Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Curtain Rises on Whitewater

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Curtain Rises on Whitewater

Article excerpt

White House counsel Lloyd Cutler told a congressional panel Tuesday that the administration broke no ethics rules but "did not meet as high a performance standard as we should have set" in handling the Whitewater affair.

"There were too many people having too many discussions about too many sensitive manners," Cutler told the House Banking Committee in the first day of congressional Whitewater hearings. The hearing focused on questionable contacts between the White House and the Treasury Department.

House Republicans, led by Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, contended that Treasury officials had acted unethically in tipping off the White House about criminal referrals involving Whitewater and may have tried to muzzle some federal investigators looking into Madison Guaranty. Madison is the failed Arkansas savings and loan owned by James McDougal, the partner of President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Whitewater land venture.

"Whitewater is about the arrogance of power," Leach said. "It's a metaphor for privilege, for a government run by a new political class which takes shortcuts to power."

Another Republican, Rep. Toby Roth of Wisconsin, was blunter, saying, "This thing smells to high heaven."

But Democrats accused conservatives of blowing the matter out of proportion. "Where's the beef?" demanded Rep. Bruce Vento, D-Minn. "It's kind of a shrinking patty. Some of us think that it might be soy burger."

In his testimony and seven hours of questioning, Cutler said his review of the contacts between White House and Treasury officials over Whitewater had found no cover-up and no violations of federal ethics rules. An earlier report by Whitewater special counsel Robert Fiske found no criminal conduct in those contacts.

Cutler concluded that administration officials had not influenced the Resolution Trust Corp.'s investigation of Madison Guaranty. But Cutler said there were "regrettable" contacts between some White House aides and Treasury officials about the Whitewater matter. …

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