The Lone Starr State
What’s at the heart of independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation of President Clinton? More Texas connections than you can shake a subpoena at.
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Whitewatergate. Filegate. Travelgate. Clinterngate. Even after the dismissal of the Paula Jones case, there are so many ongoing investigations of Bill Clinton—and so many nicknames for them—that it’s hard to keep them straight. So here’s a modest proposal. From now on, let’s group them together under one name: Lone Starr Stategate. After all, this is very much a Texas story.
Think about it. Dallas? The hometown of all the president’s women (or at least some of them). Austin? Two of the president’s loudest defenders have lived there. San Antonio? The breeding ground for the prosecution. And so on, from Texarkana to Waco and Fort Worth to Vernon: In city after city you can find links to the presidential probe.
Do we have to draw you a map? Okay, you asked for it.
Last November lawyers for Paula Jones deposed the original Other Woman, Gennifer Flowers, who lives in Dallas with her husband, stockbroker Finis Shelnutt. In January 1992 the veteran nightclub singer told Star magazine that she and Clinton had had a twelve-year affair. On Super Bowl Sunday that year, Clinton went on CBS’s 60 Minutes and adamantly denied any sexual relationship with Flowers, but in his own deposition in the Jones case earlier this year, he reportedly acknowledged having had sex with her in 1977.
Dolly Kyle Browning, a pro bono attorney at the Dallas office of Lawyers for Affordable Housing, was a schoolmate of Clinton’s back in Hot Springs, Arkansas—and, she alleges, his off-and-on lover for more than three decades. Last year, after she self-published Purposes of the Heart, a novel that she says is based on their relationship, she was deposed by Jones’s lawyers. The White House has refused to comment on Browning’s book.
A professor of English composition at the Collin County Community College in Plano, Joyce Miller told the American Spectator in 1994 that an Arkansas state trooper had approached her ten years earlier at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds on behalf of then-governor Clinton; Miller said she believed the trooper was trying to arrange a “liaison” with Clinton. In the past few months Miller told the same story to Jones’s lawyers and a reporter for the New York Times.
On March 8, while serving a three-year term at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Jim McDougal died of a heart attack before he could testify yet another time against the Clintons, his former partners in the infamous Whitewater real estate development. McDougal denied any wrongdoing by the first family until he was convicted of fraud by a jury in Arkansas; he then changed his story and promised to cooperate with independent counsel Kenneth Starr in return for a reduced prison sentence.
Call it a virtual screwup. Late in the evening on January 26, the Dallas Morning News published a story on its Internet site reporting that a Secret Service agent had seen Clinton and Monica Lewinsky “in a compromising situation” and was prepared to testify. It was such a hot scoop that Ted Koppel talked about it that night on ABC’s Nightline. Within a few hours, however, the News’ source got cold feet, prompting editors to yank the story—but not before it got into the first edition of the next day’s paper.
Twelve years after he successfully fought to reinstate Texas’ anti-sodomy law, Dallas attorney Donovan Campbell, Jr., once again found himself in the thick of a case involving sex. Last October, at the suggestion of John Whitehead, the president of the Rutherford Institute, a legal-advocacy group based in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Tyler native was hired to represent Paula Jones in her sexual misconduct lawsuit against the president.
Waco insurance tycoon Bernard Rapoport and Texarkana oilman Truman Arnold were both questioned by a federal grand jury in 1997 about financial assistance they gave former associate attorney general Webster Hubbell at the urging of Mack McLarty, Clinton’s former chief of staff. Rapoport, a longtime Democratic party donor, paid Hubbell $18,000 for public relations consulting; Arnold, later a Democratic National Committee finance chair, also hired him. Both men deny that they were paying “hush money” in exchange for Hubbell’s silence on Whitewater-related matters.
Gene Lyons, who lived in Austin while writing for Texas Monthly and teaching at the University of Texas, is today a Little Rock–based columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the hardest working Clinton defender in the business: He is the author of Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater (Franklin Square Press) and numerous magazine articles rebutting the allegations against the president, and he appears on TV talk shows debating committed Clinton haters.
After he was forced out as a presidential adviser in 1994—allegedly for being a source in Bob Woodward’s book The Agenda—Paul Begala returned to Austin, where he joined the Public Strategies consulting firm and taught a class on politics and the media at his alma mater, the University of Texas. Last August he resumed his role as White House policy maven and pit bull, and he’s been baring his teeth in the Clintons’ defense ever since.
Sometime in the eighties, when Austinite Henry Floyd lived in Little Rock, he was given a used Mercury Marquis by Lorraine McDougal, the mother of Jim McDougal, his old friend and employer at Madison Guaranty. After the car’s transmission gave out in 1988, he ditched it at a Little Rock garage and never thought about it again—until a year ago, that is, when an employee opened the trunk and found a 1982 cashier’s check for some $27,000 payable to Clinton from Jim McDougal’s bank. The White House challenges the check’s authenticity, but Whitewater investigators are not so dismissive: They served Floyd with a subpoena and brought him up to Little Rock last August.
On July 21, 1946, independent counsel Kenneth Starr was born in the North Texas town of Vernon. By the time he entered elementary school, his family had moved to Centerville, and they remained there until 1952, when they relocated to San Antonio. Starr attended Sam Houston High School, where he was voted most likely to succeed by his classmates, and then went on to college in, of all places, Arkansas.
Three lawyers on Starr’s staff used to be federal prosecutors in San Antonio. Deputy independent counsel Sol Wisenberg was an assistant U.S. attorney there, as was Mark Barrett, now a Denver-based assistant U.S. attorney on loan to the Office of the Independent Counsel. Deputy independent counsel Jackie Bennett, Jr., spent five years trying cases in San Antonio as a senior trial attorney with the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Justice Department. (Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal has filed a complaint with the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility alleging that Bennett told a reporter Blumenthal was “peddling filth and lies about federal prosecutors.” Blumenthal’s lawyer is Jo Marsh, who hails from—guess where?—Denton.) Similarly, LeRoy and Ray Jahn, longtime husband-and-wife assistant U.S. attorneys in San Antonio, were on loan to Starr’s office from 1995 to 1997.
Before she was named press spokeswoman for the Office of the Independent Counsel in September 1994, Deborah Gershman had been a legal secretary in San Antonio.
From 1986 to 1989 she worked at the law firm of Sawtelle, Goode, Davidson, and Troilo. From 1991 to 1993 she worked at a spin-off of that firm, Goode, Casseb, and Jones. From 1983 to 1991 Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer, William Ginsburg, was a senior partner in the Los Angeles office of the Houston law firm Wood, Lucksinger, and Epstein.