THE SNIT HITS THE FAN
In honor of Congresswoman Pat Schroeder's impending retirement next year after 24 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, her staff compiled a Harper's-like list intended as a testimony to her accomplishments (e.g., hours spent working for constituents: 78,000) and integrity (political consultants hired: 0). Parts of it were published by both of Denver's daily newspapers.
One category the list omitted, however, was Schroeder's interest in investigations. She is so well-known for her sense of outrage and her (shocked, shocked!) demands for somebody or other to look into this or that, that a Virginia researcher named his newsletter after her: Schroeder's List, which catalogues the ethical failings of the Clinton administration, echoes the Democratic congresswoman's persistent accusations of Republican misdeeds over the years.
Of course, long after the headlines disappear, the investigations plod on. Or not. What hath Schroeder's outrage wrought? Read on.
RESOLUTION TRUST CORP.
In August 1992, Bruce Pederson, a whistleblowing Resolution Trust Corporation staff lawyer, complained that his agency went easy on some savings-and-loan executives. In May 1993 he discovered his bosses had inspected his computer files. Pat demanded an investigation.
"This action can only be seen as retaliation against Mr. Pederson," Pat wrote to Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen.
"It was a rather quick investigation; the agent didn't spend a whole lot of time talking to me," Pederson recalls. "They concluded that it was perfectly proper for my supervisor to do what he did. It was sort of a whitewash. I think it was a joke."
NATIONAL GUARD The Outrage
In June 1994 Pat's office received a tip that some members of the Colorado National Guard may have defrauded the government by collecting unemployment benefits as well as their Guard pay. Pat demanded an investigation.
Such double-dipping in Colorado "could result in a loss to state and federal government of up to $1.8 million," Pat wrote to the General Accounting Office.
Pat's request was forwarded to the General Accounting Office's Education and Employment Division. "They tell me they've finished collecting all the data and will begin to analyze it soon," a GAO spokesman promises. "They hope to complete it in March of next year. That's a ballpark figure."
In the meantime, says Colorado National Guard spokesman Major Michael Yowell, the Colorado Legislature passed a law in 1995 explicitly permitting Guard members to collect unemployment benefits as well as their Guard pay.
M&L BUSINESS MACHINE CO.
Newspaper reports published in May 1994 raised questions about a federal trustee's handling of a Denver bankruptcy case involving M&L Business Machine Co. Pat demanded an investigation.
"It was okay," says the trustee in question, Christine Jobin. "I had to submit some reports to the trustee's office that I would have had to submit anyway. We file two reports a year, and I filed my September report a little early, that's all."
Barbara Shangraw, the U.S. Trustee for Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, says Jobin's January 1995 evaluation concluded that her "practices were adequate in safeguarding bankruptcy and estate funds."
Adds Jobin: "With all due respect to Pat Schroeder, I don't think she understood what was going on."
DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT The Outrage
In November 1994 published reports suggested that DIA's concrete runways may have been poorly built. Pat demanded an investigation.
"I think we need to get to the bottom of it and find out if this is fact or fiction," Pat told the Denver Post.
"The results of that investigation were benign," a Schroeder spokesman concedes. "They found nothing."
BOB ENYART The Outrage
Bob Enyart, a Greenwood Village-based television personality who once described himself as "the nation's most popular right-wing religious-fanatic homophobic anti-choice talk-show host," angered pro-choice supporters in January 1995 when he broadcast a map to an abortion doctor's home on KWHD/Channel 53. He already had inflamed gays when he played the song "Another One Bites the Dust" while reciting the obituaries of AIDS victims.
"We've begun investigating the complaints, and the federal agencies are looking into legalities of the station and the legalities of the complaints," Pat's spokesman said.
The FCC sent Pat a response in March 1995. It concluded that Enyart may or may not have violated Federal Communications Commission rules--Pat's letter was unclear. It asked her to send on any additional information she may have. "As of today I don't see anything else that's come in," an agency investigator says.
"I remember she called a press conference," recalls Enyart, who two months ago moved his syndicated show to Indiana. "It made quite a bit of news around the country. I ended up doing fifteen interviews, and even a live interview with the BBC. We don't get much air time in Europe, so that was great."
CITIZEN MILITIAS The Outrage
In the wake of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City last April, attention focused on citizen militias. Pat demanded an investigation of the militias.
The militia movement "is an internal threat to our democratic processes," Pat said.
On November 2 the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime sponsored hearings titled "Violent Anti-Government Groups," during which it was determined that some anti-government groups were violent. A spokeswoman for the subcommittee says a transcript has yet to be prepared.
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION The Outrage
In July 1995 the Rocky Mountain News published a story exposing FAA employees who took advantage of a government moving allowance for their residences when their jobs moved from Stapleton to DIA. Pat demanded an investigation.
"Due to the serious nature of this situation, I ask that you immediately review the available information," Pat wrote to Henry Solano, the U.S. Attorney in Denver.
"I don't know why she did it," says Barry Krasner, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "To me it was just a reiteration [of an earlier investigation into the same thing by the Federal Aviation Administration]. Who knows why politicians do what they do?"
"In the first place," says U.S. Attorney Solano, "we do not confirm or deny any investigations. Secondly, we don't do any investigations." He says his office prosecutes based on evidence gathered by law enforcement agencies.
BARNES BUSINESS COLLEGE The Outrage
In early August 1995 Barnes Business College filed for bankruptcy after 91 years in business, leaving students out in the cold. Pat demanded an investigation.
"There are a lot of unanswered questions," Pat's spokeswoman said.
"God knows" when the investigation will be done, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education says. "These things take on a shelf life of their own."
NEWT GINGRICH The Outrage
In January 1995, Jones Intercable, a Denver company with business before Congress, announced it would broadcast Newt Gingrich's history course for free on cable television. Pat demanded an investigation.
"It just doesn't meet the straight-face test," Pat said.
"The House Ethics Committee is required to look at any phony charge that's put before it," a Gingrich spokesman responded at the time. "I expect any responsible agency would dismiss the matter."
On December 6 the House Ethics Committee dismisses the matter.
DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT The Outrage
During a snowstorm this past October, DIA displayed difficulty handling its air traffic. Also, it snowed inside the airport's control tower. Pat demanded an investigation.
"The snow had to be literally vacuumed off the [control tower's] equipment," she wrote to the FAA.
After a probe, the FAA discovers some caulk missing from the tower roof.
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION The Outrage
On November 16, 1995, Pat sent a letter to Arthur Levitt, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, accusing him of publicly expressing bias in an SEC investigation into DIA bond sales.
If Levitt believes Denver already guilty, "then clearly the process is not only wrong but tainted," Pat wrote.
The SEC's general counsel sends a return letter to Pat on November 28, explaining how the SEC works.
"I appreciate the refresher course on how the SEC works," Pat replies.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE The Outrage
In November 1995 the Rocky Mountain News reported that the Department of Defense had concluded the now-defunct airline MarkAir was dangerous and that it wouldn't allow military personnel to use the airline. Meanwhile, MarkAir had continued to fly commercial passengers. Pat demanded an investigation.
"If there are planes you don't want your personnel to fly on, then there are planes I don't want my constituents to fly on," Pat wrote.
"We haven't heard from the Department of Defense yet," a Schroeder spokesman says.
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