- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2001

A House committee asked the Justice Department yesterday to turn over documents concerning President Clinton's controversial pardon of fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich, whose ex-wife gave $1.3 million to the Democratic Party.

In a letter, Rep. Dan Burton, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, questioned the propriety of the pardon issued two hours before Mr. Clinton left office saying there were concerns about its "motive, basis and timing."

"A presidential pardon cannot be revoked. However, individual cases arise from time to time that require the Congress to examine the circumstances that led the president to make his decision to grant a pardon," the Indiana Republican said.

"When a pardon appears questionable on the merits, the American people have a right to know why the president made his decision so that the constitutional power to grant pardons will not be abused in the future," he said.

The committee issued six requests for documents, asking that the Justice Department make the records available as soon as possible. The requests specifically seek "documents from the relevant federal agencies and certain persons involved" in the pardon.

Mr. Burton noted that until pardons for Mr. Rich and his business partner, Pincus Green, were issued, Mr. Rich was on the list of the Justice Department's six most wanted international fugitives.

"Since former President Clinton has not given an adequate explanation as to why Mr. Rich deserved a pardon, Congress has an obligation to find out if this pardon was appropriate," he said.

The committee, in requesting the documents, wants to know whether the president had an improper motive for the pardons; whether law enforcement authorities were consulted before the pardons were granted; and whether any regulations governing the lobbying of the president were violated.

Earlier this week, Mr. Rich's ex-wife, Denise, denied in a statement that the $1.3 million in campaign donations she gave to Democratic causes had anything to do with the pardon. She described the pardon as "entirely appropriate" and denied that her political fund-raising and charitable activities played any role.

Mrs. Rich's donations, beginning in 1992, included contributions to Mr. Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic National Committee and others, including the Senate campaigns of Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York, Charles S. Robb in Virginia and Barbara A. Mikulski in Maryland.

Former Clinton White House counsel Jack Quinn, who is Mr. Rich's attorney, personally lobbied the president for the pardon.

Mr. Clinton, speaking earlier this week to reporters in suburban Chappaqua, N.Y., where he now lives, said he "spent a lot of personal time … because it's an unusual case, but Quinn made a strong case, and I was convinced he was right on the merits."

Mr. Rich was indicted for evading $48 million in taxes and violating U.S. sanctions by trading with Iran while American hostages were held in that country. Now 66, he fled to Switzerland in 1983 after a federal grand jury indicted him on 65 counts of tax fraud, racketeering and tax-evasion charges. He had faced 325 years in jail.

Companies owned by Mr. Rich and Mr. Green pleaded guilty in 1984 to evading millions of dollars in taxes by concealing profits on oil trading. The case against the two men and Mr. Rich's Swiss metals and commodities trading firm, Marc Rich & Co., was at the time the largest tax-evasion case in U.S. history.

The government said the two men conspired in April 1980 with the Iranian government to purchase more than 6 million barrels of oil, a violation of the trade embargo imposed by the United States.

Mr. Rich, although a fugitive, has remained a force in world-commodity trading. Fortune magazine said Mr. Rich had, since 1988, sold the U.S. Mint more than $25 million in copper, nickel and other metals to make coins. His firm, based in Zug, Switzerland, still trades in metals and grain, with about $6 billion in trading volume.

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