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The ambassadorship of New Zealand is not a black and white issue as
some have portrayed. It is an issue of right and wrong, truth and
consequences; something the White House never fully has understood or
appreciated, but of paramount importance to Jesse Helms, the chairman of
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who holds in his hands the fate
of Carol Moseley-Braun.

Helms may be a bit old-fashioned by today’s loose standards, but he
is not against women nor is he a racist, as some have suggested. Thirty-one
years ago, I was working as a sportscaster on an Atlanta TV
station. At that time, there were very few women on the nightly newscasts,
and I was the only one in the country doing sports. That’s when Roger
Chastain, a young industrial designer working in Raleigh, N.C., asked me to
marry him. When I accepted, I just knew my career as a sportscaster was
over because Atlanta was by far the largest southern city, and I assumed the
others were not as progressive.

Nevertheless, I decided to contact the two television stations in the
Raleigh-Durham area. The first television station offered me a job as a
weather girl. Then I went to interview at WRAL. The station owner took one
look at me and said, “Sports, you just can’t do sports for us.” However,
the program director stood up to his boss and said, “Oh, yes she can!”
That was Jesse Helms. When I settled in to my new job, I discovered that
Mr. Helms had hired many other women and minorities for jobs that
traditionally had gone to white males in television. That’s why, when I hear
people say Senator Helms is against women or minorities, it makes the hair
on the back of my neck stand up. I get mad.

Those who have no worthwhile arguments to present often resort to
this kind of name-calling, but Sen. Helms has very thick skin. This juvenile attempt
at political one-upmanship never has worked with the senior senator from
North Carolina and it isn’t likely to work this time.

Let us not forget that Moseley-Braun’s campaign for U.S. Senator in
1992 has been under as big a cloud as Mr. Clinton’s 1996 presidential
campaign, and thanks to some handiwork at the Federal Elections
Commission and the Justice Department, neither has been successfully
resolved.

By offering to give Moseley-Braun a hearing, Helms may succeed in
uncovering at least one scandal buried by Clinton administration funeral
director, Janet Reno. The nomination of Moseley-Braun is seen by many as
simply the latest act of recklessness by an unrepentant president
besieged by a campaign finance scandal, which was swept under a rug at
the Justice Department.

The Moseley-Braun cloud involved some $280,000 in political donations
that may have been diverted to pay for designer clothes, jewelry, cars
and luxury vacations for her and her campaign manager and former
boyfriend, Kgosie Matthews. The FEC did not clear Moseley-Braun of
wrongdoing, but merely closed the books on the investigation with the
five-year statute of limitations running out, stating it did not have
the time to conclude its investigation. The IRS Criminal Investigative
Division initiated a probe into whether Moseley-Braun used this money
for personal use without reporting the income and paying taxes. The IRS
twice asked the Justice Department to open a grand jury investigation of
Moseley-Braun and was denied. The derailments of the investigation by
the FEC and the IRS were highly unusual.

How did Moseley-Braun, a $45,000-a year Cook Country, Ill., recorder
of deeds, manage to afford such a lavish lifestyle in the months
immediately after her election to the United States Senate that included
expensive vacations, travel by private jet and the Concorde, and a
$950-a-night suite in Maui? How did she manage to come up with the cash
for a Jeep Cherokee or $10,000 for jewelry in Aspen? And who authorized
Matthews to charge thousands of dollars in designer clothes in Beverly
Hills on his campaign-issued MasterCard? These are just a few of the
issues that the FEC and the Justice Department chose to ignore.

Moseley-Braun answered press inquiries about these expenses by saying
that she’d earned extra cash doing legal work on the side and making
paid speeches, but where is the evidence? Matthews claimed that he was
owed an equivalent amount in out-of-pocket expenses he’d incurred on the
campaign’s behalf, but this never was substantiated. Roll Call examined
the FEC process and discovered that auditors did raise questions about
these things, but the questions never made it onto the public record.
Republican Trevor Potter, a former FEC chairman, told the Capitol Hill
paper, “Had I been aware that evidence existed, it would have been a
serious matter, and I would have expected the commission to pursue it.”

It has been discovered that Moseley-Braun had links to at least two
high-ranking Justice Department officials at the time the decision was
made to block the IRS investigation. John Schmidt, a Chicago lawyer who
was in the No. 3 position at the time the Moseley-Braun case was under
consideration, had donated $1200 to her 1992 campaign. Schmidt claims
that he advised Loretta Argrett, who was head of the tax division, that
he had this involvement and recused himself. However, the National
Political Congress of Black Women heavily supported Argrett’s nomination
at Justice and it was Moseley-Braun, as a member of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, who chaired her confirmation hearing.

When all these facts were made public in her 1998 re-election bid,
Illinois voters decided they would send her home. As these facts are
explored in her confirmation hearing for ambassador to New Zealand,
hopefully the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will decide to keep her
home. Rest assured, this decision will be supported by the real women
of America, from all ethnic groups and political persuasions, who agree
with Sen. Helms that our highest-ranking diplomatic officials should be
above reproach.

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