MediaWatch: June 1, 1998

Vol. Twelve No. Eight

Revolving Door: NBC's China Waiver Saver

A former NBC News VP lobbied the Clinton team to grant Loral the waiver at the center of the China connection scandal, the papers the White House released May 22 disclosed. Writing about the efforts made by Loral Chairman Bernard Schwartz to secure approval from the President for the deal with China, Washington Post reporters Roberto Suro and John F. Harris relayed May 23:

"The documents indicate that Schwartz, who has given more than $1 million to the Democratic Party since 1995, planned to raise the issue directly with National Security Adviser Samuel R. 'Sandy' Berger at a state dinner for British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Feb. 5. However, Loral Vice President Thomas Ross wrote to Berger a week later that Schwartz 'missed you in the crowd' and was not able to make his case. Instead, Ross, who served as a senior National Security Council official earlier in the Clinton administration, pleaded in his Feb. 13 letter for speedy action by the President: 'If a decision is not forthcoming in the next day or so we stand to lose the contract,' Ross wrote. 'In fact, even if the decision is favorable, we will lose substantial amounts of money with each passing day.' Five days later, Clinton granted his approval, despite what Berger advised him were Justice concerns that the move 'could have a significant adverse impact' on its ongoing criminal investigation....'"

Ross did hold a top position with the NSC, Senior Director for Public Affairs, a slot he occupied in 1994-95 until he jumped to Loral as VP for government relations. What the Post failed to note: Ross served as Senior VP of NBC News from 1986-89 and that wasn't his first swing through the revolving door. When President Carter took office Ross left his position as Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times to become Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.