July 22, 2002

A call for a special prosecutor to investigate the 'president' and top Republicans was among the notes sounded on the first day of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Conference 2002 on Saturday.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said 'President' Bush's trading in corporate stock and Vice President 'dick' Cheney's tenure as chief executive of Halliburton., as well as activities by other high-ranking administration figures, were questionable enough to merit a Ken Starr-type federal investigation. - From the Chicago Sun-Times.

How WorldCom woes were laid out last year - but dismissed by a Republican judge with deep ties to the party.

Before aggrieved Republicans complain again that linking them to the corporate malefactors is unfair, they (and everyone else) should read Neil Weinberg's fascinating Forbes scoop on the WorldCom implosion.

Weinberg reveals that the fraudulent accounting maneuvers now considered so shocking by everyone from WorldCom directors to SEC chairman Harvey Pitt were exposed more than a year ago in a shareholder lawsuit that included copious evidence. The board ignored that evidence, which included statements from at least a dozen former WorldCom employees and scores of others knowledgeable about the company's dishonest practices.

The plaintiffs who filed the complaint against WorldCom management were obliged to do so in the U.S. District Court in Jackson, Miss., where the company is located. By some unfortunate coincidence, the judge to whom the case fell was William H. Barbour Jr., a Reagan appointee -- and first cousin of Haley Barbour, the supersmooth K Street lobbyist, political strategist and former Republican National Committee chairman.

Judge Barbour might have thought about recusing himself from the WorldCom case, since he no doubt owed his appointment to the influence of cousin Haley, who is also the judge's former law partner. The Forbes article only suggests the multiple connections between Haley Barbour and WorldCom, which include massive donations from WorldCom to GOP causes over the years, and a $1 million donation to the notorious "Trent Lott Leadership Institute" at Ole Miss, for which Haley Barbour served as chief fundraiser. Also overlooked is another significant bit of information about Haley Barbour's relationship with WorldCom. Three years ago, when the Mississippi telecom giant swallowed SkyTel, Haley was a member of the SkyTel board who voted for the merger. I can't help wondering how many shares of WorldCom Haley might have received as part of that deal, and whether he sold them or held them. - From Joe Conason's column at Salon.

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