This is intriguing. Bolton’s ethically challenged pettiness rages full throttle in the tale that follows.
Do read the three excerpts.
First, in November 1987, Legal Times writer James Lyons reported that:
The once mighty National Congressional Club has fallen on hard times. The club, the Raleigh, N.C.-based right-wing political action committee associated with Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), has a $ 900,000 debt, according to Federal Election Commission records. Carter Wrenn, the club’s treasurer, says that the PAC has been forced to reduce its activity, cutting expenditures on polling, research, direct mail, and legal work.
But then mentioning Bolton and his private role advising Jesse Helms’ Political Action Committee for which Bolton’s firm was due fees:
Covington & Burling is one of the club’s largest creditors. Partner Brice Clagett and former partner John Bolton, now assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, have represented the club for many years. In 1978, they helped form Jefferson Marketing as a vehicle to supply candidates with such services as advertising and direct mail without having to worry about the federal laws preventing PACs, like the Congressional Club, from contributing more than $5,000 per election to any one candidate’s campaign committee.
Covington also defended Jefferson Marketing and the club in its long-running battle with the FEC, which resulted in the club paying a $10,000 fine in 1986.
According to FEC documents, the club owes Covington $111,000, although it did make a $5,000 payment to the firm earlier this year.
“It’s our understanding that they will pay the bill,” says Covington spokesman H. Edward Dunkelberger Jr.
What we will discover later in this story is that Jesse Helms was getting nearly cost-free legal representation from Covington & Burling attorney John Bolton. That’s a gift — and it’s illegal now and was illegal then.
Helms was giving Bolton patronage, access, political favors. Helms’ PAC got fined $10,000 by the Federal Elections Commission for violations which Rep. Charlie Rose (D-NC) notified the FEC to investigate.
Ok. Pause. Move forward nine months. . .
Legal Times writer Terence Moran reports on some new complexity in this matter, and by this time John Bolton has moved from Covington & Burling to be Assistant Attorney General for Congressional Affairs at the Department of Justice.
Rep. Charlie Rose (D-N.C.) might be forgiven for figuring that his 1988 citation for violating House rules put a nasty, embarrassing battle behind him.
After all, when the House ethics panel issued a public reproof to Rose in March 1988 after determining that the congressman had put money from his campaign committee to personal use, the matter seemed closed. Rose had survived what he perceived as a vengeful political attack orchestrated by allies of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) in the National Congressional Club, a Raleigh, N.C., conservative political action committee with whom Rose has sparred repeatedly over the years.
But now, more than 14 months after the ethics panel finished with him, Rose’s case has been resurrected — not in Congress but by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. Last May, Rose was hit with an unprecedented civil action brought by Justice seeking the maximum $5,000 fine for each of six violations of the Ethics in Government Act (EIGA). Never before has the department’s Civil Division brought such a suit against a sitting member of Congress.
Rose has moved for a dismissal; U.S. District Judge Thomas Jackson will hear arguments early next month.
The case against Rose has sparked a constitutional clash between the executive and legislative branches and marks another skirmish in the struggle over the scope of the Constitution’s speech-and-debate clause. In addition, it represents a test case for EIGA, the 1978 law that numerous House members, including former House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Texas), have been charged with violating over the years.
Beyond any of the legal questions, however, the Rose case may be the opening volley in a fierce turf battle over the hot topic of ethics enforcement in Congress.
To remind readers what this was about was that Charlie Rose had improperly used campaign funds for personal use — and six cases were determined. The norms of that time were to offer some sort of public censure and move on if the cases were generally minor. But Rose was found to have done an inappropriate thing, got knocked in the knees, and usually (in 1989 anyway) life moved on.
But John Bolton filed a civil action against Congressman Rose — and this had never been done before. Why? Because Bolton was Jesse Helms’ attack dog — and Bolton compromised his role in the Attorney General’s office to operate as the flack/attack dog of one of the most politically vile members of the U.S. Senate, Jesse Helms.
Let’s get back to the chronology of events.
Rose offered his own view on why he was being treated to such a spectacular public crucifixion by John Bolton.
To Rose, the department’s action is pure politics. He claims that John Bolton, former assistant secretary of the division, pushed the case through the department because Bolton once worked for Helms’ Congressional Club and still carries a grudge against Rose. Rose once filed a Federal Election Commission suit against the Congressional Club that resulted in a $ 10,000 fine against the PAC.
Bolton, now assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, was out of the country during the third week of August and unavailable for comment. A spokeswoman in his office says that Bolton “will not comment” on the Rose case.
Justice’s Brown says Bolton “had nothing to do with this action. He recused himself from the case long before it was filed.”
Rose does not believe the claim.
“I messed up John Bolton‘s little playhouse and now they’re trying to pay me back,” he says bitterly.
Rose’s aggravation is understandable. He faces mounting legal bills and the possibility of stiff fines for being found guilty of the same violation that at least a half-dozen other members have committed.
In his fight to keep the Civil Division at bay, Rose has enlisted House leaders — including Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), the minority whip who rode the ethics problems of Democrats like Rose and Wright to the heights of power, Gingrich and House Speaker Thomas Foley (D-Wash.) signed on to Rose’s defense team just after the Justice Department filed the suit in late May, when the House was consumed with partisan furor over the fate of Wright.
By nearly all accounts, Rose was guilty of a minor infraction. He argued that he was paying himself back for debts he privately fronted, but nonetheless the Congressional investigating committee had found that though he deserved some sanction, he had already initiated setting things in order.
