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Judge Throws Out Suit Against Mother Jones

In Los Angeles yesterday, Judge Ernest Hiroshige dismissed political consultant Donald Sipple’s suit against Mother Jones magazine and writer Richard Blow, accepting the magazine’s contention that the suit constitutes a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. A SLAPP suit is one designed primarily to punish rather than to seek redress for an injury. Under provisions of the anti-SLAPP statute, Mother Jones is entitled to recoup legal costs.

“Don Sipple’s suit represents an attempt to bully this magazine,” said Mother Jones Editor in Chief Jeffrey Klein. “In spite of our exemplary record for journalistic accuracy, our investigations routinely generate legal threats. We will never let such threats weaken our resolve to report the truth. This is the first suit filed against Mother Jones since 1979, and that case was quickly dropped. The decision vindicates Richard Blow’s fine reporting, Mother Jones’ extensive fact-checking, and the courage of Regina Sipple and Deborah Steelman.”

The Mother Jones story — first published August 4 on the MoJo Wire, the magazine’s online sister — detailed allegations of abuse brought against the prominent GOP media consultant by two ex-wives. The charges carry particular sting because Sipple was a key architect of the GOP’s family values strategy and has a history of helping his candidates leap the gender gap with attack ads that exploit women’s fears of violence.

Following the Mother Jones story, Sipple resigned from the campaign of Vito Fossella, the New York Republican running to fill Susan Molinari’s seat; Sen. Kit Bond (Mo.) announced that he would not be considering Sipple for his 1998 re-election campaign; Gov. George W. Bush (Texas) announced that he is reconsidering hiring Sipple; and San Diego Mayor Susan Golding, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, indicated that the allegations would be problematic for her if they were shown to be true.

In addition to his work with Fossella, Bush, and Bond, Sipple crafted Bob Dole’s media strategy during the 1996 presidential run and has also worked for George Bush, California Gov. Pete Wilson, Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, and many other prominent GOP politicians.

Sipple filed the $12.6 million suit in spite of the fact that both ex-wives — Regina Sipple and Deborah Steelman — have said that the Mother Jones story accurately depicts their experience with Don Sipple.

The Pot Thickens

by Jennifer Hattam

October 14, 1997

When the MoJo Wire published our exclusive database of White House coffees (see “Cash by the Cup,” March 31), we suspected that Clinton’s wealthy guests weren’t just dropping in to chat. The Democrats raked in $27 million in 1996 in contributions from White House coffee guests, many of whom wrote checks within a week of their attendance.

Six months later, the White House’s bumbling and belated release of videotapes of 44 of the coffees has added new fuel to the accusations of impropriety. The White House is calling the late discovery an honest mistake, but Attorney General Janet Reno is hopping mad: The White House informed Reno of the existence of the tapes the day after her announcement that the Clinton campaign apparently had violated no law.

So far, what’s been seen of the tapes has been a bit of a letdown, in both substance and style (they have a bar mitzvah camcorder feel). No money is actually shown changing hands, and the videos don’t identify the guests. But the tapes did catch one Arief Wiriadinata telling Clinton “James Riady sent me.” That doesn’t sound too interesting, until you know that Riady is suspected of using Wiriadinata to funnel illegal foreign campaign contributions to the Democrats (see “Returned to Spender,” April 17). Meanwhile, the juicest part of the videos might be what’s missing: The only tape released without sound stars John Huang, the former DNC fundraiser who is at the center of the Democrats’ foreign money scandal.

The White House is expected to release more tapes today. Whether this will damage Clinton’s credibility remains to be seen. But he can take comfort in the untarnished reputation of another chief executive fundraiser: Ronald Reagan.

A tape archived at the Ronald Reagan library, recently dug up by the Democrats, shows the Gipper, at the White House, entertaining — and soliciting the contributions of — the Republican Eagles, an elite group of donors. Further proof that campaign finance scandals know no partisan bounds.

Other Articles by Jennifer Hattam

Do you think the White House was trying to cover up the existence of the video tapes? Share your views on the unfolding scandals in Live Wire.


Militiaman’s Last Stand

by Kate Rope

October 7, 1997

Just last June Richard Keyes III, the “Republic of Texas” separatist who had escaped a police standoff in West Texas and was presumed dead, showed up alive and defiant on the MoJo Wire. In an exclusive interview with Joel Dyer, Keyes crowed that he was safely out of the country in a compound that was “armed to the teeth,” and that he was prepared to “make a stand” against the United States.

But that “stand” amounted to nothing more than giving an alias when Keyes was captured without a struggle by FBI agents and Texas officers on September 19, alone and unarmed, on a rural road in a national forest 60 miles north of Houston.

The only armed compound home to Keyes now is the Presidio County Jail in Marfa, Texas. Keyes is being held on $1 million bail and faces a possible life term in prison on charges of organized criminal activity and aggravated kidnapping. Keyes and other Republic members took a Texas couple hostage last May in exchange for the release of one of the Republic’s “citizens.” In a jailhouse interview with the Dallas Morning News, Keyes expressed tentative support for the Republic but conceded that its viability remains to be seen.

Not everyone in the Republic shares Keyes’ skepticism. Tim Perkins, a “senior judge” in the Republic’s “District 4,” suggests Keyes is working with the U.S. government and says his standing in the Republic is questionable. Surviving the resignation of its president last July, the Republic is still fighting for independence in three civil lawsuits in a Washington, D.C. district court. But the pen may not have replaced the sword: Perkin warns that if another standoff like the one in Fort Davis occurs, “there will be a bloodbath.”

Other Articles by Kate Rope


Gem of a Deal

by Vicky Anning

October 7, 1997

Generous donations to the Democrats may turn to gold for international diamond dealer Maurice Tempelsman, who ranked No. 101 on the Mother Jones 400 (June 1997). Top-level Clinton officials have gone to bat for Tempelsman — a frequent White House guest — to help him land a business deal in diamond-rich Angola that could make him a key broker in that country’s potential billion-dollar market.

Despite a U.S. Export-Import Bank ban on lending money in war-torn Angola, top-level officials from the State Department and National Security Council — including then-national security adviser Anthony Lake — intervened with the independent federal agency to help Tempelsman win Ex-Im funding for a diamond mining consortium, according to reports in the Washington Post. Tempelsman’s proposed consortium — not yet funded by Ex-Im — would unite the Angolan government with its rival UNITA party, and make Tempelsman the broker for diamonds worth billions.

That’s a handsome payoff for the $169,000 Tempelsman gave the Democrats in 1995-1996. FEC records show that he invested another $18,000 in Democrats in the first half of this year.

And this isn’t the first time that the Clinton administration’s Ex-Im Bank has been persuaded to part with money on Tempelsman’s behalf. Last summer the bank backed a $54.5 million loan to one of Tempelsman’s business partners — Russia’s chief diamond miner.

Other Articles by Vicky Anning


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