Reed Irvine - Editor
|April A, 1997|
When Vice President Gore toppled headfirst into the Democrat fundraising scandals, many persons in the media expressed surprise that he was caught up in such unseemly doings. "Gore long has been called the Boy Scout of the Clinton Administration, a politician of such integrity and personal probity that even Clinton has jokingly complained about the Vice President's glowing press," Dan Balz wrote in The Washington Post. Columnist Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal, who hugs Democrats with the same passion as Gore hugs trees, was impelled to ask whether Gore was "Mr. Clean or the Godfather?" Maureen Dowd of The New York Times used the past tense in referring to the "lovingly drawn self-portrait of a numbingly earnest guy."
But is Al Gore's glowing reputation justified? And are there shadows in his family background that deserve media exploration before the year 1997 rolls around and he becomes a major contender for the presidency?
One of the minor mysteries of American politics has been the source of the wealth of the Gore family. When Gore's father, Albert, Sr., was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1938, he was an impecunious Tennessee school teacher who eked out extra dollars by playing fiddle at church weddings. But later, as a United States Senator [1953-1970] he lived in the plush Fairfax Hotel on Embassy Row [now the Ritz-Carlton] in Washington and sent Al Jr., to the pricey St. Albans School, the haunt of kids from Social Register families.
The media downplayed these high-class surroundings when Gore ran for Vice President in 1992. People Magazine pictured Al, Jr. at age 10 exhibiting a cow at a country auction in Carthage, Tenn. The New York Times Magazine, in a gushy piece by Alex S. Jones, asserted that beginning at age 5, Al was often left with a family of tenant farmers on his father's spread whose "home had no indoor plumbing and was heated by a single coal-burning fireplace." Gore's private sector jobs were few; a college summer stint as an office boy at The New York Times, service as an army journalist in Vietnam, and three years as a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean before his election to the House in 1976 at age 28.
When Clinton picked Gore as his running mate, Helen Dewar wrote in The Washington Post, "His appearance with Clinton at a noon rally [in Little Rock] was a carefully staged tableau that stressed the running mates' common small-town southern roots in Carthage and Hope, Ark." In a New York Times profile the same day, David Rosenbaum wrote that during his Tennessee summers Gore "worked in the fields with the tenant farmers during the days and hunted with coon dogs at night." [The latter claim seems hyperbolic; our office expert on coon hunting says the sport is best pursued in the chill of autumn.] The Times said the Gores had assets of "less than $1 million, and most of that is tied up in two homes," one in Arlington, Va., where Mrs. Gore grew up, the other in Tennessee.
Katherine Boo wrote in The Washington Post Magazine of Gore Sr.: "A former square-dance caller, he grew famous for playing his fiddle on the hustings between tirades against big business and paeans to the working man." He was "deep in the business of being one of the country's most powerful liberals," Boo wrote.
The senior Gore sometimes spoke vaguely of being related to the wealthy Gore clan of Maryland, a highly political family which at one time owned the Fairfax Hotel. The mention of this connection, however tenuous it might have been in reality, sufficed to satisfy the meager curiosity of journalists in both Washington and Tennessee.
Now a remarkable new book now shows that the senior Gore had a silent partner who for several decades insured that Gore's pockets remained comfortably filled. The partner was Armand Hammer, the multi-millionaire businessman and oil promoter, who apparently collected art and politicians with equal zeal. The revelation is in a new book, Dossier, by veteran investigative author Edward Jay Epstein. Epstein's book is must-reading for any political reporter who is going to be writing about the contenders for the Democratic nomination for president in the year 1997.
According to Epstein's exhaustively researched book, in 1950 Hammer made Gore "a partner in a cattle-breeding business, from which the Senator made a substantial profit." Thereafter, Gore was Hammer's designated door-opener in official Washington. When Gore retired, Hammer made him president of his company's coal division, where he "earned more than $500,000 a year."
