years
Relieving relief workers
Relief workers in Mozambique's severe floods are in need of relief, too. World Relief reported 35 of its staff missing one week after the south African nation's worst rainfall in 50 years. Records and offices were under water, but rescues continued. Pieter Ernst of the aid agency reclaimed a 7-year-old boy, who held an infant-his 2-week old sister-atop a completely submerged hut. Inside, his mother had drowned. Offshore, in Madagascar, 600,000 people were forced from their homes by flooding. The latest Indian Ocean cyclone, Gloria, sent heavy downpours on the island and was making its way toward Mozambique.

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