- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2000

Tainted money

Hillary Rodham Clinton gave back a $22,000 "soft money" donation to her New York Senate campaign after learning that it came from a woman with links to a convicted drug dealer, a campaign spokesman told the New York Post yesterday.

The $22,000 donation "the largest single contribution" to Mrs. Clinton's soft money fund, the Post reported came from Vivian Mannerud Verble, owner of Airline Brokers Co., which charters flights between Miami and Havana.

Mrs. Verble has been linked with Jorge Cabrera, who is serving a 19-year sentence in a Florida jail for a cocaine trafficking conviction.

"We have returned the money … the contribution was inappropriate," said Mrs. Clinton's spokesman, Howard Wolfson.

Mrs. Verble "served as the fund-raising intermediary between Jorge Cabrera and the Democratic National Committee in 1995," Robert Hardt Jr. and Deborah Orin of the New York Post reported, citing congressional investigators.

"Because of Verble's meeting with Cabrera at [Miami's] Copacabana Hotel, the Cuban-American druglord was able to attend a 1995 fund-raiser for Vice President Al Gore in Miami and a White House Christmas reception, where he posed for a picture with the first lady."

Most of Mrs. Clinton's campaign cash comes from outside of New York. Only 17 of her 665 soft money donors are from New York, the Post reported.

Toxic cash

A major donor to Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani's Senate campaign is "one of the nation's leading polluters," the New York Post reports.

Ira Lee Rennert, who donated $100,000 in "soft money" to the New York mayor's campaign, owns Renco Group, which "was involved in a major battle with the [Environmental Protection Agency] over a chemical plant in Utah for allegedly pumping millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into the air."

"Another Renco holding, WCI Steel, got into a dust-up over alleged environmental violations at a plant in Warren, Ohio, in which it stored hazardous waste in ponds."

Price tags

Vice President Al Gore may be making promises American taxpayers can't keep.

Mr. Gore has already pledged nearly two-thirds of the federal budget surplus to Social Security. "Health insurance, Medicare, education and other causes dear to Democratic primary voters ate up the rest of the pie," Bob Davis reports in the Wall Street Journal. That leaves $190 billion in reserve for other Gore promises.

"But over the course of his campaign, Mr. Gore has gone well beyond that reserve, endorsing programs that would cost between $420 billion and $530 billion."

How will taxpayers find the money to pay for Mr. Gore's promises? He doesn't seem to care.

"Sometimes Mr. Gore simply doesn't offer price tags," Mr. Davis notes. "He told a meeting at Los Angeles City College that he would expand health coverage so that those who suffer from mental illnesses could count on the same support as those with other diseases. 'I'm committed to parity,' he said, without giving any indication of how much that would cost or how he would pay for it."

Go, Pat, gone

Reform Party Press Secretary Donna Donovan has resigned, complaining of a takeover by ex-Republican candidate Patrick J. Buchanan.

"I think she resigned because she feels that the Buchanan campaign is attempting to take over the party and is preventing her from being able to do her job," party secretary Jim Mangia told Laurie Kellman of the Associated Press.

Miss Donovan will remain chairman of the Connecticut Reform Party and active in other leadership roles, Mr. Mangia and other senior party officials told the Associated Press.

Mr. Mangia said the Donovan resignation "is an example of a deteriorating situation that we have to start to try to remedy soon or it will be too late."

Hillary's taxes

Hillary Rodham Clinton may have registered to vote in New York in December of 1999, but she didn't move into her new Chappaqua, N.Y., mansion until January and thereby avoided paying New York state income taxes, the chairman of the Republican National Committee charged yesterday.

"Hillary Clinton is still a stranger to New York income taxes," charged RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson. "Anybody who wants to represent New York in the Senate ought to know firsthand about New York state taxes, and that excludes Hillary Rodham Clinton."

According to Mr. Nicholson, the Clintons avoided New York state income taxes on all $416,039 in their adjusted gross income, instead paying Arkansas income taxes of $18,850.

New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, the likely Republican Senate candidate, paid $41,643 in state and city income taxes, his tax returns show.

Kennedy vs. Navy

How does a Kennedy spend his spring vacation? Scuba diving in Puerto Rico.

Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. went diving Tuesday with protesters off the coast of bomb-ravaged Vieques Island in Puerto Rico and said he would sue the U.S. Navy for endangering sea and bird life during military exercises, according to the Associated Press.

"We've got to get the Navy out of here," he said after diving around a sunken barge, which was used as a target for warships.

Mr. Kennedy, a senior counsel for the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, said the group would sue the Navy to stop further exercises.

The Navy owns two-thirds of Vieques and calls it the Atlantic Fleet's most important training ground. Opposition to the Navy's presence boiled over in April 1999 when a Marine Corps jet dropped two bombs off target, killing a civilian security guard and injuring four other persons.

Media money

The real winners in the presidential primary campaigns were the media consultants.

"Each of the media firms that worked on television commercials for the presidential candidates made more than $500,000," reports Jeff Leeds in the Los Angeles Times.

One of the big winners was the Gore campaign's media consortium, Century Media Group, which netted $558,564, according to Mr. Leeds' calculations. The Bush campaign, meanwhile, has paid an estimated $537,000 to National Media and nearly $900,000 to Maverick Media.

Even the losing candidates' consultants win big, Mr. Leeds reported, with the McCain campaign paying an estimated $630,000 to the firm of Stevens Reed Curcio & Co., while the Bradley campaign paid "about $500,000" to MacWilliams Cosgrove Smith Robinson and another $742,397 to Kaplan Thaler Group.

Plastic president?

Next month, Barbie will launch her campaign for the White House.

The White House Project, a feminist group that promotes female candidates, said it has teamed up with Mattel Inc. to market a "Barbie for President" doll, which will hit stores May 1, Reuters reports.

Among her 75 careers over the past four decades, Barbie has worked as a doctor, designer, soccer champ, diplomat and astronaut. Marie Wilson, president of the White House Project, said Monday a President Barbie was a natural next step.

"Girls nationwide own an average of eight Barbies. Since Barbie is such a large part of girls' lives, we want to be there with a message that encourages them to be tomorrow's leaders," Ms. Wilson said in a statement.

Ms. Wilson also heads the Ms. Foundation for Women and initiated the feminist "Take Our Daughters to Work Day" project. She suggested that Mattel turn Barbie's big pink dream house into the White House.

Each "Barbie for President" doll will be sold with a copy of the White House Project's Girls' Action Agenda, which urges girls to pursue leadership roles in their schools, communities and homes.

• Robert Stacy McCain can be reached at 202/636-3249 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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