Son Al next put the family's Senate seat at Hammer's service. At the 1981 Reagan inauguration, the young Senator Gore arranged for Hammer to be seated in a section reserved for U. S. senators. Hammer lurked in a doorway, hoping to gladhand the President, but Reagan brushed by him without a glance, and with reason. Years earlier, Epstein writes, Alexandre de Marenches, the head of French intelligence, had warned him that Hammer was a Soviet "agent of influence."
Strong suspcions that Hammer's ties with the Soviet Union went beyond business deals have surfaced over the years. Hammer was one of the odder, more odious characters of American business and politics, "famous" chiefly because he was rich enough to promote his mammoth ego. He has met his match in Epstein, who performs the ultimate unmasking of a man who deceived, even betrayed his country, his family and the hired toadies who posed as his friends.
The public persona which Hammer polished, at great expense, was that of renegade oilman who made billions from Libyan oil, chummed around with politicians up to White House level, and adorned acres of galleries with paintings, some priceless, others fake. Hammer's lawyers bedeviled honest journalists who tried to write the truth about him while he was alive. They mostly succeeded in their intimidating efforts. Steve Weinberg, author of an earlier critical biography of Hammer, told us that his British publisher spent $2 million defending a libel suit that died when Hammer passed away at age 92 in 1990.
For Epstein, the story began in 1981, when he interviewed Hammer for The New York Times Magazine. Hammer poured on the charm, taking Epstein to dine with the paper's publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, and treating him to six months of world travel aboard the Oxy One, owned by his Occidental Petroleum Company.
Unfortunately for Hammer, another of Epstein's sources, James Jesus Angleton, head of counterintelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency, whispered a tip about a Soviet agent of influence whom a defector identified as "The Capitalist Prince." Angleton would not accuse Hammer directly but suggested that "another side" of Hammer's activities could be found in documents which British intelligence seized in a 1927 raid on Arcos, the Soviet trade mission in London. Epstein's Times article suggested that Hammer's trade with the USSR served Soviet interests, including espionage. But he had no direct proof. Now the evidence is at hand, and in damning detail, straight from old Soviet archives. The account is of a man who bribed and cheated his way to great wealth--and who started financed with Soviet gold.
Armand Hammer was introduced to communism by his father, Julius, a Russian immigrant, who linked up with Vladimir Lenin at a socialist conference in Berlin in 1907. Julius Hammer "agreed to become part of the elite underground cadre that Lenin would depend on to change the world." A physician by training, Julius built a small drug chain into Allied Drug and Chemical, purveyor of skin creams and herbal medicines.
When the Bolsheviks seized Russia in 1919, Julius worked with Ludwig Martens, Lenin's chief agent in the United States. Julius used Allied, of which Martens was the covert half-owner, to launder sales proceeds of smuggled diamonds. He used the money to finance the Communist Labor Party (CLP), which was dedicated to "overthrowing the government, expropriating banks, and establishing a proletarian dictatorship" in the United States. Julius held card number one. The CLP eventually became the Communist Party, USA. [Armand was named after the party's arm-and-hammer insignia. As a sort of joke in later life he would buy the Arm & Hammer baking soda company, which used the insignia as a trade mark; it also adorned the tail of Occidental Petroleum's corporate jet.]
Julius used Allied Drug to ship equipment to the USSR for which the U.S. government refused export licenses. Julius certified that the shipments were bound for Latvia; in fact, they continued on to Russia. The Soviets were so pleased with Julius's services that they offered Allied a trading concession which stood to earn him millions. Then, disaster struck. Julius ran a small clinic in which young Armand worked while attending medical school. In 1919 the wife of a Czarist-era Russian diplomat went to the clinic for an abortion; she died the next day. Julius would not deny that an abortion had been performed, but he insisted that it was medically justified. A judge disagreed and sentenced him to 3 to 12 years of hard labor.
Years later, Armand Hammer confided to one his mistresses (he had many paramours over the years) that the wrong Hammer went to jail, that in fact he performed the fatal operation. Julius reasoned that a licensed doctor might beat the charge, but that a medical student stood no chance. With his father in jail, in 1921 Armand took over the import deals and left for Moscow on the first leg of an odyssey that ultimately would make him "one of the great con men of the twentieth century," in Epstein's words.
