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CyberAlert -- 10/28/1997 -- Indonesian Gardener Talks But Nets Don't Listen; Hillary in the AM

Indonesian Gardener Talks But Nets Don't Listen; Hillary in the AM

  1. The "Indonesian gardener" contradicts the DNC's story, revealing that his donations came from Indonesia and were solicited by John Huang while he was at Commerce. The nets ignore.
  2. A brewing scandal involving a Wisconsin casino, Bruce Babbitt and a tribe buying a favor, but ABC, CBS and CNN have yet to focus on it.
  3. Last Thursday's morning show questions for Hillary Clinton. All prompt her to elaborate on the "crisis" and wonder why government can't do more.

1) Another day, another Los Angeles Times disclosure for the networks to ignore. An October 27 LA Times headline read "Indonesians Contradict Democrats on Donations: Account by couple doesn't fit explanations offered by DNC regarding $450,000 in contributions. Party later returned money." Reporters Alan Miller and Glenn Bunting, in a story also picked up by Monday's Washington Post, revealed:

"Breaking their long silence in the scandal over foreign donations to American political campaigns, an Indonesian couple who gave $450,000 to the Democratic Party have told Senate investigators that the funds came from a wealthy relative in Jakarta.

"Their detailed account contradicts previous explanations by Democratic officials and raises new questions about the legality of the party's largest individual contributions during the last election cycle.

"Arief Wiriadinata, referred to disparagingly in some news accounts as an 'Indonesian gardener,' and his wife, Soraya, explained during a lengthy interview in Jakarta in June how they made a series of five-figure payments to the Democratic National Committee between November 1995 and July 1996.

"Their statements, contained in internal Senate documents obtained by The Times, are particularly intriguing because of the couple's ties to other controversial participants in the fund-raising controversy.

"Soraya's father, Hashim Ning, was a close business partner of Mochtar Riady, the patriarch of the Indonesia-based Lippo Group conglomerate and a longtime supporter of President Clinton. Ning wired $500,000 to the Wiriadinatas for the contributions in November 1995, records show.

"The couple then began making sizable donations, their first ever, at the direction of John Huang, a former Lippo executive and then-Commerce Department official, shortly before he moved to a fund-raising job at the DNC.

"Huang was aided by James Riady, Mochtar's son, who two months earlier had arranged an Oval Office meeting with Clinton to help facilitate Huang's hiring as DNC finance vice chairman. The Riady connection accounts for one of the most compelling moments captured on the recently released White House videotapes of fund-raising events: Arief Wiriadinata shaking hands with Clinton and confiding, 'James Riady sent me.'

"DNC and White House officials have said that the Wiriadinatas gave so lavishly to the Democrats because they were grateful that Clinton sent a get-well note to Ning, who suffered a heart attack during a 1995 visit to the United States. But Arief Wiriadinata provided a different explanation to Senate Governmental Affairs Committee investigators: All the donations were either solicited or recommended by Huang, who in turn promised to arrange business meetings for Wiriadinata with prominent Asian Americans."

The Times reporters also pointed out that "the couple made the initial donations when Huang was still employed by the Commerce Department and legally prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions."

Coverage of this latest evidence of White House dissembling: Not a word Monday on the ABC, CBS or NBC morning shows, reported MRC news analysts Eric Darbe, Steve Kaminski and Geoffrey Dickens. And Monday night, nothing about fundraising on ABC's World News Tonight, the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News which all devoted about half their shows to the stock market. The stock market dive bumped Inside Politics as CNN showed CNNfn for a few hours Monday afternoon and World Today a few hours later failed to pick up the Indonesia development.


2) Some TV coverage, barely, of the Chippewa Indian casino scandal. Friday night on ABC's World News Tonight anchor Diane Sawyer spent 18 seconds to tell viewers:

"Another member of the Clinton Administration could face an independent counsel. The Justice Department has launched a 30 day inquiry into whether Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt lied about pressure he received from the White House to prevent a Wisconsin Indian tribe from opening a casino."

ABC viewers, of course, would have no idea what Indian tribe matter Sawyer was talking about since ABC has yet to outline the particulars for viewers, though AP and Wall Street Journal stories fleshed out the details last week. CBS and NBC didn't mention it Friday night, but a few weeks ago NBC at least aired a full story about the subject. As detailed in the October 8 CyberAlert, on the October 7 NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw announced:

"With all that you've been hearing about fundraising and reform now all but dead, tonight we have an exclusive report on what appears to be a very direct link between money for the Democrats in this case and a high level policy decision in favor of those who gave. NBC's Lisa Myers tonight on the competing interests of Indian Tribes, casinos, and cold hard cash."

