Do Democrats want to play the integrity game?
7/22/2002 12:00:00 AM - Cal Thomas
Questions are being raised by Democrats and the big media (but I repeat myself) about Dick Cheney's large profit from the sale of Halliburton stock options in August, 2000. Cheney divested himself of Halliburton shares as he left the energy company to run for vice president. The fact that editorials in The New York Times and other papers called on Cheney to sell his stock to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest apparently has been forgotten. The suggestion now is that Cheney did something wrong. Does anyone wish to compare this vice president's integrity with his predecessor, Mr. "no controlling legal authority"?
Speaking of Democrats with possible double standards, if not conflicts of interest, the big media would do well to recall the questionable financial dealings of Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who appears to have the ear of several friendly reporters about the perceived wrongdoing of the vice president.
It was McAuliffe who, in 1999, cashed in $18 million worth of shares in Global Crossing Ltd. The telecommunications company declared bankruptcy in January this year, a month after its stock was traded at levels that rivaled Enron.
In 1997, the Washington City Paper reported that McAuliffe and "several other Democratic Party stalwarts" had founded Federal City Bank, which "drew many of its clients from its political connections including labor unions and political action committees. While running the bank, McAuliffe also served as finance director for Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt's failed presidential campaign. According to The New York Times (2/13/98), Federal City made a $125,000 loan to the Gephardt campaign, though McAuliffe claims he abstained from voting on the loan. McAuliffe says other banks backed the loan, but the Times reported he could provide no proof to back up his statement.
There are plenty of other political and financial maneuvers that could be examined involving the Democrats and their labor union allies. Democrats, in their desperation to tar President Bush and Vice President Cheney less than four months before elections, apparently believe everyone will forget about their own behavior related to stocks, big corporations and accounting firms.
Congressional Democrats, who think they can get away with throwing mud at Republicans, are anything but clean when it comes to corporate money, as revealed in their voting records. Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) are fulminating against the president and vice president, but they voted with Republicans in 1995 to make it more difficult for shareholders to file suits against corporate chief executives. Twenty Senate and 89 House Democrats joined with Republicans to overturn President Clinton's veto of that tough-on-business legislation.
Moderate and conservative congressional Democrats are worried about Gephardt's attack strategy against Republicans, attempting to tie them to corporate scandals.
Rep. Calvin Dooley (D-Calif.), quoted in the July 13 Washington Post, said, "I don't think that trying to politicize the problem is going to enhance confidence in the (stock) market." In the same story, Rep. Timothy Roemer (D-Ind.) warns his colleagues: "Many times, business interests coincide with workers' interests. The corruption of these few bad apples doesn't mean the whole orchard is corrupt."
Earlier this month, a PBS "Frontline" program, "Bigger Than Enron," asked this question: "Sen. Joe Lieberman sponsored the resolution that overwhelmingly passed in the Senate to oppose the expensing of stock options. Why would Sen. Lieberman of Connecticut be so desperately interested in this, to take the lead?" Sarah Teslik, executive director of the Council of Institutional Investors, answered: "The insurance companies are in Connecticut and the accountants are heavily based in Connecticut. The FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) is in Connecticut.
Both Sen. Lieberman and Sen. (Chris) Dodd have historically been very protective of accountants and very protective of executives, even though they talk a good liberal Democratic line."
The record is full of speeches and statements by congressional Democrats who opposed accounting reform and tighter rules on businesses during the 1990s. Democrats must hope the voters have amnesia about positions they so recently held. Republicans, including the president and vice president, should make sure voters are reminded. Do Democrats really want to play this game?