Hammer's cover story was that he helping to feed starving Russians. This was a lie. The Soviets, from Lenin on down, saw him as the ultimate "useful tool" in breaking the USSR out of economic isolation, and in providing a conduit through which Moscow could finance espionage and subversion abroad. Epstein tells in gripping detail how the Soviets used the willing Hammer as a financial errand boy.
Lenin's grand scheme was to "advance the image of a non-threatening and potentially profitable Soviet Russia..." Lenin relied on capitalist greed to make American, German and British business vie for Russian concessions and to force their governments to lift trade restrictions. When one of Lenin's aides asked where he would obtain the rope with which to hang the capitalists, he replied famously, "They'll supply us with it."
Lenin used Hammer as his opening pawn in this economic chess game, offering him an abandoned asbestos mine in return for a promise to bring in wheat. Everyone concerned realized the mine was worthless, but it gave the Soviets a means to transfer money to Comintern agents. Lenin issued orders to "make note of Armand Hammer and in every way help him on my behalf if he applies." There were admonitions to keep the relationship secret lest there be a "fatal effect" on Hammer.
Expansion was swift. Hammer persuaded auto maker Henry Ford to move into the USSR to produce the "Fordson" tractor. There were fur deals, and a Hammer pencil factory was given a monopoly in the USSR. The Soviets gave Hammer sweetheart deals on sales abroad of precious Czarist art. [When Hammer depleted his stock of Faberge eggs, no problem: he counterfeited them in New York.] The most important element was Allied Drug, which acted as the Soviets' de facto banker in the U. S., laundering millions of Soviet dollars through sham transactions. Hammer eventually made millions in such enterprises as liquor, oil refining and art. The constant element, according to Epstein, was bribery and sharp-dealing, including his capstone deal, the acquisition of Libyan oil rights for his Occidental Petroleum Co.
Hammer didn't fool the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover, who in 1919 began creating a massive file, "61-280--Armand Hammer, Internal Security--Russia." Scrawled across the front was, "a rotten bunch." Hoover knew that Hammer financed Comintern agents, but he did not move, knowing that "it is often more profitable not to arrest a detected courier" when there is no assurance that the replacement will be detected.
This is the background of the man who was a hidden moneybags for the Gore family. As late as the 1992 campaign, the media still identified the senior Gore as being head of the old Hammer coal company. We tried without success to get a comment from the retired senator about what he actually did for Hammer, and what expertise he brought to management of a coal mining enterprise.
If Vice President Al Gore survives the Asian and other fund-raising scandals and becomes a contender for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in the year 1997, the media should probe and report the ties between Albert Gore, Sr. and Armand Hammer. Did "Prince Al," as he has been known since his days at swank St. Alban's School, benefit from money from a source even more tainted than shady Asians?
Joan Konner, a former TV producer who is now publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, is a media doyenne whose words carry credibility with her peers. Speaking at the ceremony honoring the winners of the duPont-Columbia Awards for excellence in radio and television , Miss Konner said:
"We're very good at defending all reporting by citing our constitutionally protected freedom. But lately I find myself wondering whether we try hard enough to come up with good reasons for self-restraint, for not telling a story. Sometimes we lose sight of the impact of our work on the human beings we're reporting about...This is journalism that puts every journalist in the line of friendly fire. Some of the public mistrust and even some lawsuits are self-inflicted wounds--from mindless competition, questionable practices, and excesses of the trade."
Her remarks were a prescient advance commentatry on the publication by The Dallas Morning News of a purported "confession" of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The timing of the paper's publication of the sensational story carries an implication that should concern both the public and those in the media who still believe that the right of a free press carries commensurate obligations of civic and moral responsibility. In a nutshell, what the Dallas News said with its story was, "Whatever we obtain, and by whatever means, we are going to publish, and the consequences be hanged."
