Jack Anderson Story on William Rehnquist
Mondav, March 23, 1987 Court suffering in easing who have or mandatory jobs. a Florida ruled that a persons extends long as they that a attempted of communicating in the discriminated court may legal rights and other steps toucon- receive general on of an individual to do his or real danger dismissal, and to ease Jock Anderson Look for limo loophole WASHINGTON — Everyone remembers the kid who insisted that the sandlot game be played according to his rules — because he owned the baseball. Well, Chief Justice William Rehnquist has worked a grown-up version of this childish hustle: He has written a learned legal opinion exempting himself from a law he was violating. And who can challenge an opinion of the nation's top jurist? Here's the story of this latter-day Judge Roy Bean: Last November, we reported that Rehnquist Rehnquist appeared to violate a new congressional congressional restriction on the use of government limousines. Congress passed a law limiting the limousine set to a small, select list of top federal officials — and Supreme Court justices were conspicuously absent from the list of eligible VIPs. Yet Rehnquist continued to have a government government chauffeur drive him to and from work each day, ignoring the congressional ban. As we reported at the time, Congress had provided one loophole for officials who felt the need of limo service: on grounds of security, an official could get an exemption. Someone who had received a death threat, for example, could qualify for a limousine. However, the law required that anyone seeking to avail himself of the limousine loophole must certify in writing that "highly unusual circumstances present a clear and present danger" to the official, and must give Congress explicit details. But Rehnquist hasn't done that. In fact, he barely made a stab at justifying his continued continued use of a limousine on grounds of security. As chief justice, he simply interpreted interpreted the law to suit himself. Sources who have seen the legal opinion filed filed by Rehnquist told us it makes these two points: First, it avers that Rehnquist needs a chauffeur-driven limo so he can read the newspaper, converse on his car telephone and catch up on his homework while commuting commuting between the Supreme Court and his home. Second, the opinion simply asserts that In Rehnquist's own legal opinion, he says he needs a limo so he can read the newspaper, talk on his car phone and catch up on homework. He also claims he needs limo service for security reasons. Rehnquist needs the limo service for security reasons, claiming that the chief justice has received death threats in the past. But it does not provide any specifics, as the law requires. requires. So the chief justice of the United States still appears to be violating the law, and there doesn't seem to be much anyone can do about it. The question now is: If another limo- loving official, inspired by Rehnquist's example, example, challenges the law, is prosecuted and fights it all the way to the Supreme Court, will Rehnquist excuse himself from the decision? decision? Maybe he'll decide to write the opinion himself — in the back seat, on the way to work. BIG BANKERS' BLUES: American banking has fallen on hard times since the good old days of J.P. Morgan. Or Jesse and Frank James, for that matter. Confidential banking documents we've seen chronicle the humiliating side of American banks from their world preeminence preeminence only a relatively few years ago. Consider this: In 1957, nine of the world's biggest biggest and most powerful banks were American. The three biggest were headquartered headquartered in New York City. Today, only two American banks rank among the world's top 15. Citibank is No. 8 and Bank of America is No. 12. One guess which country has taken over the American banking lead that seemed impregnable impregnable in the 1950s: Japan. The top four banks in the world — and seven of the top 10 — are based in Japan. The documents we've seen make painfully clear why U.S. banks have lost out to their Japanese rivals: American banks simply are no longer competitive. In one vital particular, particular, Japanese banks offer significantly better terms to their borrowers. Another reason is that American banks are heavily regulated, and the federal government government is regarded as an adversary. In Japan, the government is a partner of the banks. A further handicap for American banks: They pay out 40 times the amount in legal fees as their Japanese competitors do. Which brings us to the James boys. One reason for strict regulation, adversarial government and sky-high legal fees is that bank robberies in this country today are pulled pulled off mainly by insiders in Guccis and Brooks Brothers suits, not outsiders sporting guns and black masks. In one recent year, for example, eight times more money was stolen by bank officers officers and directors than by holdup artists and burglars. CHALLENGER REMEMBERED: Among the artifacts retrieved from the ocean floor with the wreckage of the Challenger space shuttle was a laser videodisc bearing an international international pledge of peace and the signatures of thousands of children from all over the world. It was to have been taken into orbit by the ill-fated shuttle crew at the request request of No Greater Love, a humanitarian organization that collected the signatures. At a recent memorial ceremony to the fallen astronauts in the U.S. Capitol, the recovered videodisc was returned to No Greater Love chairman Carmella LaSpada by astronaut Robert Crippen. United feature columnist Jack Anderson was assisted by Joseph Spear In writing today's story.