Cox Committee Will Investigate

By Wagner, David | Insight on the News, June 22, 1998 | Go to article overview

Cox Committee Will Investigate


Wagner, David, Insight on the News


A select panel, led by Rep. Chris Cox, will probe allegations that the Clinton administrations and two companies enabled China to upgrade its missile capabilities to target U.S. cities.

The polemical contrast is between complaints of a "partisan witch-hunt" and demands that Congress "get to the bottom of this." And that's the difference between the standard Democratic response to all previous GOP-led investigations of alleged Clinton misconduct and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt's changed tune concerning the latest investigation.

This investigation -- to be conducted by a select House committee -- will look at allegations that the Clinton administration systematically greased the path for Loral Space & Communications Ltd. and Hughes Electronics Corp. to transfer militarily significant technology to China in return for campaign contributions from Loral's president and, possibly, from the Chinese regime itself via intermediaries such as Johnny Chung and Charlie Trie.

"This is about a compromise of national security, and about what role outside influences may have had, and whether rules and regulations were violated to protect a political patron," says Al Saintly, national security aide to Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, "and whether the administration has been playing fast and loose in lowering standards for dual-use technologies and permitting information to be shared that would help an emerging nuclear power." Santoli, who earned three Purple Hearts in Vietnam and wrote a best-selling book on that war, Everything We Had, is not one to take national-security issues lightly.

While Gephardt has continued to rail against what he has called the unjustified expense of earlier investigations, he has been unwilling to argue that allowing a U.S. corporation to provide a foreign power with the know-how to deliver nukes to Los Angeles in exchange for illegal campaign donations is a trivial matter that only a partisan Republican could get excited about. Thus, an investigation finally is afoot that even the most partisan Democrats have to take seriously -- as the Republicans did when the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities began looking into the Watergate break-in and cover-up in 1973.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia announced on May 19 that he would establish a special select committee to investigate developing ramifications of Chinagate. As Insight goes to press, the House is expected to vote to create the committee.

"This was typical Gingrich" remarks a former Hill staffer and veteran Congress-watcher who asked not to be named. "He announced it suddenly, with very little advance consultation. But unlike what usually happens when he does that, this one has been well received."

During the Memorial Day recess Gingrich and Gephardt travelled together to Israel and Italy. It was expected that they would hammer out details of the new committee during this trip, naming all eight members upon their return.

Thus, it is possible that the full list of committee members will be announced by the time this issue reaches readers. Nonetheless, prior to any formal announcement, this magazine's survey of Capitol Hill sources has yielded some details and well-informed speculation.

"One thing seems to have been definitely decided already," says the Congress-watcher: "Neither party will put anyone on this committee who is already on the House Judiciary Committee. For the Democrats, that means refraining from using their A-team partisans such as Barney Frank [of Massachusetts], John Conyers [of Michigan] or Howard Berman [of California]."

The chairman of the special committee will be California's Christopher Cox. Clearly a rising star among House Republicans, Cox has been chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee since the GOP takeover in 1994 and widely is regarded as the right's brainiest legislator. …

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