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Tuesday, June 7, 1994 The Arizona Republic B5 OPINIONS i aesas trail o anas immediate scrutiny If A 1 i tears aem -Ark By Deroy Murdock arly in the morning on May 12, Kathy Ferguson, 37, was found dead in Sherwood, Ark. A gunshot had 8 "- 4 t,- ft porter." Lasater was convicted of "social distribution" of cocaipe in 1986 and served six months of his two-and-a-half year prison sentence. In 1990, he was pardoned by then-Governor Clinton. While in jail, Lasater's affairs were managed by his executive vice-presi dent, Patsy Thomasson, one-time head of the Arkansas Democratic Party. According to Ambrose Evans- Pritchard's report in the Telegraph, Thomasson was in charge of operations, and was viewed by the rest of the staff as the main liaison between Lasater & Co. and the Little Rock political establishment." Thomasson now is the director of the White House Office of Administration. She was one of three White House staffers who entered Vincent Foster's office barely three hours after his death, seeking documents on the Clintons' Arkansas business dealings. On April 23, Terry Reed was at a Little Rock Wal-Mart, signing copies of Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA, the book he co-authored with Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist John Cummings. The authors claim that in the 1980s, then-Governor Bill Clinton was involved in the CIA's efforts to supply the contras. "More than $9 million a week in cash was secretly air dropped into Arkansas, which became the CIA's domestic 'banana republic,' Reed and Cummings charge. According to Little Rock Police Information Report Number 94-53155, Reed returned to his car and found that a "death threat was slipped through the top of his driver side window & was on the seat" of his car. The threat was a collage in which cut-out pictures of seven pistols were affixed around a man's head on the cover of the April 18 issue of Time magazine. In ransom note style, words and letters clipped from other periodicals spelled out: "Stay Out of the Federal court NEXT MONTH or YOU die. It Is All Over for You AND for your children. If you PRESS A Head Hint: Grab Your Passport." The threat referred to Reed's pending civil rights suit against then-Governor Clinton's head of security, Buddy Young, and former Arkansas State Trooper Tommy Baker. The police report adds that 'Subj(ect) feels that the threat to his life is to be taken seriously . . . Subj. was also advised that he may consider contacting federal agencies for protection." Are these episodes related to each other or to the death of Vincent Foster and the concussion sustained by reporter L.J. Davis while on assignment in Little Rock? Do the three break-ins at the American Spec tator (as it prepared its Troopergate story), the fire at the Little Rock offices of Peat Marwick (which audited Madison Savings & Loan), and the mysterious shooting death of Clinton campaign headquarters security chief Luther "Jerry" Parks have anything to do with all of this? Investigations by the press, Robert Fiske and the Congress will reveal whether these phenomena are connected or as random as rain. Such probes should begin now before the Arkansas Trail of Tears grows any darker. Deroy Murdock is a New York writer and president of Loud & Clear Communications, a marketing and media consultancy. in the New York Times stating possibilities between Whitewater Development, Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan, and Bill and Hillary Clinton." Getting too close to a "bimbo eruption" can be bad for one's health. Just ask attorney Gary Johnson. In a video tape titled "Bill Clinton's Circle of Power," Johnson claims that his home security system captured then-Governor Clinton entering the apartment of his neighbor at Little Rock's Quapaw Towers: Gennifer Flowers. Johnson says that he mentioned this tape to friends at Little Rock's Flaming Arrow Club. On June 26, 1992, three weeks before Bill Clinton was nominated, Johnson was attacked by three men who demanded his tape. He said they looked like state troopers. Johnson was beaten unconscious and left for dead. According to articles in the May 7 issue of the esteemed British magazine The Economist and the May 8 London Sunday Telegraph, Dennis Patrick, a former Kentucky court clerk, became involved in a brokerage account with Lasater & Co., a Little Rock bond dealership. Although Patrick never authorized the account, it earned risk-free weekly profits of up to $20,000. When Patrick eventually refused to sign paperwork associated with this easy money, Lasater & Co. sued him. As The Economist reported, he told attorneys that "trades in his account had from time to time exceeded $12 million. "But Mr. Patrick had other distractions," The Economist continued. "Within one year, four men were arrested by agents of the Treasury Department's Alcohol, Tobacco and pierced her right temple in what police believe was a suicide. ' Still, the timing of Ferguson's apparent suicide is intriguing, coming just six days after her ex-husband, Arkansas State Trooper Danny Ferguson, was named as a co-defendant in Paula Corbin Jones' sexual harassment law suit against President Bill Clinton. While Danny and Kathy Ferguson were divorced the year before the alleged ClintonJones incident, no one ever will know what she may have learned from her husband. ' Kathy Ferguson is the latest victim on Arkansas Trail of Tears. As I reported in March, an apparent pattern of violence and intimidation has befallen a number of men and women with ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, their partners in business, law and politics, and people investigating their affairs. These frightening events demand immediate scrutiny by the media, Special Prosecutor Robert Fiske, and Congress. In yet another strange death, the Northern Virginia Sun reported on April 21 that Jon Parnell Walker, 33, lept off the Lincoln Towers in Arlington, Va., last Aug. 15 and plunged 22 floors to the ground. . Walker worked for the Resolution Trust Corp.'s Office of Investigations. In March 1992, according to an RTC chronology, "Senior Investigative Specialist Jon Walker contacted the Kansas City regional RTC