Herman Focus Of Influence-Peddling Probe
Labor Chief Accused Of Taking Money While At White House
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 14) -- The FBI and the Justice Department are investigating allegations that Labor Secretary Alexis Herman took money for political favors when she was a top White House aide.
The allegations were raised by Laurent Yene, a consultant who was in business with Vanessa Weaver, a close friend of Herman's. Yene says he gave Herman money -- in one instance, cash in an envelope -- in return for her influence, including helping someone secure an FCC license for a satellite telephone system.
The current investigation is a 90-day preliminary inquiry to determine whether enough credible evidence exists to investigate the charges further. The process could lead to the appointment of an independent counsel.
There was no immediate comment by Herman on the allegations. But a source close to the labor secretary told CNN that Yene and Weaver have had a falling out and described Yene as "bitter and vindictive."
Herman's attorney told ABC News the allegations are untrue and said the secretary would cooperate fully with investigators.
The White House issued a statement standing behind Herman, who is scheduled to travel to New York Thursday with President Bill Clinton.
"The president continues to have full faith" in the labor secretary, the statement said. "We are confident the Justice Department will conduct its review of the facts and make its decision based on the law."
White House sources told CNN that Yene's allegations had been reviewed by Senate investigators prior to her confirmation as labor secretary in May 1997 -- and that they were found not to be credible.
Prior to taking the labor post, Herman had headed the White House's public liaison office between 1994 and 1996. She was a protege of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, having served as his top aide at the Democratic National Committee before coming to the White House.
In an interview with ABC News aired Wednesday, Yene alleged that he, Herman and Weaver entered into an agreement to use her White House influence to secure the FCC license for one of his clients. In return, Herman was to get 10 percent of the consulting fees, Yene said.
In one instance, Yene says he delivered an envelope full of cash to Herman's home.
Yene, a 42-year-old businessman from Africa, has produced documents he said bolster his claim. But ABC News quoted a spokesperson for Herman as saying the documents were not authentic.
CNN White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report.