Myers explained how the Chippewa Indian Tribe in Wisconsin tried to turn a struggling dog track into a casino. Federal officials in area supported the new casino, but richer tribes that gave money to the Democrats didn't want to the new casino competition. They set out to kill the new casino by meeting with Clinton and top Democratic officials. They sent a letter to Ickes, saying tribes wanting the new casino were Republicans, those opposing were Democrats who gave substantial money to the DNC. Two months later, Bruce Babbitt killed the casino project, overruling local officials for first time ever on such a case.

In an October 22 op-ed Wall Street Journal editorial writer John Fund revealed that the White House refused to release to the Thompson committee the relevant documents until after Harold Ickes had testified. Further, Fund noted: "Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, whose office denied the casino license, sent an October 10 letter to Senator Thompson in effect retracting his previous denial that he told an old friend and lobbyist that Mr. Ickes had ordered a quick decision against the Chippewa casino."

Fund also relayed how a federal judge appointed by President Carter "has reviewed summaries of the memos the White House had been withholding and ruled that 'there is considerable evidence that suggests that improper political pressure may have influenced agency decision-making.'"

In an AP story carried by the October 23 Washington Post, reporter James Rowley began: "Despite warnings that White House involvement would be 'disastrous' and 'political poison,' presidential aides contacted the Interior Department three times in 1995 about an Indian casino opposed by a Democratic fundraiser, internal memos show."

It's not as if the network reporters don't know about the story or don't find it interesting. As transcribed by MRC intern Rebecca Hinnershitz, on Sunday's (October 26) Face the Nation, CBS reporter Bob Schieffer asked Senator Fred Thompson:

"Let me ask you quickly about Bruce Babbitt, the Secretary of the Interior. As you know, there's quite a controversy. There are a group of Indian tribes, it is reported, who lobbied hard to get a casino killed out in the Midwest because another group of Indians had wanted to start up. There have been reports that the White House pressured the Secretary of the Interior to kill that. Shortly afterward the people who wanted it killed gave $300,000 to the Democratic Party. You were going ask Interior Secretary Babbitt to come before the committee as I understand it. How serious do you think all this is?"

Not serious enough to warrant a story on CBS! "There's quite a controversy" according to Schieffer, but zilch about it through Monday night on the CBS Evening News. So, ABC and CBS viewers know nothing about this quid pro quo of policy for a donation since neither has run a story on it (other than Friday's 18 seconds on ABC) and NBC hasn't followed up on any of the developments since their story aired. And through last Friday night, MRC news analyst Clay Waters informed me, The World Today had yet to mention the casino controversy.


3) Finally, as promised, here are the "questions" posed last Thursday morning (October 23) by the three morning show hosts to Hillary Clinton.

A Cato Institute "Policy Analysis" released last week concluded that "there is no child care crisis" since "96 percent of parents are satisfied with their child care arrangements; child care fees have not changed in real terms since the late 1970s; and the number of child care providers has kept pace with the swelling demand for child care." In the detailed report Cato analyst Darcy Olsen disproves the liberal assumptions for which Hillary Clinton proposed a solution, showing how child care is affordable and how government would only make things worse. Even an HHS study "found no indication that unregulated family day care was either harmful or dangerous to children."

To read the full Policy Analysis, go to: http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-285.html

Keep Cato's points in mind as you read these questions. Other than one mild inquiry from NBC's Katie Couric about the concerns of conservatives, none express any doubt about the reality of a "silent crisis" and several equate spending with quality as if a cheap relative is worse than a slightly less than well paid worker at a center. Most "questions" were little more than prompts for her to elaborate on things like low pay and lack of affordability. The challenges to Mrs. Clinton come from the left, as in how she's not proposing enough government action.

From ABC's Good Morning America, as put together by MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen. Lisa McRee's October 23 questions:

"Is our child care system in this country in crisis?"

"What does it cost to provide good quality child care for a child for a year?"

"We've seen a real range from $4,000 to $10,000 a year people spend per child. But the experts say that it really costs $6,800 per child for a year to provide quality child care. The average American only spends $4,000. Will this administration provide any funding to help make up that difference if, in fact, it's going to cost more to provide quality care?"

"Now, you have talked about models in this Meacham (ph), Florida. You talked about different models we should look to, the military's model. Will you give us an idea of why that worked so well?"

"The military did turn it around. I understand there's some 200,000 children cared for by that program."

"And 85 percent of them are accredited, which is not the case, a fraction are accredited in the public sector."

