When Sen. Arlen Specter recently obtained the internal Justice Department memo of former campaign finance task force chief Charles G. LaBella, the Pennsylvania Republican used it to resurrect a favorite partisan target: President Clinton's approval for Loral Space and Communications Corp. to launch a satellite from China two years ago. At the time, Loral Chairman Bernard L. Schwartz was among the Democratic Party's biggest individual donors.
During a May 2 hearing, Specter commented that LaBella had pushed, in his still-sealed memo, to have an independent counsel investigate the Loral matter, suggesting that the case remained ripe for serious criminal inquiry. And Specter reinforced that impression, urging the Senate to subpoena Loral-related documents.
The LaBella report and related documents, which were obtained earlier this year by The Times, tell quite a different story. In fact, by the time LaBella delivered his report to Atty. Gen. Janet Reno in the summer of 1998, the task force had effectively excused Schwartz and Loral from the campaign finance investigation.