CONASON: Thompson Should Call GOP's Usual Suspects

From the moment he released his first list of subpoenas, Sen. Fred Thompson, Republican of Tennessee, has been determined to prove how balanced his investigation of campaign fund-raising abuses will be. On Feb. 13, his Governmental Affairs Committee issued 50 subpoenas directed toward investigating Asian contributors to the Democratic Party, and two subpoenas to a Republican contributor who was convicted of concealing his donations to Bob Dole. The list was like that old Depression-era joke about the recipe for horse-and-rabbit stew which calls for equal parts of both ingredients: one horse and one rabbit.Yet even Mr. Thompson's recipe isn't skewed enough to please Senate Republican leaders, who have informed him quite bluntly that his investigation should be aimed solely at embarrassing the Clinton White House (which is obviously capable of embarrassing itself without any help from Congress). To justify this one-sided inquisition and to silence demands for reform, the Republicans and their allies in the press are insisting that the excesses of Bill Clinton are without peer or precedent. But if Mr. Thompson dared to put a few Republicans under oath, he might soon discover that almost none of the distasteful deeds committed by Democrats in 1996 were new to Washington or the White House -- and that most of them actually were invented by Republicans when they were in power. Arguably, what the Republicans did was worse, because they were selling not just perks, but policy and pork as well. The roster of possible Republican witnesses -- not counting Senator Alfonse D'Amato, an arm-twister who makes the Democrats look like the Salvation Army -- is long and distinguished. Republican consultant Ed Rollins tells an intriguing story in his book Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms about a secret $10 million payment to the 1984 Reagan campaign from Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Mr. Rollins should be asked to give the details under oath. Mr. Thompson should invite testimony from the nine big G.O.P. contributors who were given ambassadorships by George Bush. All were members of Team 100, the exclusive club of fat cats with annual membership dues of more than $100,000 in "soft money."Mr. Thompson might also elicit revealing testimony from former Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher, the creator of Team 100, who has pompously denounced fund raising in the Clinton White House as "something, frankly, I've never heard of." While serving in the Bush Cabinet, Mr. Mosbacher was reimbursed by the Republican National Committee for numerous fund-raising jaunts. His Team 100 had 250 members, many of whom won rich favors from the Bush Administration for their generosity. Among those who got after giving were Eastern Airlines chairman Frank Lorenzo; the ubiquitous grain dealer Dwayne Andreas; tobacco merchant and financier Henry Kravis; snuff salesman Louis Bantle; thrift buyout scammer Robert Bass; agribusiness mogul Howard Leach; oilman Lodwrick Cook; cable TV king Bill Daniels and scores more.If called upon, Mr. Mosbacher might recall that he appointed Team 100 corporate chieftains to elite committees such as the President's Export Council, which oversaw their business interests abroad. Typically, the lucky donors were recommended by the late Lee Atwater, then chairman of the Republican National Committee. Foreign trade trips often included big donors as well, some of whom, like auto parts magnate Heinz Prechter, did a lot better than Mr. Bush during the latter's ill-fated visit to Japan. Does any of this sound familiar? Then there's Team 100 member Wayne Huizenga, the Blockbuster Video billionaire, who got a free ride on Air Force 1 with President Bush to baseball's All-Star game in Toronto. The Bushes used the White House to reward donors, too. In November 1989, the President and First Lady hosted a White House gala exclusively for Team 100 members and their spouses (and the hospitable Secretary of Commerce opened his home for the evening's cocktail reception). That year, the major givers also enjoyed a bash at the historic residence of Vice President Dan Quayle. A year later, the Vice President gave another reception chez Quayle to raise money for Republican Senate candidates.Of course, there are many more Bush-era witnesses, but let's move on to Bob Dole, the statesman of dignity who now does mercy bookings on sitcoms. Just last year, Mr. Dole coddled Florida's sugar industry by saving its price supports and protecting it from paying for the cleanup of the Everglades pollution the industry caused. Among those fortunate sugar barons was Team 100's Jose (Pepe) Fanjul, a tireless Dole (and Bush) fund-raiser. Mr. Fanjul, by the way, is a legal immigrant but not a U.S. citizen; after giving more than $400,000 to the G.O.P. since 1991, however, his (corporate) welfare payments are safe, unlike those of most of his fellow noncitizen immigrants.A subpoena may be served at Mr. Fanjul's estate in Palm Beach. No doubt Fred Thompson will fly down there personally, documents in hand, on a pig with wings.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.