The story ran as a Federal judge in Denver, where the McVeigh trial is being held, began circulating questionnaires to 1,000 prospective jurors. Written by reporter Pete Slover, the article was said to be based on "confidential defense documents." It purported to be notes "culled from summaries of several 1995 interviews with a defense team member." The most explosive section pertained to McVeigh's reply to a suggestion by the person interviewing him that "he would have been a hero too had he bombed the building at night, when fewer people might have been killed."
The article quoted the supposed defense documents as saying, "McVeigh looked directly into my eyes and told me, 'That would not have gotten the point across to the government. We needed a body count to make our point,' the staff member wrote in notes of the interview with Mr. McVeigh.
"McVeigh's lawyer, Stephen Jones, reacted with understandable fury. Once the "confession" was spread before the public--Denver newspapers and TV stations gave the story wide play--how could he possibly hope to select an impartial jury?
Exactly how the paper obtained the purported 'confession'--and we put quotation marks around that word--remains unresolved. (Lawyers for the paper say it was obtained legally, rejecting Jones's claim that a reporter tapped into the defense computer system.) Doubts also persist about the authenticity of the document, said to be among some 20,000 pages of material which The Dallas News says it obtained from defense files. Citing a court gag order, Jones at first declined either to confirm or deny that the "confession" actually came from his files. But after a few days he claimed it was a bogus document written by his investigators to use when interviewing a potentially helpful witness who was thought to share McVeigh's views.
But the source and the authenticity of the document are irrelevant to a larger issue. Publishing material said to have come from confidential files of a criminal defendant's lawyers on the eve of the trial is the natural consequence of an unbridled license which the courts have given to the media in recent years.
The disturbing trend began with the Pentagon Papers case in 1971, when The New York Times and The Washington Post published articles based on highly classified documents concerning the origins and conduct of the Vietnam War. The Justice Department failed in its attempt to restrain publication of the articles.The U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prevented the government from barring publication of the documents but did not give the newspapers immunity from prosecution on charges of having obtained them illegally. There are numerous other instances of the courts not interfering with the publication of sensitive national security material--for instance, the CIA's success in tapping a Soviet military communications cable in the Sea of Japan.
Given the courts' unwillingness to safeguard national security secrets from disclosure by the media, why, then, should we be surprised at The Dallas Morning News' willingness to publish a story affecting the rights of a single criminal defendant? The News predictably wrapped itself in the First Amendment and cited the "public's right to know" as grounds for publishing the article, regardless of the impact on McVeigh's right to trial by an impartial jury. Executive Editor Ralph E. Langer defended his paper's decision on NBC's "Today" show on March 3, saying, "We concluded this was so significant we had an obligation to publish it."
Anyone vaguely familiar with the courts, be they lawyers or newsmen, would know that the "confession" would taint jurors' perception of McVeigh. As Joe Goulden said on Fox News on March 3, telling prospective jurors to forget the story will have about as much impact as ordering them to forget that they understand the English language. The action of the Dallas Morning News and the other media organizations that spread the story across the nation will make it very difficult for McVeigh to be judged by a jury solely on the basis of the evidence presented at the trial. That means that if he is convicted, his attorneys will no doubt use this as grounds for an appeal.
The Pentagon Papers involved government documents, created at considerable taxpayer expense. The lawyers for The New York Times and The Washington Post argued that the government's claim that publication would result in irreparable harm was false, and the courts agreed. Henry Kissinger indicated in his memoirs that the main concern of the Nixon administration was that a demonstration that the government was unable to protect its secrets would have a negative impact on the highly secret negotiation he was undertaking with both China and North Vietnam. Those fears proved to be unfounded, but they might have been persuasive had the government's lawyers been free to incorporate them in their arguments.
The documents which The Dallas News claimed to have obtained are of another nature entirely. They did not come from government files, but (by the paper's own account) from the files of a private lawyer defending one of the more notorious defendants of the century. Their publication was manifestly not in the public interest. If the editors of The Dallas Morning News had not been driven by a desire for instant self-gratification, they would have withheld publication until such time as the story would not have thrown sand into the judicial machinery.
