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Commentary | COLUMN LEFT/ ROBERT SCHEER

Now It's Starr Who Needs to Be Investigated

The counsel's witnesses, friends and benefactors appear involved in an anti-Clinton 'project.'

March 31, 1998|ROBERT SCHEER | Robert Scheer is a Times contributing editor. E-mail: rscheer@aol.com

Leads that Kenneth Starr would pursue if he were the least bit nonpartisan:

Did convicted felon David Hale, while providing testimony as Starr's key Whitewater witness, receive cash payments funneled through the American Spectator magazine from foundations controlled by right-wing billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who had established a project to discredit Clinton? Was Hale influenced by free use of a car and a fishing cabin provided by an Arkansas man who was being paid by the American Spectator to provide the magazine with information on the Whitewater case?

These are among allegations reported recently by the Associated Press, the New York Observer and the online magazine Salon. According to news reports, Scaife funded a nearly $2-million "Arkansas project" over four years to dig up dirt on Clinton. Parker Dozhier, a Hot Springs, Ark., bait shop owner, admitted to AP reporter Karen Gullo that during the time he received about $35,000 from the Spectator to supply information on Whitewater, he provided free use of a car and a cabin to Hale, who was then supplying information to Starr. FBI agents reporting to Starr accompanied Hale on trips to the cabin, where he reportedly met with representatives of Scaife's anti-Clinton project.

Funeral home assistant manager Caryn Mann, who was Dozhier's live-in girlfriend and bookkeeper, told Salon she witnessed Dozhier making cash payments to Hale. Mann's 17-year-old son, Joshua Rand, said he also observed the payments. According to Salon, Dozhier denied making the payments and said the boy was "destined to be a chalk outline somewhere." Mann told Salon that Dozhier also threatened her "if I ever talked about what he was doing against Clinton."

Mann told reporters that while she kept Dozhier's books, there were regular checks coming in to him from David Henderson, vice president of the American Spectator Educational Foundation, which runs the magazine, and from attorney Stephen Boynton, who received $1.7 million from the foundation. According to the Observer, those funds can be traced back to Scaife.

Mann told AP that Hale frequently discussed the Whitewater case with her, Boynton, Henderson and Dozhier outside the presence of the FBI agents accompanying Hale. Dozhier denied that Hale provided him with Whitewater information. Dozhier told the AP that he began to give Hale use of his cabin in 1994. That's when Hale emerged as a key witness in the Whitewater case.

The AP reported Saturday that Mann has been interviewed twice recently by FBI agents dispatched not by Starr but by the U.S. attorney in western Arkansas and was asked to turn over documents. Mann told the AP these agents focused on whether Dozhier or Spectator officials gave Hale money or sought to influence his testimony. Boynton denies facilitating payments to Hale but concedes he struck up a relationship with him in 1993 when the ex-judge ran into legal trouble.

The connections between Scaife, the Spectator, Boynton and the Arkansas project were explored by reporter Joe Conason in the New York Observer, which obtained the Spectator's tax returns. According to those records, the Observer reported, the magazine received $2.4 million from Scaife foundations between 1993 and 1996. Boynton's $1.7 million was listed as legal fees, but the Spectator's financial statements recorded less than $500,000 for "professional services," which included legal fees.

The Observer reported that Ronald Burr, Spectator publisher for more than 30 years, grew concerned that spending tax-exempt money on the Clinton project could jeopardize the magazine's tax-exempt status and requested an outside audit of the Boynton funds. Burr was abruptly ousted and paid a settlement on the condition that he remain silent about the situation. Some Spectator writers, including P.J. O'Rourke, resigned over Burr's treatment, the Washington Post reported.

Instead of the outside audit, the Spectator undertook an internal review headed by one of its own board members and its legal counsel, Theodore Olson. Olson, a longtime friend and former law partner of Starr, was hired by Hale to represent him in Washington on Whitewater matters.

Scaife contributed more than $1 million to establish Pepperdine University's new Public Policy School, which Starr will head when he finishes with Clinton. Asking Starr to look into this complex web surrounding his key witness and involving his friends and benefactors is asking him to investigate himself.

It's obviously time for a new independent counsel to investigate the independent counsel.

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