- The Washington Times - Friday, July 26, 2002

Republicans yesterday disputed former President Bill Clinton's claims that Republicans in Congress stymied his efforts to protect investors and increase government oversight of corporations.

Mr. Clinton blamed Republicans for overriding his veto of a 1995 securities bill to protect corporations from lawsuits by disappointed investors. In fact, 20 Senate Democrats including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and 89 House Democrats voted to override Mr. Clinton's veto of the bipartisan measure.

"Looks like Bill Clinton wants to wade into the blame game, which won't catch corporate criminals or create jobs," said Republican National Committee spokesman Jim Dyke.

Mr. Clinton, in Little Rock on Wednesday, told reporters that he was "sure some of the people in Congress that stopped a lot of the reforms I tried to put through are probably rethinking that now."

Mr. Clinton blamed congressional Republicans and Harvey L. Pitt now chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission for blocking a Clinton-backed proposal to bar accounting firms such as Arthur Anderson from hiring themselves out as auditors and consultants to the same corporate clients.

Another initiative, a rule change proposed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board in 1994, would have required companies to charge against current earnings the value of stock options that they gave executives and other employees.

The disputed measures were never clear-cut partisan issues. They were supported by some lawmakers in both parties who thought the measures would be helpful, but opposed by others, also in both parties, who thought they would do more harm than good.

Republicans say it was Democrats such as Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman and others now complaining the loudest about corporate accounting scandals who played key roles in killing the proposed reforms.

"Clinton apparently forgot that Senator Lieberman led the charge for Senate Democrats against Clinton's own SEC chairman," Mr. Dyke said. "In fact, Arthur Levitt was extremely upset with Lieberman for leading Senate Democrats to sink two proposed [changes in] regulations."

The proposals would have required higher accountability standards in the accounting profession.

"[Mr. Clintons] own party and especially Joe Lieberman are the ones that helped frustrate his proposals," Mr. Dyke said. "Twenty Democrats voted to override Clinton's veto of the bill to amend securities-industry regulations."

Mr. Lieberman said July 14 that he "had no regrets about his opposition" to Clinton administration proposals for the Financial Accounting Standards Board and International Accounting Standards Board. Mr. Lieberman, like some of his Republican colleagues, thought the proposals would hurt business and accomplish little else.

Mr. Clinton said he vetoed the 1995 bill to curb securities-fraud suits because he said it "basically cut off investors from being able to sue if they were getting the shaft."

But the bill's backers believed the measure was necessary to protect businesses from opportunistic lawyers.

"One law firm was filing more than 70 percent of the predatory lawsuits against securities firms," a Republican legislative aide recalled. "The measure was a recognition that some standard had to be set to prevent securities ambulance chasers from going wild."

Democrats in both houses of Congress joined to form the two-thirds margin necessary to override Mr. Clinton's veto of the measure 68-30 in the Senate and 319-100 in the House.

Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican, was singled out Wednesday by Mr. Clinton as an opponent of corporate-accountability measures.

But Mr. Gramm yesterday pointed out that Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, "was the principal sponsor of the securities-litigation reform bill" that Mr. Clinton vetoed. "It was a bipartisan bill and the Congress, on a bipartisan basis, was able to override Clinton's veto," Mr. Gramm said.

"There is no evidence that the legislation was a mistake and [Federal Reserve Chairman] Alan Greenspan said as much in a hearing up here last week," Mr. Gramm said.

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