Facebook Twitter



A couple of days in May offer a glimpse at why many Democrats are howling over Kenneth Starr's appointment as the Whitewater independent counsel.

On May 21, the former Reagan and Bush administration official wrote a $1,000 check to GOP House candidate Tom Davis, bringing to $5,475 his total contributions to Republican candidates over the past 18 months.And on May 24, Starr debated White House counsel Lloyd Cutler on PBS' "MacNeil-Lehrer News-Hour," criticizing President Clinton's first line of defense in a sexual harassment suit filed by a former Arkansas state worker, that sitting presidents cannot be sued.

"It is a very serious step to take to say that the president of the United States is simply too busy to respond to lawsuits the way others have to," Starr argued.

"The question that comes to mind is whether Kenneth Starr, based on past actions, is too partisan a Republican to do a fair job," said House Deputy Whip Bill Richardson, D-N.M. "Is he the only individual we can find to fill this position?"

Robert Bennett, Clinton's personal lawyer in the Whitewater matter, said Tuesday that "I have a high regard for Mr. Starr's intellect and personal integrity, but I'm just concerned about the fairness of the situation."

Bennett, appearing on NBC, asked "why is (former counsel Robert) Fiske being replaced? There was no conflict there . . . is it because he made some findings that are favorable to the president?"

Republicans were quick to defend Starr and said his track record on the federal bench proved he was able to put his personal and political views aside in deciding cases.

"I don't blame them if they make comments like that," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said of the criticism of Starr. "But everybody knows that Ken Starr is a straight shooter."

Hatch said Starr has "worked to keep his Republican credentials alive" since he left government "but is certainly no ideologue."

Starr, a former appeals court judge and solicitor general, was named by a three-judge panel Friday to replace Fiske as head of the Whitewater investigation. The decision caught the White House and its Whitewater critics off guard.

But the week opened Monday with a Democratic chorus protesting Starr's appointment. Clinton loyalists had little hope of persuading Starr to give up the job.

The material cited by the Democrats, campaign finance records and other public sources show Starr has a long history in GOP politics, dating to county GOP activism in Virginia in the late 1970s.

In various roles throughout the Reagan and Bush administrations, he was barred from any direct campaign activities. But he quickly renewed his activism after leaving government with the changing of administrations in January 1993.