office regarding an article that had appeared Vl fir MSiiiJi- l Firearms (ATF) division on charges relating to plots to kill him." Lasater & Co. was owned by Dan Lasater, a long-time Friend of Bill and employer of Roger Clinton. In 1986, Bill Clinton called Lasater, "a substantial contributor and sup wrhro fane V J Someone is killing Congress' Democrats Rosty's resignation shouldn't affect health care reform I WHATP'My n& we forget rfh REF3NAANP DAN YLE Creators Syndicate The indictment of Dan Rostenkowski is, of course, a scandal and a disgrace; 1 another mark of how low our republic - has fallen. The people who indicted him ought to be ashamed. Has the country that produced the . New York of Boss Tweed, the Chicago of Richard J. Daley, the Boston of James Curly, become so , riddled with good government that we can no longer tolerate graft from our distinguished public servants? ,. ' (Like everyone else, I'm assuming he's guilty, of course. Presumption of jrinocence is for murderers, child molesters and window-peepers; all politicians are guilty of something.) ' It's not as though Rosty is accused ; of vast theft or of crimes and misdemeanors threatening the ' Constitution. The prosecutor tried to ; make the Chicago pol sound like Juan ' Peron in a bowling jacket, but stripped of costume jewelry the charges amounted to a little skimming . there, a little nepotism here, salted . with a generous amount of back-scratching. The tab if he really is guilty of everything with which he's charged pomes to something over $500,000, ,, which sounds like a lot but spread oyer 20 years it is no more than a modest income supplement. If they , prove it on him, I think they should make him pay back the money, write will not steal" 100 times on a blackboard, and let him go on with his life. i We'd all be better for it. I , Over the years he's been one of the I very best representatives in Washington; tough, bright, hardworking. In a Congress too often characterized by contentiousness and gridlock, he's been able to move complex and controversial legislation 5 toward passage with bipartisan support. Nor has he been mealymouthed. C He's been out front on the tough com HAUL Tribune Media Services Inc. spilling millions, sometimes billions, of taxpayer dollars into the pockets of its benefactors. The money special interests spent on supporting political candidates is typically returned to them a thousandfold in government benefits of one sort or another: tax breaks, subsidies, cost-plus contracts. That's how we got our savings and loan fiasco. It probably cost the S&L big shots less than $100 million in campaign contributions to cost the government nearly $200 billion in losses. Rostenkowski stole paper clips. If anything, the national embarrassment lies in having your chief tax-making official caught stealing so small. God must love Republicans; that's why He gave them Democrats for opponents. Jim Wright gets caught peddling copies of his book under the table, Tony Coelho for a scam that netted him $6,000. They get Rosty for converting postage stamps to personal use. Pathetic. Someone is killing the great Democrats of Congress. I think it's them. make the case for a congressional pay raise; he didn't try to take the money with a bag on his head. People are fond of praising congresspersons like the late William Natcher of Kentucky, who never missed a vote, or Jim Nussle of Iowa, who never votes to spend a dime, even for his own district. Politicians like that can walk across a floor of wet cement without leaving a footprint. Rosty isn't like that. You know he's around and you're glad he is. He makes a difference. Or rather, did. Maybe he can convince a jury he's innocent, but I wouldn't bet on it. In any case, he will emerge a diminished figure and is sure to fade from the scene within a year or two. I know what you're saying: The man is a corrupt liberal defending the theft of public monies by a fellow corrupt .liberal. Not really. Rostenkowski's conviction would reveal him as a thief. The great corruption of Congress lies in its custom of attracting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions by Rosty, as all his friends call him, is not the great compromiser after all. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, the Illinois Democrat who has represented Chicagoans in the House of Representatives for over three decades, decided to face a jury rather than strike a plea bargain with federal prosecutors that, according to press accounts, would have demanded a prison term and restitution. The result is a 17-count indictment charging him, among other things, with obstruction of justice, placing 14 ghost employees on his congressional payroll and trading postage-stamp vouchers for $50,000 in cash at the House post office. The indictment forced Rostenkowski to resign as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, though he remains a member of the House. Political tongues have been wagging for weeks about the negative effect Rosty's stepping down will have on prospects for the health-care reform now making its way through congressional committees. The Washington conventional wisdom is wrong, as usual. There will be other consequences, but the impact on health care will not be as great as predicted. Rosty insists that the truth is on his side, and like all defendants, he deserves the presumption of innocence. But no matter what the verdict at the trial, which is bound to be long and interesting, members of Congress, especially the Democrats, will be hurt by the proceedings. I am sure his colleagues were hoping Rostenkowski would take his attorney's advice to cop a plea, getting the story over with as quickly as possible. The appearance of one of their giants on trial will give added momentum to the movement for congressional term limits. Rosty, age 66, has been in Congress more than half his life. His trial will also show the result of one-party control of Congress the Democrats have been in charge of the House since 1954. The impact on health-care legislation has been exaggerated, however. Certainly, there is a power vacuum left at the top of Ways and Means, but that simply means other powerful members will enjoy new