New revelations damage Clinton

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THE revelation that Hillary Clinton was shown how to make a quick profit of dollars 100,000 (pounds 67,000) in the commodities market at the start of her husband's political career by a company he was supposed to regulate has struck a damaging blow against White House efforts to defuse controversy over the Whitewater affair.

At the same time, Senate Republicans and Democrats have agreed to hold hearings on Whitewater, which the White House had hoped to avoid. After prolonged wrangling, senators voted 98-0 for the hearings to be held at a time and in a manner that will not interfere with the inquiries of the special prosecutor, Robert Fiske.

The dollars 100,000 was made by Hillary Clinton in 1978, three weeks before her husband became governor of Arkansas, through trading in cattle futures under the guidance of James Blair, the top lawyer of the Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, the largest poultry producer in the US. Mr Blair, a leading figure in politics and business in Little Rock, says he helped Mrs Clinton because she was a friend and not to influence her husband.

Mr Clinton has long been criticised for easing regulation of Tyson, one of his main fundraisers and political allies, both as governor and President. Favours allegedly done by Mr Clinton include easing regulations on the pollution of rivers by Tyson plants and placing its executives on state boards. Evidence, published in the New York Times yesterday, that the Clinton family finances were transformed in a single year with the help of Tyson is bound to undermine the credibility of their claims that their business dealings in Arkansas were all above board.

Although the Agriculture Department under the Clinton administration has begun a clampdown on insanitary slaughterhouses, this has bypassed the chicken industry. In particular the Department started a 'zero-tolerance' policy for faecal matter sold with meat by meat-packers, but the Agriculture Secretary, Mike Espy, killed a proposal to extend it to chicken plants, 66 of which are owned by Tyson.

The danger for the Clintons in the new revelations is that they give media and governmental investigators much more to get their teeth into than Whitewater. Although the Whitewater real estate company and Madison Guaranty savings and loan, both controlled by a Clinton partner, James McDougal, have been endlessly examined nobody has shown that the Clintons did anything illegal.

Far more important to a rising politician such as Bill Clinton were Arkansas-based billionaires like Sam Walton, owner of Wal-Mart, the largest retailers in the US, Jack and Witt Stephens, founders of one of the largest investment banking houses off Wall Street, and Don Tyson of Tyson Foods. By 1990 Hillary was earning dollars 60,000 a year in director's fees from these and other companies, which also played a critical role in financing her husband's bid for the Democratic nomination.

Mrs Clinton was quick to deny any impropriety yesterday. Of her cattle futures trading in 1978 her office said: 'Mrs Clinton consulted with numerous people and did her own research.' Speaking of the Clintons, Mr Blair said: 'Do they have to go weed their friends out and say they can only have friends who are sweeping the streets? They have friends who are high-powered lawyers.'

Compounding the Clintons' embarrassment over their relationship with Mr Tyson are questions about a company, Seattle-based Arctic Alaska Fisheries Corp, bought by Mr Tyson in 1992. Federal authorities have started an inquiry into a suspicious surge in share-buying in the company by Arkansas investors, including a group once headed by a White House aide, Patsy Thomasson, before its purchase by Mr Tyson, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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