The Other Whitewater Scandal
The Republican special prosecutor Kenneth Starr is the wrong man
to run the Whitewater investigation into the financial
shenanigans of the Clintons and their Arkansas associates. That
should be obvious.
Indeed, the entire cast of conservative Republicans who are
flogging this scandal are the wrong people -- from Alfonse
D'Amato to Bob Dole, from The Wall Street Journal editorial
page to The New York Post, from Reed Irvine's Accuracy in
Media to The Washington Times which is controlled by the Rev.
Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. They are wrong because
many of these paladins for Whitewater truth were equally
aggressive covering up far more serious crimes during the
The Wall Street Journal editorial page and Irvine's Accuracy in
Media led the way in smearing honest journalists who exposed war
crimes in Central America and the Iran-contra financial crimes
back in Washington. Dole, the presumptive Republican
presidential nominee, took pride in personally attacking
Iran-contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh when Walsh was
digging into that abuse of power committed by presidents Reagan
and Bush while they were in the White House.
The Iran-contra scandal also involved the misappropriation of
tens of millions of U.S. government dollars that disappeared
into foreign bank accounts controlled by Reagan's deputies. In
turn, that money went to finance an extra-Constitutional war in
Central America and to line the pockets of international arms
But instead of demanding a thorough investigation, Dole and many
other Whitewater enthusiasts undercut Walsh's investigation at
every turn. In one 1993 speech to a group of conservatives,
Dole boasted that he had gone to the Senate floor on countless
occasions" to criticize Walsh, often over trivial issues such as
his first-class air fare or his room-service meals. Dole even
bragged that he had examined the "political leanings" of Walsh's
With Whitewater, everything is different, however. No question
about Democratic wrongdoing -- no matter how old, how trivial or
how unreliable the witness -- can be ignored.
During the past two years, the Whitewater probe has become
possibly the most politicized investigation ever conducted of an
American President. But what may be even more striking is the
brazen hypocrisy of the accusers. Regrettably, too, the
political taint of the investigation has obscured some of the
legitimate criticism that the Clintons deserve for their
In recent weeks, Whitewater special prosecutor Starr has moved
onto the fast track toward becoming the most egregious hypocrite
of all. Starr, a conservative political activist who served in
the Reagan-Bush administrations, continues to add to his
impressive pile of conflicts of interest. Starr even is cashing
in on his Whitewater celebrity before the first significant
trial is over.
Not content to oversee the nation's most important political
case -- which could influence the outcome of this year's
presidential election -- Starr has gone to work for Big Tobacco.
He is representing Brown and Williamson in its fight against the
spread of liability lawsuits. The fact that Clinton is Big
Tobacco's chief political target in 1996 doesn't seem to
register with Starr as another apparent conflict of interest for
his Whitewater prosecutions.
But Starr never seems to recognize conflicts. Previously, his
$1 million-plus law practice had gotten away with giving legal
advice to major Clinton enemies, such as the Bradley Foundation
which funds anti-Clinton propaganda and Paula Jones who is suing
the President for sex harassment.
For Starr, the controversy over his appointment started
earlywhen he was appointed in August 1994. Starr got the job
after other conservatives lobbied the federal three-judge panel,
which appoints special prosecutors, to oust Republican Robert
Fiske who was finding that some of the Whitewater allegations
just weren't standing up. The head of that panel,
Reagan-appointed U.S. Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle,
removed Fiske after having lunch with Republican North Carolina
Sens. Lauch Faircloth and Jesse Helms, two of Clinton's severest
Since then, Starr has remained active in conservative politics
and stands to gain his career goal of a Supreme Court nomination
if Clinton is defeated in November 1996. But also troubling is
the conflict of interest that Starr faces when confronted with
parts of the broader Whitewater case that implicate Starr's
former colleagues in the Reagan-Bush Justice Departments.
Indeed, one of the most intriguing corners of the Arkansas
allegations is tucked away at the Mena, Ark., airport. According
to state and federal investigators, this remote location was
used in the mid-1980s as a guns-and-drugs depot in President
Reagan's supply network for the Nicaraguan contra rebels.
But government investigators into the Mena crimes complained
that the Reagan-Bush administrations systematically frustrated
their inquiries, apparently to protect Oliver North's contra
support activities and to avoid corroborating widespread
allegations of contra-connected cocaine smuggling. Some
criticism about the handling of the Mena investigation also has
been directed at then-Gov. Clinton for failing to shut down the
Starr's Whitewater investigation -- and the parallel Republican
congressional probes -- have made nary a public peep about these
cross-party criminal allegations. Instead, Starr and D'Amato
have concentrated on Democratic mischief, either the sleazy bank
deals in Arkansas or the contradictory testimony by Clinton
appointees in Washington.
Starr also continues to stonewall questions about his own failed
land deal, Lubbock AK Ltd., which has striking similarities to
Whitewater. As we reported in The Consortium (March 28 in the
Archives), Starr invested $20,000 in the mysterious Texas real estate
partnership in 1982, while he was a top aide to Attorney General
William French Smith.
Though required by Texas law to list both general and limited
partners, Lubbock AK never submitted the necessary disclosure
forms. When asked, Starr still refuses to give the names of his
associates in that busted land deal.
In the ethically challenged world of lawyers, Starr's arrogance
may be acceptable. Maybe laymen just don't understand the
technicalities that go with defining a legal conflict of
interest. But common sense tells us that Kenneth Starr has gone
way beyond acceptable boundaries. Lucrative legal work for
President Clinton's political enemies is a far greater abuse
than Lawrence Walsh's first-class air fare or room-service meals.
Starr's behavior should disqualify him for a job as important to
the American people as the Whitewater inquiry -- which, after
all, could decide who will be the next President of the United
States. On his present course, Starr could become as big a
scandal as the one he was hired to investigate.
Robert Parry, Editor of The Consortium
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