- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2003

Sen. Edwards’ ethics questioned

Presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards agreed to sell his home for $3.52 million to the public relations specialist hired by Saudi Arabia to counter charges it was soft on terrorism while Mr. Edwards was a member of the congressional investigation into U.S. and Saudi intelligence failures.

Mr. Edwards, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said yesterday he learned sometime during the course of the 2002 transaction — months after the initial offer was signed but before the deal fell apart — that Michael Petruzzello worked for Saudi Arabia.

Though the sale broke off nearly a year ago, Mr. Edwards hasn’t returned or publicly disclosed Mr. Petruzzello’s $100,000 deposit, which remains in a real estate escrow account as the senator decides what to do with it. Mr. Edwards recently sold the house to another buyer for a half-million dollars less than Mr. Petruzzello’s offer.

The Senate ethics manual says lawmakers are obligated to avoid financial transactions that create even the “possibility or appearance” of a conflict of interest or if “they have personal financial stakes in the outcome of their official duties.” Discretion is left to the senator.

Mr. Edwards said he handled the transaction through real estate agents and doesn’t believe he had any obligation to try to learn about Mr. Petruzzello’s clients.

Several ethics specialists who reviewed the transaction at the request of the Associated Press said they believed Mr. Edwards had an obligation to recognize the appearance of a conflict of interest once he learned of the Saudi connection, either disclosing the transaction or seeking Senate Ethics Committee clearance.

Clinton stumps for Philly mayor

PHILADELPHIA — Saying he knows “quite a bit about Republicans investigating Democrats,” President Clinton led a raucous campaign rally for embattled Mayor John Street yesterday, four days ahead of the election.

Mr. Clinton compared his impeachment to the FBI investigation of the Street administration, saying Republicans in Washington “ought to be investigating [Mr. Streets] public record because it’s a lot better than theirs.”

The investigation, which became public Oct. 7 when police discovered a hidden listening device in Mr. Street’s City Hall office, has made the famously taciturn Mr. Street “downright charismatic,” Mr. Clinton joked.

Democrats have blamed the federal probe on Republicans trying to harm the mayor politically — a charge that has resonated strongly among black voters. Mr. Street is black; his Republican opponent, businessman Sam Katz, is white.

“When people go after someone personally, it’s because they can’t beat them heads-up on the issues,” Mr. Clinton told hundreds of cheering union members and party activists.

Authorities have said the investigation dates back months and has nothing to do with the election. They will not say what they are investigating, but records dealing with city contracts have been subpoenaed.

Sister discounts Peterson’s story

MODESTO, Calif. — Laci Peterson’s sister testified yesterday that Scott Peterson said he had golf plans on Christmas Eve, throwing into question his story about going fishing the day his pregnant wife vanished.

Amy Rocha, a hairdresser, said she cut Scott Peterson’s hair Dec. 23 and that he had offered to pick up a gift basket for their grandfather near the country club where he was a member.

“He said he was going to be out that way golfing,” she testified. “I assumed all day.”

Mr. Peterson, 31, told police he last saw his wife about 9:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve as he left to go fishing near Berkeley. He told them he returned to Modesto late that afternoon, shortly before family members reported Laci Peterson missing about 6 p.m.

On the third day of a preliminary hearing to determine if Mr. Peterson will stand trial for the slaying of his 27-year-old wife and unborn son, prosecutors began laying the foundation for Laci Peterson’s disappearance with testimony from the last people known to have seen her alive.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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