CyberAlert -- 05/10/1997 -- Make Feds Pay for Schools; ABC Pounces on RNC

Make Feds Pay for Schools; ABC Pounces on RNC

1. Funds cut from the federal budget for local school repair prompts Peter Jennings to ask a liberal Senator: "How can you stand for that?"

2. RNC returns one donation. ABC declares "the foreign money scandal now has officially spread to both parties."

"The Family Hour: No Place for Your Kids," a special report from the MRC's Parents Television Council, is now available on the MRC's home page:

1) More federal spending is the only way to prevent school buildings from collapsing on top of helpless children, ABC's Peter Jennings argued Thursday night. The May 8 World News Tonight led with a Senate hearing which presented video of crumbling school buildings, a story skipped by both CBS and NBC that night.

Reporter Michelle Norris examined the crumbling schools in Marysville, Missouri. She noted that Marysville residents turned down six school repair bond issues over ten years. But the fact that the local people closest to the problem often don't find it the highest priority didn't deter Peter Jennings from placing it at the top of the federal list. He interviewed Senator Carol Moseley- Braun, liberal Democrat from Illinois. Here are his questions:

-- "In 1994 Congress passed the Education and Infrastructure Act appropriating $100 million for repairs of infrastructure. Funds were eliminated in 1995, why?"

-- "In July 1996 in the Rose Garden, with you at his elbow, President Clinton commits to spending five billion dollars over four years on school construction, a spending increase of 25 percent. He makes a very fancy speech. Where's the money?"

-- "But this is your President. He gave up the five billion dollars in the budget negotiations with the Congress. How can you stand for that?"

The next night Jennings offered a correction, sort of: "Last night on this program we asked Democratic Senator Carol Moseley- Braun why Congress has rescinded $100 million allocated for school repairs in 1995. Senator Braun blamed the Republican revolution. There is another point of view. As Republicans in Congress pointed out today, the administration itself called for the cuts."

If that's true then it's not just "another point of view," it's a factual correction.

2) ABC's World News Tonight hasn't bothered to tell viewers about dozens of revelations on the Hubbell, Whitewater and Democratic fundraising front, but they didn't miss an opportunity to jump on the "everybody does it" theme.

Peter Jennings announced Thursday night:

"From Washington today, an object lesson in money and politics. For months the Republicans have been hounding the Democratic Party about illegal campaign contributions it accepted from foreign donors and later had to return. Today, the Republicans had to admit, they did it too."

Reporter Linda Douglass explained:

"Republican Party officials were embarrassed to announce today they will return more than $100,000 in contributions to the party which came from a company in Hong Kong, Young Brothers. Party leaders say they thought the money came from Young Brothers' American subsidiary. That would be legal. But Young Brothers' American branch appears to be just a shell corporation. The campaign donations actually came from Hong Kong. That's not legal."

After a soundbite from RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson, Douglass continued:

"There are questions about why it took the Republicans so long to discover that the source of the money was foreign. The President of Young Brothers' American subsidiary is a former Republican Party Chairman, Richard Richards and another former GOP Chairman, Haley Barbour, knew the company well enough to get a $2.2 million dollar loan for a Republican Party think tank. Democrats pounced, announcing the foreign money scandal now has officially spread to both parties."

Senator Carl Levin: "What this proves is, what the public has sensed and what many of us know, which is that there is a bi- partisan problem."

On the CBS Evening News Dan Rather began a brief item: "The Republican Party announced today that it too will give back campaign funds from overseas. This, after months of criticizing Democrats for doing the same..."

In all the effort of saying both are "doing the same," neither ABC or CBS noted some big differences: The RNC admits to $122,000, a fraction of the $3 million and climbing the DNC plans to return from illegal foreign donations. And, Democratic fundraisers actively solicited and maneuvered to hid the real source of donations.

Here are just a few of the scandal developments over the past month or so that ABC didn't bother reporting:

-- May 5. A New York Times story on how two lawyers close to the Clintons knew the scope of Hubbell's problems well before he resigned and one told the Clintons of the situation, thus contradicting the Clinton line that they did not know.

-- May 2. The White House released documents showing that they had misled the public about contacts with Hubbell, conceding Bill and Hillary met with Hubbell four times in 1994 after he resigned.

-- April 23. The Hill newspaper reported: "In the first solid evidence of illegal campaign contributions by a foreign government official in a dozen years, the Federal Election Commission is investigating at least $46,000 in contributions from a senior Indian intelligence officer to 18 current and former Democratic congressional candidates."

-- April 16. The Washington Post raised more questions about "hush money" for Hubbell, revealing that "In the nine months after he resigned from the Justice Department in 1994 and before he pleaded guilty to charges of bilking his former law firm, Webster H ubbell had more than 70 meetings with Clinton administration officials, records show."

-- April 13. A front page Washington Post story detailed how Democrats "channeled millions of dollars to state Democratic parties last year, effectively hiding big contributions from tobacco, gambling and other special interests." USA Today and CNN ran stories earlier on narrower aspects of the scheme. Nonetheless, without noting the hypocrisy, on April 16 Jennings announced: "The Clinton administration has been very concerned about the increase in teenage smoking recently and very vocal about its belief that the tobacco companies deliberately go after kids..."

-- April 8. "White House Gave DNC Top-Secret Intelligence: Information Used to Rescind Dinner Invitation," announced a Washington Post headline.

-- April 4. "A Felon's Donation to Democrats Was Sought in Cuba, Inquiry Says" read a front page New York Times headline.

-- April 4. The DNC had an elaborate plan of how to not raise suspicions while funneling money to non-profit get out the vote groups, the Los Angeles Times discovered. The April 4 story explained: "The plan...called for the Democratic National Committee to transfer 'limited' amounts of money to tax-exempt groups that sign up voters or get them to the polls on election day. The limit the memo suggested was $500,000. 'Grants of amounts much larger would risk drawing public, press and FEC attention,' wrote DNC chief counsel Joe Sandler."

-- April 3. The Washington Post and New York Times reported that President Clinton knew DNC fundraising was breaking the law. The Times reported: "On another document, in October 1996, which projected the debt that the Democratic committee was likely to face after the election and recommended that the committee budget $1 million for potential fines, Mr. Clinton wrote 'Ugh.'"

-- April 1. The Wall Street Journal reported that a large donor's money may have come from the Chinese government: "Charlie Yah Lin Trie, a central figure in the controversy over foreign contributions to the Democratic Party, received a series of substantial wire transfers in 1995 and 1996 from a bank operated by the Chinese government. The transfers from the New York office of the Bank of China, usually in increments of $50,000 or $100,000, came at a time when Mr. Trie was directing large donations to the Democratic National Committee."

If ABC finds Republicans did anything like the items on this list I bet they won't hesitate to highlight it.

-- Brent Baker