Herman: Influence-Peddling Accusation 'Not True'
NEW YORK (AllPolitics, Jan. 15) -- Labor Secretary Alexis Herman says there's no truth to the influence-peddling allegation against her.
"I want you to know that these allegations are not true," she said, before heading to New York to be alongside President Bill Clinton for the day.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that the Justice Department is investigating allegations she took money for political favors as a top White House aide.
Just before leaving for New York this afternoon, Clinton was asked by reporters if he thought Herman would have sold influence in his administration. "I don't believe that for a minute," Clinton replied.
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 Federal Communications Commission (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.
The consultant Yene (pronounced "Uh-NAY") alleges Herman helped get political favors for clients and in return got a 10 percent commission. A source close to Herman tells CNN Yene had a bitter falling out with a former close business partner of Herman's, and that Yene may have been vindictive.
The White House issued a statement standing behind Herman. "The president continues to have full faith in Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman," it read. "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 were reviewed by Senate investigators prior to her confirmation as labor secretary in May 1997 and that they were found not to be credible.
But a completed 30-day Justice Department review found Yene's claims to be specific and credible enough to warrant a broader 90-day preliminary investigation.
Attorney General Janet Reno will eventually have to decide whether there is enough evidence against Herman to seek an independent counsel.
Through her attorney, Herman said that the allegations are not true and she has not been contacted by the Justice Department.
"These allegations against Secretary Herman are just not true. We have not been contacted by the Justice Department. If we are, we will provide whatever information they need to help put this matter to rest," said her attorney Neil Eggleston.
Before taking the labor post, Herman headed the White House's public liaison office between 1994 and 1996. She was a protege of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, serving 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's John King contributed to this report.