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News Briefs

Cheney Aide Had Worked On Rich’s Behalf


The person largely responsible for key legal arguments cited in Marc Rich’s successful pardon application is not Jack Quinn, President Clinton’s former White House counsel. It’s I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a longtime Rich lawyer who is now chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney.

Since 1985, when he left the State Department and was recruited by former Nixon White House counsel Leonard Garment, Libby spent countless hours reviewing legal documents and interviewing witnesses in a search for cracks in the government’s tax evasion indictment of Rich, according to sources. “He spent the next two years traveling around the world,” said a person familiar with his work.

“He’s the best lawyer of all the many lawyers who have worked with me or for me,” Garment said. “On this case, he didn’t give in to anything. He was constantly skeptical and helped me reach the conclusion that we had a meritorious case” to present to New York prosecutors in attempts to negotiate a settlement.

Libby was convinced Rich was a victim of an overzealous prosecution that inappropriately used federal racketeering statutes, known as RICO, to squeeze him and his companies, sources said.

Between 1989 and 1993, Libby served in the Pentagon when Cheney was secretary of defense. As soon as he went back into private practice, he resumed his role as the specialist in the Rich case.

House Approves Bankruptcy Bill


The House approved legislation Thursday that would revamp the nation’s bankruptcy laws by making it harder for consumers to wipe out their debt.

The bill, which was pushed by the credit card industry and opposed by consumer groups, is the first major piece of legislation to come out of the House in the new Congress.

Lobbyists for the credit card industry expect the legislation to pass quickly through the Senate, which will begin debating it Monday. Consumer groups hope to add amendments in the Senate that would make the bill more consumer friendly but acknowledge there may be little support for their efforts.

The bill passed on a 306 to 108 vote that included 93 Democrats who supported it.

President Bush has indicated he would sign the legislation -- a sharp contrast to his predecessor, Bill Clinton, who vetoed virtually identical legislation at the end of last year, arguing it was too slanted in favor of big business and against consumers.

Report Says Power Suppliers Overcharged by $500 Million


Wholesale electricity suppliers overcharged California’s utilities more than $500 million during December and January, an amount that the federal government should demand be refunded, according to a no-holds-barred state report released Thursday.

The report by the California Independent System Operator, which oversees the flow of electricity in the state, said suppliers charged $11 billion during those two months alone -- more than they did for all of 1999.

Studying various market dynamics, the agency concluded that there was a “prima facie case” that the unnamed generators and marketers had earned $562 million above “just and reasonable” prices.

The state report is the most accusatory of a number of studies undertaken to determine why wholesale electricity prices have soared in California since last summer, throwing the state’s biggest utilities into financial crisis and dashing hopes for lower consumer rates.