Democrats seek payback over financial scandals
With financial scandals causing embarrassment for George Bush, Democrats are
planning revenge on the Republicans who sought to bring down the Clinton administration.
  by Julian Borger reports

(They are not)


Among other things, George Bush promised to bring honour and integrity
to the White House, but now he has taken up occupancy he is finding that
those virtues are harder to define and defend than he can ever have
imagined. Despite his January exhortation to his staff to avoid any hint
of scandal, there is already talk of financial impropriety a mere five months later.

Throughout the eight years of the Clinton administration, the
Republicans kept the White House under siege with one investigation
after another. There was Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate and finally,
of course Monicagate - a never-ending procession of scandal and alleged
scandal pushed along by a coterie of right-wing think tanks which sprung
up in Clinton's Washington like well-funded guerilla bands.

Now it is payback time.

(Yes, but our side is afraid to anger Mr Rove)

Characteristically, it is money rather than sex which is causing the
problems for the Bush White House. Most of the new power-brokers are
wealthy former businessmen like their boss, and they are finding it hard
to bid farewell to their portfolios.

Karl Rove, the political mastermind behind the Bush campaign, is under
scrutiny for an apparent conflict of interests between his considerable
stock holdings and his post-election role of White House strategist, and
the Democrats are smelling a hint of blood.

Rove's current problems emanate from a meeting he held in March with top
executives from the computer chip manufacturer, Intel, who were pushing
for a merger. The merger was approved, to the benefit of Intel and its
shareholders, including Mr Rove, who owned $100,000 in Intel stock at
the time. The White House say that Rove had been trying to unload the
Intel shares from the moment he arrived in Washington but the paperwork
had been taking an eternity to come through. Furthermore, the
administration said, Rove played no role in the decision to permit the
merger, but it remains unclear what business a political advisor would
have in meeting a delegation of computer executives.

Henry Waxman, a Democratic representative from California is calling for
a congressional investigation of the Intel White House meeting. It would
not be the only enquiry underway into the business dealings of the new
administration. The treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill has taken a
similarly long time to divest himself of a large shareholding in the
Alcoa aluminum corporation, the value of which has increased 30 per cent
since the Bush administration came to office.

The government General Accounting Office is looking into links between
Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force and the energy industry
itself. The task force produced a strategic plan which was highly
favourable to the oil, coal and nuclear corporations. However Cheney
blocked a GAO request to see notes and minutes of task force meetings as
his lawyer said the request would "intrude into the heart of executive
deliberations", an odd choice of phrase as such intrusion represents the
GAO's statutory obligation.

Even if the bulk of these irregularities turn out to be a matter of
ineptitude rather than sleaze, the zeal of the Democratic detectives is
unlikely to wane. Opposition through investigation has become one of the
most effective weapons in the Washington armoury, and the Republicans
can blame no one more than themselves.

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