"But you said, you mentioned it, they did spend the money. They spend $6,800 per child per year and again, how are we going to make up that difference without some sort of money coming from the federal government?"

"There's going to be a lot of topics addressed in this conference. Do you expect policy to come out of any of it or is it just a way to focus attention?"

"What have you learned about navigating through, not just the politics, but the PR of putting yourself in front of a hot political issue?"

"Do you think it's easier for the public to accept you as a woman in front of an issue about children rather than something more broad like health care?"

"You had to put Chelsea in child care. You went back to work. When did you go back, and were you ever worried?"

This Morning on CBS, as transcribed by MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski. Questions from Jane Robelot:

"We talk about the future of America's children and how America's future rests with those children. And yet we look at them and their future rests with us. This morning you're beginning a child care initiative, opening up a discussion in this country that you and your husband have found very important personally through the years."

"But I think it's interesting that you say if parents just demand better child care then there would be a supply that would rise in a minute. But economically, it's very difficult."

"What is the cost of ignoring this issue?"

"Are you a little bit tentative about stepping into the spotlight? You embraced the health care issue, which was a big bite to take. And it was a failed attempt at health care reform. Now, just a few days before your 50th birthday, you're stepping back into that spotlight again. The public, though, is a little more receptive to child care issues. Personally, are you a little more tentative about [it]?"

"What will a win be? Are you going to announce any real policy initiatives today?"

"And even going to become more of a real life issue as welfare reform takes over in more states. If people are following the Wisconsin example, women will be required to go to work when their babies are six weeks old. And these are going to be the working poor. There we're really looking for more federal and state dollars or more private sector involvement, as you point to Florida. Is that a great example for the country to look at? What makes it so?"

"We all watched Chelsea go off to school. And we watched that hand holding and head patting and this look in your eyes that said, 'Is this really time for this?' Through all those years watching her grow up, dealing with child care issues yourself, dealing with the guilt that you just talked about, in the end, do you feel like you did it all right? That every step along the way that was the right thing to do or do you second guess, Should I have?'"

"Were you criticized for it along the way? I mean you were making the decisions to go to work. You know, you were sort of that first group of women who came along and said, 'You know I would like a career as well?'"

"I promised that I would pass along some advice to you... Monday on This Morning, Faye Wattleton, who is a lovely 54, and Lauren Hutton, a lovely 53, came on and said, 'We want to say to Hillary: 50 is the greatest yet. You give yourself permission to just do whatever you want to do.' So I have to ask: what will you give yourself permission to do starting Sunday?"

Do more media interviews? She couldn't ask for a more compliant press corps.

NBC's Today, questions from Katie Couric as transcribed by MRC news analyst Eric Darbe:

"Well, let's talk about child care if we could because this conference is taking place at the White House today and it is clear that day care in this country is inaccessible to many, cost prohibitive for others, substandard in many situations, what can the government actually do to alleviate some of these problems."

[in reaction to Mrs. Clinton boasting about the Family and Medical Leave Act] "In fact, I understand that you would like the conference to discuss ways that parents who stay at home can get some kind of financial assistance. Is that realistic?"

"As you well know, experts are saying, perhaps the root of the problem is that child care workers are woefully underpaid, and the quality of child care workers in this country is simply substandard, and yet many families, families I think the census bureau says that families earning $14,500 a year spend about quarter of their income on child care so there is a real paradox here, how to you reconcile those two issues."

"As you know, Mrs. Clinton, regulations for at home day care vary so much from state to state in terms of the ratio of children to day care provider, do you think there should be some kind of overall federal regulations?"

"What about a national registry of child care workers with criminal records I know that that would be extremely helpful to parents who want to know more about the people caring for their kids, you had suggested that at one point, and now you seem to be backing off, how come?"

"A lot of conservative Republicans fear that this conference is going to lay the groundwork for massive government spending and regulation. What's you reaction to their concerns?"

"You have told audiences lately that small incremental changes are better than say a massive overhaul. Do you think you've learned from your experience of trying to reform the health care system?"

"You continue to talk about issues you care deeply about, particularly regarding women, families, and children but you certainly have not taken such a high profile policy making role since your health care reform efforts were unsuccessful and your job approval, I understand, is at an all time high, by one poll a whopping 67 percent. Do you interpret that as Americans simply are not ready to have a First Lady in such a high profile public policy role?"

"Before we go I have to ask you: How is life without Chelsea?"

There's actually even more sucking up to explore. Coming tomorrow: CNN's interview with Hillary Clinton, plus another news story on the glories of French day care. If only we cared about children as much as do the French.

-- Brent Baker