Attorney General Janet Reno may have opened a can of worms on May 11 when she asked for an independent counsel to investigate allegations that Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman violated campaign-finance laws. The probe could be bad news for Democrats if it is expanded to look at whether other Clinton officials solicited illegal foreign donations.
A key allegation against Herman--who denies any wrongdoing--involves her role in soliciting contributions in 1996 from a Singapore businessman who was then seeking a Federal Communications Commission license. The businessman was a client of Vanessa J. Weaver, a close friend of Herman. Weaver had bought out Herman's consulting business after Herman took a senior White House job.
In October, 1996, Weaver accompanied her client to a Virginia fund-raiser where--with Herman's help--they met President Clinton. The client then allegedly made a $250,000 donation through Weaver. Weaver contributed $240,000 to the Democrats in 1996 but denies laundering her client's money. The charges, made by an ex-partner of Weaver, resemble the pattern of foreign fund-raising during President Clinton's reelection campaign: Democratic officials allegedly sought hefty donations from foreign nationals seeking to do business deals in the U.S.