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Report criticizes Clinton over pardons

By P. MITCHELL PROTHERO   |   March 14, 2002 at 6:55 PM
WASHINGTON, March 14 (UPI) -- A House committee investigation into last-minute pardons issued last year by the Clinton administration claims that political appointees circumvented normal pardon procedures and that relatives of the first family engaged in influence peddling.

After an investigation by federal prosecutors, no charges have yet been filed in any case.

The report by the House Government Reform Committee -- led by avowed Clinton-critic Chairman Dan Burton, R-Ind. -- implies that President Clinton ignored legal procedures and facts in granting a pardon to fugitive financier Marc Rich, while accepting huge political and personal contributions from Rich's supporters and family.

The report also accuses President Clinton of encouraging Roger Clinton, his half-brother, to pursue financial gain as a result of their relationship. Roger Clinton lobbied for pardons at his brother's administration and is accused of taking money to lobby for various groups, although the committee report did not indicate any illegal activity in this lobbying effort.

Democrats on the committee immediately criticized the report as partisan and said it failed to take advantage of an opportunity to investigate the pardon process to avoid similar situations in the future. Ranking Democrat Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said he had also been critical of the pardon of Marc Rich because it stemmed from the influence of the wealthy.

"This report is partisan, relies on innuendo, and makes unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing," he said.

"Some of these allegations suggest the president, government officials and advocates for the Marc Rich pardon committed crimes. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York has not yet closed its investigation, so I can't predict how the prosecutors will view the evidence they are collecting. But the evidence before this committee shows nothing more than bad judgment."

Rich and his partner in commodities trading, Pinkus Green, were accused in a huge tax evasion case in the early 1980s. After being fined almost $21 million and indicted on 51 counts of illegal activity, including tax evasion, mail fraud and racketeering, Rich and Green refused to return to the United States for trial. This led to 17 years of status among the top ten wanted fugitives by the federal government, but most of the European countries that Rich lived in during that time refused to extradite him to the United States.

Rich's ex-wife, Denise Rich, was a prominent fundraiser for President Clinton and was involved in lobbying for her ex-husband's pardon.

The report claims that Rich's attorney, Jack Quinn, a former Clinton White House general counsel, improperly colluded with another Clinton appointee at the Justice Department, Eric Holder, to keep the pardon effort a secret from prosecutors who might oppose the effort.

"Jack Quinn and Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder worked together to ensure that the Justice Department, especially the prosecutors of the Southern District of New York, did not have an opportunity to express an opinion on the Rich pardon before it was granted," the report said.

The report also accuses Holder of hoping for Quinn's support to be appointed Attorney General if then-Vice President Al Gore became president. But Waxman released a statement that disputes this notion.

"This is completely implausible: at the time this alleged conspiracy was culminated, Al Gore had already lost the election and it was impossible for Mr. Holder to get a cabinet appointment," Waxman said. "To reach this sensationalistic conclusion, the majority tortures the testimony and other evidence gathered by this committee."

In another allegation, the report claims that the Clinton brothers conspired to use the president's position to enrich Roger.

"At the beginning of his second term, President Clinton instructed Roger Clinton to use his connections to the Administration to gain financial advantage," the report said. "According to a lawyer for former Arkansas State Senator George Locke: 'Roger related that Bill Clinton had instructed him that since this was his last term in office, Roger should find a way to make a living and use the relationship with the president to his advantage.'"

In a statement Wednesday, Bill Clinton denied ever telling his brother to do so.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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