clout. House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, who has served in the past on the Ways and Means Committee, will probably play a larger role. Senate Finance Chairman Pat Moynihan will have even more influence over the final legislation. Still, the net result is merely a bumpier ride for health-care reform. It will take more than Rosty's resignation as chairman to derail this juggernaut, because too much is at stake. Congress has created the perception that if this legislation isn't passed, then votes, saying the things that needed to be said. It got him in a lot of trouble on the issue of catastrophic health insurance for the elderly, for example the nation was treated to the sight of Rostenkowski cloistered in a limousine, under attack by enraged old people but he never backed down. And he was right on that issue, as he was on so many others. And, right or not, you have to admit he had the guts to stand up and Congress has failed. If anything, Rosty's woes and the discredit they bring to the institution will make Congress even more eager to pass massive legislation. This is faulty strategy, since the country is now saying crime and welfare, not health care, are the major issues. Nonetheless, the Democrats control Congress and the White House. President Clinton and the Democrats are shrewdly trying to lay the groundwork to blame Republicans for failure to pass this legislation. But the Republicans in the end will not filibuster, and if the Democrats get together, they can pass their unnecessary and intrusive government-run health-care system. What the Republicans should be doing is offering their own version of health-care reform and then sticking to it. The problem is they can't get together. The Republican alternative should deal with the three main problems access, pre-existing conditions and cost. Vouchers and tax credits will remedy the access problem, making health insurance affordable to all. The pre-existing condition problem can be fixed, too, by allowing people to maintain their insurance if they leave or change jobs. On the cost side, the Republicans are missing an opportunity to use malpractice reform as a wedge issue with the Clinton administration. Clinton won't touch real malpractice reform because of the large campaign contributions to his party from trial lawyers. And they won't compromise (maybe they should represent Rosty). . At the Competitiveness Center of Hudson Institute, we recently completed a study of malpractice costs at a large Indiana hospital which concluded that the direct and indirect costs of our medical liability system added up to $450 for each person admitted. Indiana has a fairly sound medical malpractice system. This figure would be much higher in other states. Clinton's health-care power grab should be stopped. However, never underestimate the willingness of members of Congress to try to fix something just before an election. They have to talk about something besides indictments, trials and free postage stamps. Inough to turn a congressman's head Gil uinnras Tribune Media Services Next come the lobbyists. Men who in other company are the most candid and tough-minded of characters become courtiers in Rosty's. Along the halls outside Ways and Means, they share the latest anecdote about "Danny," which instantly escalates to "Mr. Chairman" when the man barrels past. It is not good to have so many such friends. Those who are there to buy the caps and souvenir travel bags for the upcoming overseas trip, to host a dinner at some far-off capital, to kick into the next golf tournament are not the best advisers to have. Former staffers, tanned and making six times the chairman's salary mostly for sharing his influence, do not make the best of kitchen cabinets. And, all the while, they tell the chairman how great he is, laugh to prove how funny he is, tale-snap amongst each other to prove how close they are to him. It gets worse. Add one more concentric circle of genuflection for journalists who find the whole farrago so charmingly Runyanesque. How many times in the last week have you read or heard that the vast corruption of which Rosty is charged is the necessary "lubrication" to democratic government. Or that it's "the way things are done" in Chicago. Whether Dan Rostenkowski is convicted or cleared of corruption will now be decided by a jury. It should be. Americans who fought for democracy deserve the real thing. The same week President Clinton saluted the Americans who "saved democracy in Europe" 50 years ago, we got a multi-count charge of its corruption here at home. The coincidence was confounding. The president paid honor to those who fought for government of the people, by the people, for the people. The Justice Department indicted Dan Rostenkowski for . abusing power "to benefit himself, his family and , his friends." People notice such things. Those who watched with misty eyes TV documentaries on Normandy now gag on the aroma of rot wafting from Washington. A whopping 18 percent of Americans ' express confidence in Congress. ' Is it fair to tar an institution with the charges against a single member? Read and decide. I worked for the U.S. Congress in a number of posts, from a moonlighting job with the Capitol ' Police to administrative assistant to the Speaker of the House. What struck me from that first day in .1971 was the all-powerful importance of "patronage." Everyone, from policeman to elevator -operator to printer to House subway conductor to postmaster, depended on the good will of a particular politician. From bottom to top, you served at "the pleasure of a member. . , - It's enough to turn a person's head. Imagine what this heirarchy of courtesy does to the arriving first-term congressman? What it can do over time to the 19th-termer who chairs the all-powerful Ways and Means Committee? "Good morning, Mr. Chairman." "Is there anything I can do for you . . . uh . . . anything at all?" A powerful member like "Rosty" spends his week surrounded by rings of such sycophancy. Staffers to serve. Picture framers ready to enshrine the latest autographed handshaking. Until recently, a sergeant-at-arms offering free overdraft privileges at the House bank. A House postmaster eager to provide special services.