Congressional Accountability Project

P.O. Box 19446

Washington, DC 20036

(202) 296-2787

fax (202) 833-2406

July 26, 1994

Senators Richard Bryan and Mitch McConnell

United States Senate Select Committee on Ethics

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senators Bryan and McConnell:

I am writing to inquire about your June 9, 1994 letter to Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) clearing him of allegations related to a July 2, 1993 memorandum prepared by Eve Lubalin. The memorandum documents the appearance, if not the actuality, of linkage between Senator Lautenberg's official activities and his campaign fundraising activities. However, your letter raises a number of questions concerning whether the Senate Ethics Committee performed a complete and thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Lautenberg memo.

You state that "the appearance created by the memoranda entries is troubling to the Committee." However, you conclude that "nothing in the evidence obtained by the Committee indicates the existence of actual linkage, nor does the evidence indicate that either you or Ms. Lubalin solicited contributions from individuals on the basis of official actions... Based on the available information, no further action appears appropriate with respect to this matter."

The Lautenberg memorandum is deeply troubling because it contains passages such as "We need to find out who Nick Forsman [sic] is from FRL [Senator Frank R. Lautenberg]. Keep this name. I think he is represented by Tom Quinn in town and is VERY rich. Just did something nice that made him very $$. He called FRL to thank him..." Nicholas Forstmann is a Wall Street investment banker.

The memorandum states that "Mimi [Lautenberg DC campaign staffer Miriam Altschuler Walsh] -- should follow up with Minikes and see when he feels we could move on a Philly business event. Fax him Kean clips 1st and tell him you'll be calling. Can tell him I helped Karin Daroff [Philadelphia businesswoman] out with something since dinner and she seems enthusiastic about helping FRL."

Another passage states "DC business event. FRL could call Michael Barnes or Bob Linnowes (They can draw in DC Board of Trade people -- FRL gets transp $$ [Senator Lautenberg is the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation] ... Not sure if Abe Pollin [businessman, owner of the US Air Arena, the Washington Bullets and the Washington Capitals] would be part of the business group or Jewish DC. FRL helped him out on a number of things lately and he should be called for an event in this area..." [Memorandum is quoted from Roll Call, March 31, 1994 p.47]

Public skepticism about the thoroughness of Senate Ethics Committee investigations is common, in part, because of recent Committee investigative failures. Here are three examples of such failures:

1. Gramm 1990: Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) received a $117,000 interest-free loan for construction on Gramm's house, and repaid only $63,433 to indicted Dallas S&L owner Jerry Stiles. Senator Gramm failed to inform the Senate Ethics Committee about his letter to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas in support of Stiles, or of his meeting with Stiles in 1989 to give advice about new regulations concerning S&L's. The Senate Ethics Committee cleared Gramm of all charges.

2. D'Amato 1991: Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY) was the target of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation concerning, among other issues, whether Senator D'Amato used his office to further the career and lobbying efforts of his brother, Armand. Armand D'Amato was lobbying on behalf of Sperry/Unisys, a defense contractor. An April 25, 1994 New York Observer article prepared with documents leaked from the Senate Ethics Committee investigation suggests that Senator D'Amato lied under oath concerning what and when he knew about Armand D'Amato's lobbying activities for Sperry/Unisys. Senator D'Amato was merely reprimanded in August 1991 for his "misuse" of his Senate office "for personal gain."

3. Gramm 1994: A 1993 series of articles in the Dallas Morning News alleged that Senator Gramm had used public monies from his government office expense account to fund large amounts of campaign-oriented travel in Texas for the year and three-quarters preceding his 1990 re-election bid. The articles also documented the use of Senate staff to perform campaign functions, misuse of the franking privilege, and Senator Gramm's expenditure of $9,000 in office expense account funds to pay for a family vacation, with minimal work. Senator Gramm was cleared of all wrongdoing involving the Dallas Morning News allegations, and Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Richard Bryan and Vice-Chairman Mitch McConnell refused to indicate whether they had solicited information from anyone other than Senator Gramm during their investigation.

Given the strong appearance of linkage between Senator Lautenberg's congressional and campaign fundraising operations, your brief and incomplete letter to Senator Lautenberg fails to allay public concern that the Lautenberg memo has not received a full and thorough investigation. In particular, you letter is bereft of any explanatory basis for the conclusion that the Committee will take "no further action" regarding the Lautenberg memo.

Interested citizens deserve answers which I hope you will urge the Committee staff to provide:

1. Will you publicly release copies of correspondence between the Committee and Senator Lautenberg?

2. Did the Ethics Committee request for information about the alleged improprieties go only to Senator Lautenberg and Ms. Lubalin? Was anyone else interviewed? Was Nicholas Forstmann interviewed? Were any other contributors interviewed?

3. On what evidence did you base the conclusion that the Committee will take "no further action" regarding the Lautenberg memo?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Gary Ruskin


cc. Senator Bob Smith

Senator Tom Daschle

Senator Barbara Mikulski

Senator Larry Craig

Senator Frank Lautenberg