An interesting semi-historical footnote concerning Dick
Cheney's oft-reiterated references to President Clinton's weaseling under
oath. "He knows what the meaning of 'is' is," says Cheney in his campaign
stump speech to show the moral superiority of the Republican camp.
Which leads us to this story about Karl Rove, Bush's campaign manager and
the man they call "Bush's brain."
Rove, as all the world knows, has been a Republican political operative in
Texas for 23 years. During that time, Texas Democrats noticed a pattern that
they eventually became somewhat paranoid about: In election years, there
always seemed to be an FBI investigation of some sitting Democrat either
announced or leaked to the press.
After the election was over, the allegations often vanished, although in
the case of Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, three of his aides were
later convicted. The investigations were conducted by FBI agent Greg
Rampton, who was stationed in Austin in those years.
In 1989, Rove was nominated for a position with the federal Board for
International Broadcasting. He answered a questionnaire from the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee that was later obtained by subpoena. One of the
questions was: Have you been interviewed or asked to supply any information
in connection with any administrative or grand jury investigation in the
past 18 months? If so, provide details.
Rove responded, "This summer I met with agent Greg Rampton of the Austin
FBI office at his request regarding a probe of political corruption in the
office of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower."
In 1991, Rove was undergoing state Senate confirmation hearings for an
appointment to the East Texas State University board of regents. Sen. Bob
Glasgow was questioning Rove about his work for Gov. Bill Clements in the
1986 campaign against Gov. Mark White.
A now-forgotten incident of that campaign involved a listening device
allegedly found in Rove's office by a private security firm a few days
before a televised debate. The case made headlines around the state. It was
investigated by Rampton, who never found the alleged perpetrator.
Glasgow: "Ah, Mr. Rove, would you now tell us publicly who bugged your
office that you blamed upon Mark White publicly and the press statewide?"
Rove: "Ah, first of all, I did not blame it on Mark White. If, ah, if
you'll recall I specifically said at the time that we disclosed the bugging
that we did not know who did it, but we knew who might benefit from it. And
no, I do not know. ..."
Glasgow: "And are you now satisfied that Mark White and the Democratic
Party did not bug your office as you -- as you released, ah, to the
Rove: "Senator, I never said Mark White bugged my office, I'm not certain
he has an electronic background. I never said the Democratic Party bugged it
either. ... As to who bugged it, Senator, I do not know -- and the FBI does
not know. ..."
Glasgow: "How long have you known an FBI agent by the name of Greg
Rove: "Ah, Senator, it depends -- would you define 'know' for me?"
Glasgow: "What is your relationship with him?"
Rove: "Ah, I know, I would not recognize Greg (Rampton) if he walked in the
door. We have talked on the phone a var- -- a number of times. Ah, and he
has visited in my office once or twice, but we do not have a social or
personal relationship whatsoever. ..."
Glasgow: "During the Rick Perry campaign (against Jim Hightower), did you
have any conversations with FBI agent Rampton about the course and conduct
of that campaign?"
Rove: "Yes, I did, two or three times. ..."
Glasgow: "Did you issue a press release in Washington, at a fund-raiser,
about information you'd received from the FBI implicating -- implicating,
Rove: "We did not issue a press release. ... We did not issue a news
release. I talked to a member of the press ..."
Glasgow: "I'm gonna let you expound on anything you want to. Ah, involved
in campaigns that you've been involved in, do you know why agent Rampton
conducted a criminal investigation of Garry Mauro at the time you were
involved in that campaign, pulled the finance records of Bob Bullock at the
time you were involved in that campaign, pulled the campaign records of Jim
Hightower at the time you were involved in that campaign?"
Rove: "Well, Senator, first of all, as I said before, I was not involved in
either Bob Bullock or Garry Mauro's campaigns or the campaigns of their
Republican opponent. I'd be hard pressed to tell you who Garry Mauro's
opponent was in 1986. Ah, and I'd -- think I'd be hard pressed even to
remember who Bob Bullock's opponent was in 1986. So I can't answer that part
of the question. I do know that I became involved in Rick Perry's campaign
in November of 1989. At that point there was already an investigation
ongoing of the Texas Department of Agriculture, prompted by stories which
had appeared in August and September, I believe, in The Dallas Morning News
regarding the use of Texas Department of Agriculture funds."
Glasgow shifts to the Board for International Broadcasting appointment:
"And in answering a question for that perspective [sic] federal appointment,
did you make a claim in there that you were involved in the Hightower
investigation at the request of special agent Rampton of the Federal Bureau
Rove: "No, sir."
Glasgow: "You did not make that statement in response ..."
Rove: "I did not, and I was ..."
Glasgow: "Let me finish my question. Did you make that statement in
response to a written questionnaire?"
Rove: "Ah, Senator, ah, no, I did not make that statement, but I ..."
Glasgow: "Thank you very much."
Rampton, who was subsequently involved with the FBI operation at Ruby Ridge
and is now in charge of the FBI's Denver office, said Monday that he had not
talked to Rove about the Hightower case. Told that Rove had so claimed in
his federal questionnaire, Rampton said:
"Let me think. I couldn't recall talking to him on that particular case at
all. My memory, if there was a conversation we had on that case, well, I
can't recall it. He was not an integral part of that case. I don't even
remember bouncing anything off him as somebody who was familiar with
politics in Austin."
Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. To find out
more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers
and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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