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Thursday, August 24, 2000

Janet Reno’s decision
takes heat off Gore

Bullet The issue: Attorney General Janet Reno has rejected a recommendation that she appoint a special counsel to investigate Vice President Gore's 1996 fund-raising activities.
Bullet Our view: Reno's decision spares Gore's presidential campaign from having to function under a cloud of suspicion.

AL Gore's presidential campaign got a vital boost from Attorney General Janet Reno's decision against appointing a special counsel to investigate Gore's 1996 fund-raising activities. The announcement, coming a week after Gore's nomination at the Democratic National Convention, means that the vice president can conduct his campaign without the burden of an investigation in progress, which would have reinforced doubts about his integrity.

However, Reno's announcement does not entirely dispel the cloud of scandal that has hung over the Clinton administration and to some extent over Gore. And the very fact that the subject of a fund-raising investigation was raised by Reno makes it that much more difficult for Gore to focus public attention on his campaign themes.

This the third time Reno has rejected recommendations to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Gore's fund-raising activities. Her previous decisions were strongly criticized as being politically inspired.

The earlier decisions concerned fund-raising telephone calls that Gore made from his office and whether he lied when he said he thought the money he raised was to be used for general party purposes rather than for the Clinton-Gore campaign.

This time, the question was whether Gore lied about whether he knew that a campaign appearance he made at a Buddhist temple in California was a fund-raising event. Robert J. Conrad Jr., head of Reno's campaign task force, had urged her, after he interviewed Gore in April, to name an outside counsel to investigate.

Last March, Maria Hsia, a Democratic fund-raiser, was convicted by a federal jury on five counts of illegally disguising more than $100,000 in contributions. One of the counts cited the Buddhist temple event attended by Gore.

Despite Reno's decision, it is not unreasonable to doubt Gore's claims that he didn't know this was a fund-raising event. He must been extraordinarily obtuse not to have known.

Moreover, Gore will have to live with the fact that a grand jury has been empaneled to decide whether President Clinton should be indicted after he leaves office in connection with his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

The disclosure came on the day of Gore's acceptance speech and appeared to be timed to embarrass Gore. The fact that this investigation will be ongoing during the campaign will remind voters of Gore's connection to the scandals of the Clinton White House, which cannot be helpful.

A reader has chided us for an editorial comment on the report of the new grand jury investigation. The editorial observed that although the sources of the news leak were unidentified, the timing of the disclosure "indicated that the sources did not have the success of the Democratic nominee at heart."

It turns out that a federal appeals judge who was a Democratic appointee admitted having inadvertently disclosed the news -- a development unknown to us at the time the editorial was written.

However, that fact does not alter the main thrust of the editorial, which we reiterate: In his investigation of the president, the independent counsel should not abuse his power for political purposes, as Lawrence Walsh did in re-indicting former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in the Iran-contra case on the Friday before the 1992 presidential election.

Waiahole Ditch water

Bullet The issue: The state Supreme Court has told the state Commission on Water Resources Management to reassess its rulng on the allocation of water from the Waiahole Ditch.
Bullet Our view: In its reallocation the commission should ensure that enough water is provided for diversified agriculture in Leeward Oahu.

IT'S back to the drawing board for the state Commission on Water Resource Management on the allocation of water from the Waiahole Ditch. The state Supreme Court has told the commission to reassess its 1997 decision. That decision followed the end of sugar cultivation on Oahu, which raised the issue of future use of the 27 million gallons a day of Waiahole Ditch water that had been used to irrigate the sugar fields.

In December 1997 the commission ruled that 15.6 million gallons a day would go to Leeward Oahu, mainly for diversified agriculture, and 11.4 million gallons would remain in Windward streams.

In a 166-page ruling, the Supreme Court said it had "serious misgivings" that "improper considerations tipped the scales" in favor of Leeward Oahu agricultural interests and that the commission did not put enough emphasis on traditional rights of Windward farmers.

The court decision seems to favor retaining more water on the Windward side to protect streams in that area, a position advocated by taro farmers and environmental groups.

Justice Mario Ramil, in a dissenting opinion, contended that the ruling "imposes an impossible burden of proof" on those seeking to use the Waiahole water outside of the Windward streams. This is disturbing.

The public interest in this issue lies in a reasonable division of the water between the conflicting interests, both of which have merit.

There is a strong public interest in providing cheap water for diversified agriculture in Leeward Oahu. These are not "improper considerations."

It would be unfortunate if the court ruling resulted in a denial of needed water to Leeward farmers who are reducing Honolulu's reliance on imported food and providing jobs for residents in line with the state objective of diversifying Hawaii's economy.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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