The Washington Post is reporting that a political action committee established by Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft gave its fundraising list to Ashcroft’s 2000 Senate campaign, a possible violation of campaign finance law by both the PAC and the campaign, this according to documents and election officials. The in-kind contribution to Ashcroft’s campaign was a list of 100,000 donors that the PAC, Spirit of America, turned over to Ashcroft’s 2000 Senate campaign committee. The campaign committee in turn made more than $116,000 by renting out the list to other fundraisers. Under federal law, PACs may give candidates only $10,000 per campaign. Neither the PAC nor the Ashcroft campaign reported the transfer of the list, which occurred after the campaign had already donated $100,000.
Today, the Senate is poised to confirm John Ashcroft as President Bush’s attorney general, ending a vitriolic Cabinet struggle. Despite the near certainty of Ashcroft’s confirmation, Democrats labored to muster enough nays to show Bush that Democrats could put up strong opposition to any potential Supreme Court nominee who, like Ashcroft, share the president’s views on abortion and states’ rights. Frustrating the task were a half-dozen Democrats who endorsed Ashcroft’s nomination, including Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, who declared his intention in less-than-glowing terms late yesterday. Dodd said, “I remain concerned that he will, as he appears to have done at times in the past, submit to the temptation to divide Americans along racial lines.”
Critics focused on Ashcroft’s battles against abortion and against a school desegregation lawsuit while serving as Missouri governor and attorney general. They also cited Ashcroft’s opposition to appointing James Hormel as the first openly gay U.S. ambassador. And they accused Ashcroft of using the nomination of Ronnie White to create a campaign issue. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York said, “It’s his past willingness to bend and torture the law. It is not simply what he said, but what he did when he had executive power.”
Black lawmakers aired a list of grievances to President Bush yesterday, reiterating their deep opposition to John Ashcroft as attorney general, reminding Bush of the wounds inflicted by the Florida election deadlock. Thirty-one members of the Congressional Black Caucus discussed more than 20 issues with the Republican president, including racial profiling, election reform, AIDS, Africa, education and civil rights. Bush pledged a high-level sensitivity on civil rights and promised to make Africa a high priority. Three Black Caucus members from Florida did not attend the White House meeting because they felt it was inappropriate given the disputed election there. Those who attended informed Bush of the absences. The caucus, whose members are all Democrats, walked out on January 6 as Congress certified George W. Bush’s victory when the electoral votes were counted.
Nearly two years after the fatal shooting, the Justice Department has decided not to pursue federal civil rights charges against the four New York City police officers who gunned down Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant in New York. The U.S. Justice Department yesterday decided not to pursue federal civil rights charges against the officers who killed Amadou Diallo in a hail of 41 bullets outside his Bronx apartment on February 4, 1999. The four officers — Kenneth Boss, Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon and Richard Murphy — were acquitted of murder and other charges in a state criminal trial last year. The officers all testified Diallo’s fatal shooting was a tragic mistake, claiming they thought he was reaching for a gun in a dimly lit vestibule of his building. Diallo, it was revealed, was actually reaching for his wallet. Kadiatou Diallo, Amadou’s mother, said, “I cannot convey to you the sadness I feel by hearing this decision.” She added, she has found justice very elusive since she came to the United States shortly after her son’s death. Amadou Diallo’s father, Saikou, is still convinced that the officers have not been punished for his son’s death. Shortly after Diallo’s death, U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White announced her office had begun the civil rights probe. White’s office also has a separate, broader investigation underway into police training and practices, especially by the Street Crimes Unit in New York. Again, the Justice Department has decided not to pursue federal civil rights charges against the officers who killed Amadou Diallo. His family still has a civil rights lawsuit pending.
Libya said today it may consider paying compensation to the Lockerbie victims, but it will never accept responsibility for the bombing. Amid conflicting signals from the Tripoli government, Washington and London united in insisting that Libya must pay up and accept the blame. Libyan state-run television said yesterday a Libyan convicted of murdering 270 people in the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing would lodge an appeal. It said defense lawyers would appeal within two weeks against the court’s verdict on Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Another Libyan was found not guilty by the special Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands.