- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Hillary ban

A bill has been introduced in Congress among its co-sponsors Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Republican Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin that could one day be dubbed the "Hillary Ban."
For now, the "Members-elect Gift Ban Application Act of 2001," referred to the Rules Committee, would impose gift rules on Senate and House members-elect before they take the oath of office.
"The purpose of that is to stop a future Hillary Clinton from escaping the restrictions on giving gifts to members of Congress between the election and the time when members of Congress are sworn in," Mr. Sensenbrenner told The Washington Times in an interview.
"I was appalled, but not surprised at all the types of gifts that were showered on the new senator from New York before the restrictions kicked in, and that was using the loophole in the law for personal benefit," the congressman said.
Ethics rules banning gifts are in place for sworn senators, each designed to protect the public from conflict of interest and influence-peddling by wealthy business interests. Now that she's a senator, the rules bar both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband from accepting individual gifts worth $50 or more, or a total value of $100 from a single source.
The rules also preclude lavish dinners and expensive weekends with those wishing to curry favors.
A far cry from last year, when Mr. and Mrs. Clinton set a record for accepting almost $200,000 in gifts, according to the couple's financial-disclosure statement released in January.
By comparison, former President George Bush received $52,853 in gifts in 1992.
To quell the swirl of impropriety charges, Mrs. Clinton last month agreed that she and her husband would pay for half nearly $86,000 of the gifts they chose to keep.
Among the more controversial gifts to the Clintons: two coffee tables and two chairs worth almost $7,500 from Denise Rich, whose fugitive billionaire ex-husband won a last-minute pardon from Mr. Clinton.
The most ironic gift of all, however, came from insurance magnate Walter Kaye, the man who recommended Monica Lewinsky for a White House job. Mr. Kaye presented the Clintons with, among other gifts, a cigar humidor.

Tunnels and moats

Russian diplomats might not have known about secret tunnels dug beneath their embassy in Washington, but at least they're not knee-deep in water and personal-security concerns like their U.S. counterparts in Moscow.
"We are pouring new wine into old skins," a U.S. Embassy telegram from Moscow to Washington, intercepted by Inside the Beltway, warns of the "dilapidated state … and the serious inefficiencies" of the U.S. compound.
"The substandard plumbing in the building continues to cause floods the last of which narrowly missed the computer server for the section. The electrical wiring and periodic power failures set off false alarms and cause the computers, upon which we are totally dependent, to fail."
Furthermore, the incoming telegram to the State Department warns that a long-awaited consular renovation project set to begin in May after a nine-month delay "cannot address our security concerns."
"We are located on the sidewalk of … one of the largest thoroughfares of the city. This building and the adjacent area have been the site of several terrorist incidents over the last five years, including … machine gun strafing, car bombs and firebombs."
During one incident, the telegram reveals, "embassy security personnel were forced to shoot an intruder in the rear courtyard of the building. We must move into a new facility if we are to safeguard our employees… ."
At present, the telegram advises, "bags, phones, cameras and belt buckles of everyone coming into the section must be screened by hand" because of inadequate security measures.
It's no wonder, as the same telegram points out, that "personnel vacancies continued to plague the section."

Harlem globetrotter

How did Bill Clinton weather his impeachment?
He left Dodge.
Like his scandalized predecessor, Richard M. Nixon, President Clinton reached the peak of his travel abroad during the year of his impeachment, according to a detailed review by the National Taxpayers Union.
All told, in eight years in office, Mr. Clinton made more visits to more nations a record 133 than former Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon combined, and almost as many as former Presidents Carter, Reagan and Bush combined.
His biggest travel year was during his impeachment in 1998, including the infamous $43 million trek to Africa. The cost of all his travels is estimated to have exceeded half a billion dollars.
The 229 days Mr. Clinton spent abroad is also a new high.

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