U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR TO PROBE ON-JOB OIA CAMPAIGN INVOLVING NORTHERN

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By Audrey Hudson

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 18, 1999 – The Washington Times)---The Interior Department's inspector general and special counsel are being called in to investigate whether top department officials linked to on-the-job campaigning against House Republicans broke the law, The Washington Times has learned.

An Interior Department spokesman would not confirm the names of employees under investigation, but other congressional sources identified them as Allen P. Stayman, former director of the Office of Insular Affairs, and Policy Director David North, who resigned after a congressional inquiry began.

"We initiated that investigation to root out waste, fraud, abuse and inefficiency," said spokesman John Wright, adding that the probe is not "targeted at any specific person."

Interior Solicitor John Leshy also wrote the inspector general and Office of Insular Affairs last month requesting they investigate possible violations of the Hatch Act, which limits political activities of federal employees.

The House Resources Committee began investigating Mr. Stayman and other Insular Affairs employees last month for conducting illegal on-the-job campaigns against House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Whip Tom DeLay of Texas, as well as three other congressmen.

The Insular Affairs officials were at odds with the Republicans over President Clinton's plan to apply immigration and wage laws to the Northern Mariana Islands, acquired by the United States during World War II.

Documents show Mr. North drafted press releases for Democratic candidates, provided derogatory information about Republican members to campaigns and reporters, and wrote letters to the editor for constituents to submit to local papers.

Mr. Stayman also plotted to oust the islands' Democratic governor, Froilan Tenorio, during the 1997 campaign.

In a memo addressed to the director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Mr. Stayman asked him to "repudiate" Mr. Tenorio one month before Election Day for "scorning" Mr. Clinton and his efforts to federalize the islands.

"Largely out of sight, there is a nominal Democrat, a Governor running for re-election, who scorns our president, who is in Washington this week playing footsie with the Republican House leadership, and who should be repudiated -- in writing -- by the nation's Democrats," Mr. Stayman wrote.

"Those of us who are politicals here at Interior want the DNC to repudiate these scoundrels," he said in the memo obtained by The Washington Times.

"We have sent along a draft press release which gives you some more information on this subject, and which would, I assure you, get some extensive coverage if released," Mr. Stayman wrote.

After his defeat, Mr. Tenorio immediately switched to the Republican Party, said a former island Cabinet official.

The governor and the Clinton administration clashed over immigration and trade issues, and they suspected Mr. Stayman was working against the governor behind the scenes. Those issues combined with the stealth campaign prompted Mr. Tenorio to switch parties, the official said.

"[Mr. Stayman] did his best with the local media on the island to influence the election. We always suspected he was involved in the campaign, and this memo is proof," he said.

"The proof is in the pudding. He was trying to influence politics in U.S. territories," the Cabinet member said.

The House committee subpoenaed documents and a computer hard-drive from the Interior Department, which complied only after Chairman Don Young of Alaska threatened to hold current Director Ferdinand Aranza in contempt of Congress.

The committee also subpoenaed documents from the DCCC and threatened to hold Director David Plouffe in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate by the August 2 deadline.

In a last-minute deal Mr. Plouffe agreed to hand over all documents by Aug. 16. However, a committee staffer said yesterday all the panel had received was a letter saying they couldn't find any documents.

"I can't believe they dragged this out for so long and said we're not going to comply or give you anything, and at the end of the day they say we don't have anything," the staffer said.

Materials obtained so far by the committee show Mr. North spent a significant amount of time on political and lobbying activities.

In one memo, Mr. North wrote to the DCCC, "We have been asked for the names and phone numbers of the Democratic candidates for Congress in these districts if they have been identified for 1998.

"Some friends have asked for this information because the incumbents [Mr. Armey, Mr. DeLay, and Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, California Republican] have been giving the Clinton Administration a hard time," Mr. North stated.

Mr. North asked one Democratic campaign aide specifically to contact him at his Interior Department office rather than at home to discuss ways in which to defeat Republicans in the 1998 election.

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