Ari & I

Author's Note: Yesterday was Ari Fleischer's last White House press briefing. He's leaving the White House to start a consulting firm that will advise corporate executives on how to handle the news media.

Mokhiber: Ari, in the 2002 election campaign, the Republican Party took in $7.2 million from convicted criminals. Is the President okay with his party taking millions of dollars from convicted criminals?

Ari Fleischer: I have no idea what you are referring to --

Mokhiber: I'm referring to, let me tell you --

Ari Fleischer: Obviously, if money is received -- both parties from people who are later found out to be people who shouldn't be giving money -- then it gets returned.

Mokhiber: These are actually major corporations convicted of crimes. ADM gave $1.7 million, Pfizer $1.1 million, Chevron $875,000. Is the President okay with those companies giving direct contributions to the Republican Party after being convicted of crimes?

Ari Fleischer: Russell, as you know, the Presidential campaign takes no money from corporations.

Mokhiber: I'm talking about the party.

Ari Fleischer: Well, you'll have to address your questions to the party.

Mokhiber: Well, as the titular head of the party, is he okay with the party taking money from convicted criminals?

Ari Fleischer: I don't know what information you have where you can say this corporation is a criminal.

Mokhiber: Convicted -- they pled guilty to crimes.

Ari Fleischer: Were the crimes of such a nature that they are no longer in existence?

Mokhiber: ADM pled guilty to one of the most massive antitrust crimes and paid a $100 million fine.

Ari Fleischer: I think you need to address any questions about specific companies with the specifics in mind, and if that company is still doing business and is still in operation, that means it is still in operation with the law, and every case is individual, and the party decides about whether the money needs to be returned or not. But I don't have specifics.

Mokhiber: One follow-up.

Ari Fleischer: Go ahead, Russell.

Mokhiber: One follow up. It's actually a broad philosophical question. Is the President okay with taking money from convicted criminals?

Ari Fleischer: I informed you that the President does not take money from corporations.

Mokhiber: No, I'm talking about -- as titular head of the party, is he okay with the party taking money from convicted criminals. For example, in Enron --

Ari Fleischer: I just have to differ with your notion that because a company has been fined --

Mokhiber: No, they pled guilty to crimes. They pled guilty to crimes.

Ari Fleischer: Even so -- I don't know what specifics you are referring to -- that that company is a convicted criminal.

Mokhiber: If you plead guilty to a crime, you are a criminal.

Ari Fleischer: Does that mean that they need to go out of business?

Mokhiber: I'm asking -- should the Republican Party take money from convicted criminals?

Ari Fleischer: You need to address your question to the Republican Party.

Mokhiber: But he's the titular head of the party.

Ari Fleischer: And the titular head of the party refers you to the party.

White House reporter Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter -- www.corporatecrimereporter.com. He can be reached at: russell@nationalpress.com

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