A Smoking Torch
Secret Investigation by Frequent Liars
by Ted Lang
August 5, 2002
He is nicknamed "The Torch," he being Senator Robert G. Torricelli (D-NJ). Weakly playing on his name while strongly reflective of both his temperament and political style, the fiery politician received the standard slap on the wrist for being caught engaging in what many Americans consider typical behavior for those in Congress. While Congressman James Traficant (D-OH) was crucified for doing virtually the same thing, he committed the fatal error of turning on his own.
It has long been asserted that where there's smoke there's fire. Considering that no less than seven individuals have confessed to giving Torricelli illegal contributions relative to his 1996 senatorial campaign, it should be obvious to even a casual observer that something is awry. These contributions pertain to a federal election and are therefore subject to Federal Election Commission rules.
On the other hand, Torricelli's transgressions are also violations regarding both the gratuity law and the federal bribery statute. Several avenues of legal remedy seem to have been available, yet federal prosecutors referred the investigation to Torricelli's peers in the Senate.
Here's the known list of Torricelli's receipts from his main contributor, David Chang:
a) $53,700 in campaign contributions in 1996;
b) $35,000 in general contributions;
c) Rolex watch ($9,200);
d) 12 hand-made Italian suits (estimated value at least $5,000 each);
e) Toshiba 52 inch projection television ($1,877.90);
f) Antique Scottish grandfather clock ($3,816.00).
This list was assembled from various articles in both The Star Ledger and The New York Times over an extended period of time. Considering that the FBI raided Torricelli's home and seized all his bank records, evidence confirming Chang's allegation that he gave Torricelli cash for the purchase of the grandfather clock would be relatively simple to confirm since the store's records show the item sold for cash. The Senate Ethics Committee is said to be in possession of that evidence. Additionally, virtually all the items above, with the exception of the cash, would have been found in the FBI raid.
According to an article written by Robert Cohen and Robert Rudolph for The Star Ledger dated April 20, 2001, "(Torricelli) has hired (Mike) Espy's lawyer, Theodore Wells, and has shied away from saying outright that he did not take gifts from a campaign donor, all the while saying he did nothing wrong." Cohen and Rudolph point out in their article, "Torricelli's strategy: Gifts were tokens," that the Senator was "turn(ing) to the same defense used by former (Clinton) Agricultural Secretary Mike Espy, who was acquitted of taking illegal gifts."
Torricelli's first defensive posture was that the gifts he received were from "a friend," and therefore not subject to any laws. When Chang started getting into trouble with federal investigators, Chang went to Torricelli for help, and Torricelli recommended a lawyer.
As the investigation into Chang's political donations began to increasingly incriminate and directly involve Torricelli, Chang advises that he began experiencing "lawyer problems." In a Star Ledger article dated August 9, 2001, "Donor: Torricelli went back on word," Ana M. Ayala and Robert Cohen offer their account of Chang's lawyer problems: "Chang, who became a naturalized American citizen in 1990, said he was unaware that those donations were illegal when he made them. He also said he has never testified before a grand jury and that more than a year ago he had a difficult time getting out of a tangle of lawyers who, he said, betrayed him at the start of the investigation."
The article goes on to state that Chang fired the lawyers recommended by Torricelli. The article quotes Chang as saying: "They never really worked for me. None of my lawyers advised me well." He stated that his lawyers advised him to lie. Of course, both lawyers denied the accusations. But then the article quotes one of them: "It is impossible to give a reasoned response to irrational and incoherent comments such as these. It's better to let this craziness speak for itself." This became the basis for Torricelli's claim that Chang's testimony is invalid because it is that of a convicted criminal.
It would therefore have been most reassuring if the Senate Ethics Committee included testimony from Mr. Chang during its investigation as well as if sealed documents and evidence had been made public. And even now that both the FBI investigation and the Senate hearing are over, no information is being released. Considering all the smoke and mirrors Congress accuses corporate America of, what we don't need is a smoking torch in Congress. ***
© 2002 Ted Lang Publications
COPYRIGHT © 2002 BY THE AMERICAN PARTISAN. All writers retain rights to their work.