Guilty or not, Timothy McVeigh has the right to a trial before a jury not tainted by an inflammatory statement which would never have been admitted into evidence in the trial. Similar "confessions" were subsequently published by Penthouse and Newsweek magazines; their provenance (and authenticity) also remain murky.
Where is this unbridled media license taking us? Will journalistic espionage be extended to buying confidential information from hackers who break into computers in lawyers' and physicians' offices, or even the Internal Revenue Service? Technology has so expanded the potential for invasion of privacy that Congress and the courts must consider whether the court-given right of editors to publish anything they can lay their hands on, legally or illegally, should be allowed to prevail over all other rights, including the constitutional guarantee of a fair trial.
Great Britain has retained its classification as a free country even though it puts severe restrictions on reporting that might influence the outcome of a court trial. Editors in our highly competitive media environment cannot be relied upon to exercise self-restraint when they have as big a story as the purported McVeigh confession even though they know that publication may both assure his conviction and provide grounds for overturning it.
Perhaps the House Ethics Committee has come up with a solution to this dilemma in assessing Speaker Newt Gingrich $300,000 to cover the costs incurred by the committee as a result of his failure to provide all the information the committee wanted in a more timely manner. Why not require media organizations to pay the increased costs incurred by the courts for changes of venue, extra time in assembling a jury, and retrials granted on the grounds of prejudicial publicity? That might cool their ardor for sensational stories about cases sub judice that serve no useful purpose other than boosting their sales and ratings.
ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO REVEALED ON APRIL 14 THAT SHE WOULD NOT SEEK appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the Clinton fund-raising scandals. This was pretty much a foregone conclusion, but it was the lead story in major papers the next morning. The Washington Times ran an Irvine/Goulden column written before this news broke which cited Reno's inaction with respect to the illegal interception of the cellular phone call made last December by Newt Gingrich to some of his colleagues to discuss strategy with respect to the House Ethics Committee's action on the complaints against him. "Reno's conduct is laughable," we said. "Handed a smoking gun, her reaction seems to be: 'Is this really a gun? And what is this stuff people call smoke?' We pointed out that Clinton "left her twisting slowly in the wind" at the beginning of the year when he was changing his cabinet officers, saying, " It was surmised that Clinton didn't want an attorney general who might approve the appointment of any more special counsels to look into the many scandals that threaten him. In the end, Clinton told Reno she could keep her office."
IT SEEMED EVIDENT THAT SHE HAD MADE A DEAL WITH THE PRESIDENT FROM HER TESTImony before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on March 4. Cong. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, asked Reno if it is legal to solicit funds on government property. This exchange followed:
RENO: Sir, the matter is under investigation now so I can't--
LATHAM: I'm not asking about the investigation. I'm asking about a point of--
RENO: I'm sorry I cannot answer it because--
LATHAM: --a point of law.
RENO: I cannot answer it, sir, because that matter is under investigation now by the Department of Justice.
LATHAM: Is there not a statute on the books that prohibits--
RENO: Let me explain to you. It has always been--
LATHAM: No, it's a simple question--
RENO: Let me explain to you what has always been my policy. I take the evidence and the law, research it, and make the appropriate judgment. It is inappropriate for me to comment about a pending investigation.
LATHAM: I'm not asking about a pending investigation. I'm asking about a point of law.
RENO: Sir, the whole matter today, based on the chairman's statement--
CHAIRMAN ROGERS: The question is, is it illegal to solicit funds on government property?
RENO: And I will not answer the question, sir, because it is a matter relating to a pending investigation to which you and other members of the committee have made statements.
ROGERS: The gentleman is not asking about an investigation. He is asking whether or not there is a statute that prohibits fund raising on governmental property. It's not related to anybody.
RENO: I will be happy to provide you with whatever statute is appropriate, sir.
ROGERS: You don't know?
RENO: I'm not going to comment, Mr. Chairman.
LATHAM: And the basis for not commenting is that there is a case pending.
RENO: That is correct.
LATHAM: Is it illegal to speed?
