First, Lie

THE LATEST REVELATIONS in the Indogate/Riady/Huang campaign contributions scandal underscore the rampant influence-peddling that has polluted the Clinton presidency from its inception, and provide new proof--if any was needed--that this administration will go to any lengths to lie in furtherance of its cover-ups.

Consider: The White House at first insisted that James Riady--scion of the family that controls the Lippo Group, the $6.9 billion, Indonesian-based Asian conglomerate--had visited 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. only twice. White House logs obtained by congressional investigators showed that Riady had been there more than 20 times. Then the president's men told us that Riady's visits with Bill Clinton were merely "social calls." But now Clinton himself has been forced to admit that foreign and economic policy was discussed in those meetings, with Indonesia and China--in both of which Lippo has massive investments--on the agenda.

Last week, two departing White House lawyers from the damage control team, anxious to cover their asses, told The New York Times that their advice to come clean on the substantive content of the Riady/Clinton meetings was overruled by Bruce Lindsey, the president's closest confidant. Lindsey is practically Clinton's shadow self; he attached himself like a barnacle to Clinton over 25 years ago, rising with him, keeping his secrets, handling his money, and stifling his scandals. When Clinton lost his first re-election bid for governor of Arkansas, he found refuge in Lindsey's law firm at double his gubernatorial salary. When Clinton's campaigns needed to launder checks into cash for vote-buying in Arkansas, Lindsey--whom the judge in the trial of wheeler-dealer Arkansas banker Herbie Branscom labeled a "co-conspirator"--was in charge. When Arkansas state troopers and former Clinton bed partners threatened to spill the beans on Bill's extramarital activities, Lindsey put on the pressure to shut them up. When Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker met with Clinton just one day after the White House received an unethical back-channel tip that Tucker was about to be indicted (in part for the Castle Grande land fraud for which Hillary did major legal work), Lindsey was present.

John Huang, the Lippo Group's million-dollar bonus baby who represented Indonesian interests as a top economic policy adviser at Ron "Shake 'em Down" Brown's Department of Commerce, was present for at least two of Clinton's White House meetings with James Riady, at one of which the trio discussed Huang's transfer to a job specially created for him as finance vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee. That makes it even harder for Clinton to maintain he was unaware that Huang's soft-money fund-raising--including the peddling of access to the president--flouted the law.

Furthermore, although The Times missed it in its Lindsey profile last week, Commerce Department telephone logs show that not only did Huang make 70 calls to his former employer Lippo--a violation of conflict-of-interest laws--he also made 20 calls to the Little Rock law firm of Wright, Lindsey and Jennings, Bruce Lindsey's former place of business. Highly political, the Lindsey firm is now under investigation by the Whitewater special prosecutor for allegedly having served as a laundromat for campaign contributions to Clinton extorted from businesses that received in return low-interest loans from the Arkansas Development Finance Authority.

Also last week, the Los Angeles Times revealed that Huang used his job at Commerce and his White House clout to pressure Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation regulators into lifting a cease-and-desist order on violations of federal money-laundering statutes imposed on the Lippo Bank, his former employer.

Huang learned this particular influence-peddling trick in Arkansas, where he and James Riady--both friends of the Clintons for 20 years--worked at the Worthen Bank, then part-owned by Lippo in partnership with Stephens Inc. Huang and Riady both approved a crucial Worthen loan of $3.5 million to Clinton's cash-dry presidential campaign in the spring of 1992, money that enabled Clinton to defeat Jerry Brown (who accepted no contributions over $100) in the New York primary. At the time of Clinton's election, the Worthen Bank was under investigation by the Federal Reserve; after Clinton reappointed Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, that probe was quietly shelved.

All this makes an obscenity out of Clinton's comparison of himself to Richard Jewell, the victim of a leaked rush-to-judgment by the reputation-challenged FBI. A $20,000-a-year Atlanta security guard crushed under the full weight of federal authority is hardly in the same league with a president of the United States with a brigade of spinners, lawyers, and liars to protect him. But the biggest difference between Clinton and Jewell is that, as we now know, Jewell was telling the truth.

 
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