Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr

Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr

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Jan. 16 1997 3:30 AM

Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr

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       While the ethically challenged Newt Gingrich has done his best to paralyze and polarize Congress with his headline-grabbing misdeeds, the politically partisan special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, continues his "nationwide speaking tour" concerning his Whitewater investigation surrounding the president and first lady--a tour that has taken him to Clinton critic Pat Robertson's Regent University (previously known as the Christian Broadcasting Network University) in Virginia Beach for a keynote address in October 1996; to the Economic Club of Detroit; and most recently, to the Oklahoma Bar Association's annual luncheon in Oklahoma City in November 1996, where Starr abandoned his prepared remarks of "A Contemporary View of Justice and Juries" and chose instead to deliver remarks entitled "Whitewater and the Independent Counsel Statute: Lessons from Watergate." The address in Oklahoma City focused on the politically partisan Starr's favorite obsession, Susan McDougal and her interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News.
       While the politically partisan Starr pursues his "nationwide speaking tour," it seems an appropriate time to point out:
       "The Top 10 Reasons Why Ken Starr Will Never Be Able to Make a Fair, Impartial, and Objective Decision Relative to Bill and Hillary Clinton."
       1) Starr is the lead counsel for President Clinton's most potent political enemy, the tobacco industry, in the case of Castano vs. American Tobacco Co. 84 F3d, 734 (5th Circuit 1996), as well as representing major tobacco companies Phillip Morris and Brown & Williamson during his Whitewater tenure.
       2) Starr has established himself as a "One-Man Republican Political-Action Committee," recently donating, for example, $2,000 to the successful campaign of current Republican Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma, as well as contributing $1,750 to his law firm's political-action committee so that they could donate to the presidential campaign of Republican Bob Dole in 1996. Further, in 1994, Starr contributed $5,475 to Republican candidates for federal office.
       3) Starr's own law firm was sued by the same Resolution Trust Corp. that he professes to advocate for, as he pursues his Whitewater-related vendettas. His firm of Kirkland & Ellis was sued by the RTC for its connection to a failed bank. In January 1996, Starr's firm settled the matter for $325,000, a conflict of interest that persisted throughout the first two years of Starr's Whitewater investigation, as Starr's firm was allowed to pay some $700,000 less than what the RTC originally predicted it should recover.
       4) Starr provided legal advice in the Paula Jones civil suit against the president, and the politically partisan Starr filed a brief for the Republican National Committee in another case before the court.
       5) Starr gave the briefcase of deceased White House counsel Vince Foster to a Republican senator for use as a tool for political grandstanding during a 1995 Senate Whitewater hearing, having no respect for the sacredness of a deceased person's property that had been entrusted to Starr's custody by virtue of his investigative responsibilities. As a former prosecutor, I believe such conduct is a breach of prosecutorial ethics.
       6) Starr allowed a steady leak of information to flow out of his office to the press. For example, the May 6, 1996, Newsweek reported that sources close to the inquiry revealed that FBI experts have identified Mrs. Clinton's fingerprints on the billing records. While this was no surprise, since Mrs. Clinton had earlier explained she might have handled the billing records during the 1992 campaign, Republicans used the leak to attack the first lady. Why didn't Mr. Starr's office leak the fact that no fingerprints were found for any of the White House personnel and friends that were accused by Republicans of conspiring to hide the billing records? The April 1996 article in The New Yorker magazine reported that "a top official with the investigation" described the odds in favor of indicting first lady Hillary Clinton as "at least 50-50." Starr continues to blame such improper leaks on the media, refusing to take any personal responsibility.
       7) Starr defended the state of Wisconsin's controversial school-voucher program, with the conservative Bradley Foundation picking up the tab. The Bradley Foundation funds numerous right-wing enterprises that have provided forums for some of the president's harshest critics to discuss Whitewater. These include the American Spectator magazine and the Free Congress Foundation.
       8) Starr is the first independent counsel in history to issue a press release against a convicted and incarcerated felon simply because she, Susan McDougal, was getting better press coverage than Starr, thereby demonstrating Starr's complete loss of professional and prosecutorial objectivity and balance. In addition, I cannot find another prosecution in the entire United States where a federal prosecutor has pursued such oppressive "contempt after conviction" tactics in a savings-and-loan fraud case as Starr has employed in his not-so-magnificent obsession against Susan McDougal.
       9) Starr has pursued the "criminalization of politics" by bringing bogus charges against Robert Hill and Herby Branscum Jr., two Arkansan bankers. Starr used a federal statute that has never been used by another federal prosecutor--any time, anywhere--to pursue a charge on the fact circumstances presented in this case. It came as no surprise to legal observers that the charges led to acquittals and dismissals. It was, in fact, a purely political prosecution that the politically partisan Starr will most certainly always regret, just as inspector Javert in Les Miserables eventually regrets his obsessive and relentless pursuit of Jean Valjean.
       10) Starr's own adviser, Sam Dash, has criticized Starr's decisions. "If I had my own preferences, he'd be a full-time independent counsel. ... What he's doing is proper ... but it does have an odor to it," Dash told The New Yorker. "There's a growing perception that the Whitewater investigation has been politicized because of Ken Starr's conduct," asserts Stephen Gillers, a professor of legal ethics at New York University Law School, where Starr teaches.
       Needless to say, Starr continues his "nationwide speaking tour" instead of finishing his investigation, which has already cost America's taxpayers over $17.2 million!

Michael Turpen is a lawyer and former attorney general of Oklahoma. To learn more about his views on the conduct of the independent counsel's office, read his exchange with Kenneth Starr. Theodore Olson is a lawyer in Washington, D.C. He served as the U.S. assistant attorney general under President Reagan from 1981 to 1984.