More of the story:
Rose’s troubles with the ethics laws are rooted in his first race for Congress in 1972. To win North Carolina’s 7th District, Rose and his father pumped their own personal funds into the campaign. That money, the two men claimed 15 years later before the ethics panel, was only loaned to Rose’s campaign by oral agreement, not contributed.
So in 1978, when Rose began using campaign money for his personal needs, he says he was merely repaying himself. The ethics committee rejected that argument, but acknowledged that Rose had taken some steps to set matters aright. When the case was resolved in March 1988, the panel recommended no sanction to the House.
More important, the ethics committee held that Rose had not been fully warned about the House prohibitions against tapping into campaign funds. He was “deserving of reproach,” according to the committee’s report, but he was not required to amend the disclosure forms that inaccurately reported his dealings.
The carefully structured settlement was a relief to Rose and a triumph for Oldaker. Their satisfaction was short-lived, however — last December the Justice Department warned Rose that it would pursue an enforcement action under the EIGA.
The Case’s Contorted Path
The department’s campaign percolated up through the bureaucracy from the Office of the U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of North Carolina. After a brief review in the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division, the case landed in Bolton’s Civil Division.
That paper trail convinces Rose that his old enemies in the Congressional Club are behind his persecution. Bolton, when he was in private practice with D.C.’s Covington & Burling, represented the PAC and was largely responsible for designing the financing scheme that the FEC found illegal. Rose finds this link dispositive.
“Covington & Burling, had to bring in a lot of firepower to defend that operation,” Rose says. “Bolton should have built a Chinese wall between him and my case, and he didn’t.”
But Rose has no hard evidence that Bolton was aware of his case during the months of negotiations preceding the department’s filing. Brent Hatch, Bolton‘s deputy at the time and now in the White House counsel’s office, is adamant in Bolton‘s defense.
“Bolton knew this case would be hot, he knew that Rose would be trying to paint him into this corner, and he got out of it right at the onset,” Hatch recalls. “When a case like this comes through and you know it’s going to be trouble, you rely almost entirely on career people.”
By February 1990, Legal Times writers Charles Babington bounced the watchful eye back to the Jesse Helms/John Bolton collaboration and asked important questions about the lingering debt of the National Conngressional Club to Bolton’s former law firm.
If the National Congressional Club accepted free legal advice from D.C.’s Covington & Burling, both could be fined and possibly prosecuted under laws that ban corporate campaign contributions.
So why, critics ask, is the political organization of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) allowed to receive such advice while paying only a fraction of its sizable and interest-free debt to the law firm year after year?
The answer, some say, is a loophole in federal elections law. The loophole enables willing companies, including law firms, to give large amounts of goods and services to campaign organizations, provided that the campaigns dutifully report that they owe money for the services.
The results were these. Rose lost his separation-of-powers appeal and had to pay $30,000 to satisfy the assault led by John Bolton. The National Congressional Club ended up paying a $10,000 fine. And John Bolton’s love affair with Jesse Helms and his crowd continue to deepen no matter what Bolton’s job or position.
Oil-for-Food? If Helms had ordered Bolton to put such a scheme together, Bolton may have easily put even a more elaborate fiasco together. Bolton could fit in with those in corporate America who believed that rules were not ‘really’ made for them.
Alternatively, Bolton’s m.o. is that some rules need to be imposed more harshly and brutally than others — depending on whether they are friend or foe — as in the Rose case.
The problem with John Bolton’s nomination to the U.N. is not just that he is a blunt, undiplomatic diplomat or that he despises the very concept of a United Nations or that he provides a slighlty more respectable, well-dressed version of populist, pugnacious nationalism.
John Bolton has not had a crystal clear record regarding responsible and appropriate governance wherever he has worked — with the one possible exception of his short time at U.S. AID according to private reports I have had.
Bolton promulgated the Niger-Uranium story after intelligence analysts had killed it in the State Department and may have had his staff lie about his role.
Bolton acted without vested authority in issuing the Russians a deadline on the ABM Treaty.
Bolton was accused by Senators Pete Domenici and Peter Fitzgerald of taking his eye off the ball in his current job and not moving quickly or effectively enough to tie up arrangements with Russians on weapons grade nuclear materials.
Bolton accepted money from the Taiwanese government for reports which he presented to Congress without indicating the source of said funds. Bolton also helped preside over a significant amount of Taiwanese government money that annually flows into the American Enterprise Institute and demonstrated no compunction about concerns over objectivity and that funding.
Bolton succeeded Michael Baroody as President of Haley Barbour’s National Policy Forum which not only took foreign money but acted as an organ of the Republican National Committee to such an overt degree that its non-profit status was stripped.
Bolton has defied Congress on many, many occasions — refusing to appear, holding back requested witnesses and information, and allegedly destroying Iran-Contra related evidence.
There is more on the way on John Bolton.
But the thing that Senator Lugar, Senator Hagel, Senator Feingold, Senator Chafee, and other Senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should ask themselves is “WHY THIS PERSON?” What item in his record justifies such an important appointment?
The United Nations is not a normal ambassadorial appointment. It matters — particularly now as we initiate the process of building a new and different U.N.
Empowering this guy, John Bolton, and the crowd he represents is the absolute worst thing that Lincoln Chafee could do. Frankly, I hope that Senator Hagel reconsiders his surprisingly enthusiastic endorsement of Bolton.
Are the Senators giving this job to Bolton just because Dick Cheney wants him there to constrain Zoellick and Rice? Or is there a constructive, understandable rationale that American citizens will understand and appreciate?
I don’t think there is.
— Steve Clemons