Kitchenettes Cable TV Heated Pool beside the Gulf of Mexico 0 on Mu,viang Island wre 411t Unique European Chaim A tme,sphere AFFORDABI,F, RAI’FS 4; … Pets Welcome l’ii CI” Port Aransas, TX 78373 ‘0 .. S0 rail ….e d 06 on,* .. for Reservations 0 iv4 Available for private parties 4, w 4 ea Horse Inn MOLLY IVINS Stan Chamber Although the questions being raised about Kenneth Starr, the “independent” counsel on Whitewater, are deeply troubling, the defense of Starr mounted by assorted Republican flacks is just rollicking good fun. s the Nation magazine, which has done excellent reporting on Starr, noted in March, “The mingled odors of opportunism and hypocrisy permeating the GOP pursuit of Whitewater” are precisely why it’s hard to take seriouslyalong with the bad nooz that it all happened in 1978 and nobody made money off it. When your lead inquisitor is the ethically challenged Senator D’Amato, you’re not exactly in Cromwell country. Starr is no Al D’Amatomeaning one who has the ethical sensitivity of a cucumberbut there is an unpleasant pattern to the clients he continues to represent while investigating the president. Now we all agree, I hope, that lawyers are not tainted by their clients; somebody has to represent the Timothy McVeighs and Jeffrey Dahmers of the world, and no dishonor attaches thereto. But in the legal world, the phrase “conflict of interest” has specific applications. You may recall that we got Starr, a conservative Republican activist, as independent counsel in the first place because some right-wing House Republicans took a fit over an alleged conflict of interest on the part of the first independent counsel in this case, the unexceptionable Robert Fiske. Fiske had taken a full leave of absence from his New York law firm to oversee the Whitewater investigation. But said law firm International Paper Company in a matter unrelated to Whitewater, whereas said paper company had at one time sold land to the Whitewater Development Co. Horrors! Fiske had to go. So then we get Starr, who as it happens, according to the New Yorker, was personally representing the very same International Paper Company, in yet another matter unrelated to Whitewater, at the very time of his appointment. To give you some idea of how partisan Starr is, he volunteered to lend legal counsel to Paula Jones, the woman who is suing Bill Clinton in a sexual harassment case. Then we go on to the most notable potential conflicts of interest presented by some of Starr’s clients: The Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation. The tobacco industry will spend o millions this year trying to defeat Clinton, while he in turn crusades against tobacco. The right-wing Bradley Foundation, for which Starr worked from last summer to last fall defending the state of Wisconsin in a school voucher case. Starr is currently working for the state itself, but the Bradley Foundation contributed one hundred fifty thousand dollars to defend the state’s . experimental program that allows school vouchers to be used for religious schools. The Bradley Foundation funds any number of anti-Clinton concerns, including the American Spectator and the Free Congress Foundation \(owner of National Empowerlessly “churned” Whitewater, trying to keep the scandal hot. Historian Garry Wills call them part of the Whitewater scandal industry. The third interesting conflict of interest is that until January, Starr’s own law firm was being sued by the Resolution Trust Corporation on grounds of professional negligence. The RTC is, of course, a major player in Whitewater. According to the Nation, the suit ended in January with the signing of a secret agreement that, by RTC estimates, saved Starr’s firm close to seven hundred thousand dollars. At the very least, Starr should take a leave from his law firm and stop representing the high-profile cases that have brought him so much criticism. This course was agreed upon by all seven of the former independent counsels recently surveyed by the Washington Post. Others think he should resign. But the loyal Republican flacks are writing all this off with wonderful insouciance: Pish-tush, no problem here. It’s always fun to reverse a case like this. Suppose that an independent counsel had been chosen to investigate President Bush’s statements about having known about Iran/Contra. And suppose said activist Democratic lawyersay, Bob Strausswas representing, oh, say the Stewart MOtt Foundation in a case to get rid of, oh, say the Thousand Points of Light program. And the Mott Foundation then gave one hundred fifty thousand dollars to the ACLU, which then became Strauss’ client. And say Strauss met on this case with…let’s see, James Carville, Ralph Nader and the ACLU’s legal team. Would our Republican friends dismiss this as a mere bagatelle? Methinks they would not be crying for such an independent counsel’s resignation but his blood instead. Why beholdest thou the mote that is in the goose’s sauce and not in thy brother’s gander? Or something like that. Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist for the Fort Worth StarTelegram. 14 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 28, 1996
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