LATHAM: I mean there are everywhere cases pending. It's just the same. (shakes his head and sighs)
RENO: When I conduct an investigation, I don't do it in a Congressional hearing room. I try to conduct it in a professional way.
LATHAM: I'm not asking specifically about any case. I'm saying as a point of law--
RENO: Well, then, let me explain to you that if you ask me that question and I answer it, it's going to be taken in the context of a major investigation that I have been questioned about today, and as I have indicated on numerous occasions in the past, it is wrong for me to comment until the matter is concluded.
LATHAM: ....I can tell you that when I came here the first thing that was told me and was emphasized over and over again was that it is illegal to solicit money on government property, and when someone even mentions that and I'm on government property, I say, "I can't talk about that. I don't do that here." I know it's wrong. The American people know it's wrong, and you won't even answer a simple legal question. Again, I'm very disappointed today.
THIS IS COMICAL BUT PATHETIC. RENO MADE HERSELF LOOK STUPID TO AVOID HAVING to admit that there is credible evidence that the law may have been broken by an official covered by the Independent Counsel Act. If she admitted that, she would find it hard to explain why she was not recommending the appointment of an independent counsel. Larry Klayman, chairman of Judicial Watch, has asked the Office of Professional Responsibility at the Justice Department to remove Reno"from supervising the so-called investigation" and to investigate to see if Reno had struck a deal not to appoint an independent counsel to keep her job.
THE OFFICIAL INVESTIGATORS OF THE CRASH OF TWA FLIGHT 800 ARE TRYING TO DIVERT attention away from the most plausible explanation of the accident: that the plane was struck by a missile that did not explode. Jim Hall, a political operative who was put in charge of the National Transportation Safety Board by President Clinton, insisted in a recent letter in the Wall Street Journal that there is "no physical evidence that a bomb or a missile was involved. He said that the explosion of the central wing fuel tank was "the first cataclysmic event of the accident." Investigators have been unable to discover anything that would have caused the tank to explode except some external force--such as a missile. As we showed in the March-A AIM Report, the sequence in which pieces of the plane fell into the ocean provides strong evidence that a missile struck the plane on the right side near the wing and exited on the left side without exploding, opening a hole big enough for rows of seats, passengers and a food service center to be sucked out.
THIS AND OTHER EVIDENCE SUPPORTING THE MISSILE THEORY WAS IGNORED BY THE MEDIA when it was published in The Press Enterprise of Riverside, Calif. on March 10-12. It is now available in a paperback book published by Kensington titled The Downing of TWA Flight 800 by James D. Sanders. He is the private investigator who obtained valuable information from a source within the official investigation. As is so often the case, the mainstream media have donned their blinders and have been guided by their beat reporters who are in turn guided by what their bread-and-butter sources tell them in this case Hall, James Kallstrom of the FBI and their respective spokesmen. I sent our March-A report to the National Enquirer, suggesting that they might offer a reward for information leading to the discovery of who fired the missile. (The Enquirer's offer of a $100,000 reward led to the arrest of the man suspected of killing Bill Cosby's son.) They rejected my suggestion, but they have a story about Jim Sanders and his book in their April 22 issue.
THE FBI HAS PUT ENORMOUS PRESSURE ON JIM SANDERS, AND EVEN ON HIS WIFE, TO GET him to turn over evidence and the names of his sources. They seem to be veryworried about how much he knows and what more he might learn. His book describes his scenario of how a Navy missile test went awry and accidentally brought down the plane. I have no doubt that it was a missile, and Sanders has some interesting evidence that points to friendly fire. Bill Donaldson, a retired Navy pilot who has been doing some investigating of his own, agrees that it was a missile, but he cannot conceive of the Navy testing a missile in the crowded air space off Long Island. He believes the missile was launched from a vessel under the control of a terrorist state in that area. I prefer to believe that is what happened. But if that is so, I wonder why our government is trying so hard to convince us that it didn't happen. Instead of harassing Jim Sanders, why aren't they trying to find the perpetrators and deliver a message that will discourage any repeat performance?