Attorney General Janet Reno likes to point out that she has not been shy about appointing independent counsels. However, when it comes to appointing an independent counsel for the most serious charge leveled against this administration, she flinched. It appears that she will not go near the water of campaign finance violations, and the selling of technology and influence to foreign governments for cash.
For anyone familiar with Reno’s pre-Washington record, this cannot be a surprise. In fact, many still are wondering how a woman, with no prior federal experience, became the nation’s top cop. However, from what we now know about Bill Clinton and the cast of characters he brought with him from Arkansas, it seems her record was made-to-order for this president.
In Miami, where Janet Reno served as the state attorney for Dade County, she had a reputation of losing the big ones. If the truth be known, she lost the small ones as well. Her department brought just 2% of all felony defendants to trial, which was the worst record in Florida. Furthermore, she lost 40% of those cases that did go to trial. Her ratio of arrests to actual incarceration in Dade County was 30:1. The state attorney for neighboring Broward County, during that same time period, had a record of 10:1. However, it may have been Reno’s reluctance to indict or prosecute corrupt public officials that may have made this woman irresistible to Bill Clinton.
The Miami Herald including this stinging indictment of Reno in one of its editorials:
“The Dade State Attorney’s office has a miserable record in pursuing public corruption; it avoids such cases like the plague…Reno’s response: Bring me the evidence and I’ll prosecute. That’s a cop-out. Prosecutors are supposed to dig up their own evidence and make their own cases. It’s called an investigation.”
The Justice Department did do a preliminary investigation on the campaign finance scandal, and the man who did the investigating, Charles LaBella, a respected San Diego prosecutor, recommended she appoint an independent counsel. For that she sent him packing.
So what was it about Reno’s record that enabled her to reach such a lofty position? At the time of her appointment, her supporters praised her integrity and her savvy political skills. At the press conference Mr. Clinton said that the “support of the people who know her best is the most telling testament to her skills,” meaning she had the ability to be reelected, which is more a testament to incumbency. Reno was appointed to her post and had virtually no opposition in her first election. However, in her last election, the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed a political neophyte with no chance of victory.
That leaves Reno’s integrity, which was translated by Patricia Ireland of the National Organization of Women, as her unwavering support for abortion rights. For that Ireland and Harriet Woods of the National Women’s Political Caucus gave her their enthusiastic endorsement. That’s why Reno, like Ireland, Woods, and so many other others, may be standing by her man.