In the same way that Bill Clinton’s shameless exit from
office proved even to his supporters that he and his wife, Senator Hillary
Rodham Clinton, were as selfish and reckless as their opponents had always
claimed, recent revelations about Jesse Jackson’s finances should put to rest
any doubts that Mr. Jackson’s career is nothing more than a smoke-and-mirrors
show. And a new report that Mr. Jackson played a major role in obtaining two
unsavory clemency deals from Mr. Clinton simply adds to the unflattering
It’s hard to know where to start with Mr. Jackson, so
widespread is his assault on integrity. The
public’s interest was piqued after it was revealed that the married Mr.
Jackson had a girlfriend on the payroll, Karin Stanford. Now it turns out that
Mr. Jackson just happened to omit her name on a financial document on which the
government requires nonprofits to list employees earning over $50,000. Then
there’s Mr. Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH organization, which received $763,000 from
the state of Illinois to promote a health-care program for the poor and then
did almost nothing in return.
Running scams like those doesn’t come cheap. Travel expenses
for Mr. Jackson, his colleagues and his entourage run $1.3 million a year. He
pays himself $120,000, but also picks up $5,000 a week from his TV show on CNN.
His busy schedule somehow allowed for him to persuade Bill Clinton to grant
last-minute clemency to two friends, including John Bustamante, Mr. Jackson’s
former attorney, who was doing time for wire fraud. The other recipient of Mr.
Jackson’s and Mr. Clinton’s sympathy was Dorothy Rivers, who stole $1.5 million
of government money intended for poor people and mentally handicapped children.
The judge who sentenced Ms. Rivers described her crime as “evil itself.”
It is clearly time for new black leaders in public service,
men and women who can thrive as so many African-Americans have in the private
sector, such as Ken Chennault, chief executive at American Express; Dick
Parsons, the chairman of Time Warner; and Ruth Simmons, the new president of
Brown University. And yet, time and again,
the “public leader” spotlight falls on Mr. Jackson and his partners in
scandal and anti-Semitism, Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton. Much of the fault lies with mainstream politicians and the media,
who refuse to challenge Mr. Jackson, Mr. Farrakhan and Mr. Sharpton for
fear of being labeled racist.
Instead, it has fallen to prominent African-American
journalists such as Clarence Page and Mary Mitchell to write honestly of Mr.
Jackson. Mr. Page, a member of the editorial board of The Chicago Tribune , describes Mr. Jackson as “a victim of his own
ego.” Ms. Mitchell, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times , commenting on the new disclosures, wrote, “It was
already difficult for many people to understand how the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
became wealthy while championing the causes of poor people. Most civil rights
leaders had very few worldly goods when
they died. In fact, I was struck by the humility the Rev. Martin Luther
King Jr. showed when he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King didn’t rush off
to buy a new car or home for his family. He donated the entire $54,000 to the
black movement. The civil rights movement has changed a lot since then.”
New Jersey’s senior Senator, Robert Torricelli, has a knack
for getting himself in the news. Some years ago, he delighted the New York
press by squiring around women such as Bianca Jagger and Patricia Duff. Now
that he has become a member of the U.S. Senate, Mr. Torricelli believes that
the nation awaits his wisdom. And so he has become a fixture on television talk
shows, a slick regurgitator of conventional wisdom.
In recent weeks, however, Mr. Torricelli has been making the
kind of news that would turn even the most egregious publicity hound into a
hermit. Federal investigators are looking into his 1996 campaign for the
Senate, focusing on the financing of the campaign and Mr. Torricelli’s use of
private airplanes. Nineteen flights were arranged by businessman David Chang,
one of Mr. Torricelli’s most important donors. While the aircraft issue may not
inspire outrage, there is a larger issue here: When it comes to finances,
personal or political, Mr. Torricelli seems to live on the ethical edge. For
· As chairman of the Democratic Senate
Campaign Committee, Mr. Torricelli used a
loophole in campaign-finance law to create “victory funds” for Democratic
candidates. These funds allowed Mr. Torricelli to raise millions in soft money
for such people as Hillary Clinton.
· Six donors to
his 1996 campaign have entered guilty pleas on charges that they made illegal
donations to Mr. Torricelli.
Torricelli has been a vocal champion for an Iranian group, the Mujahedin-e
Khalq, which the State Department considers a terrorist organization. The
group’s sympathizers have donated $136,000 to Mr. Torricelli, by one estimate.
· The Senator has
become a hard-liner on Cuba and Fidel Castro in recent years. As luck would
have it, right-wing Cuban hard-liners have donated $120,000 to Mr. Torricelli.
· Mr. Torricelli
has scored big profits from financial speculation: In 1992 he made a profit of $140,000 on an I.P.O. issued by a
friend’s bank; he made $52,000 in a single day in the mid-1990’s on
another I.P.O. After Mr. Torricelli promised to cease and desist from such
trading, he made a $200,000 profit on a $5,000 investment in an Internet
company in 1999.
Truth be told, Robert
Torricelli is little more than a gussied-up used-car salesman. In another world, he’d be manning a showroom
along New Jersey’s Route 22.
doing business on Capitol Hill.