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Thursday, February 06, 2003

Justice Department's actions in Martha Stewart case
reveal double standard, Libertarians say

WASHINGTON, DC – Reports that federal investigators may file criminal
charges against celebrity homemaker Martha Stewart raise a troubling
question, Libertarians say: Why aren't Dick Cheney and Terry McAuliffe
facing criminal charges as well?

After all, both the vice president and the head of the Democratic
National Committee have been accused of selling millions of dollars in
stock before its value plummeted and ordinary investors lost their life

"Is there one standard of justice for television celebrities and
another for political celebrities?" asked Geoffrey Neale, national
chair of the Libertarian Party. "It's fair to ask whether Cheney and
McAuliffe have been given political immunity by their friends in the
federal government."

Sources inside the Justice Department confided to reporters on Thursday
that they have "a solid criminal case against Martha Stewart," who is
accused of insider trading and obstruction of justice after dumping
4,000 shares of ImClone stock last year. Stewart's action came one day
before the Food and Drug Administration rejected the firm's cancer drug
– an action that caused the company's stock to plummet.

But the investigation of Stewart has created a troubling double
standard, Libertarians point out, because politicians such as Cheney
and McAuliffe have gotten rich doing the exact same thing.

* Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton Co., made $18.5 million in August
2000 when he sold his shares of company stock for $52 each. Shortly
thereafter, the stock plunged to $13, and many ordinary investors lost
their life savings. But instead of being referred to federal
prosecutors, Cheney's case was quietly referred to the Securities and
Exchange Commission, where it has languished for months.

* McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and
former chief fund-raiser for President Bill Clinton, reaped an $18
million profit in 1999 on an investment of $100,000 in
telecommunications company Global Crossing. Though the company has
since gone bankrupt and many investors are holding worthless stock,
McAuliffe has escaped a criminal inquiry.

"Why isn't Martha Stewart's case sitting on a shelf right next to
Cheney's over at the Securities and Exchange Commission?" Neale asked.
"And why aren't federal prosecutors threatening to slap handcuffs on
Cheney and McAuliffe?

"The answer is obvious: The Justice Department has a habit of engaging
in selective prosecution – and if you're a powerful federal official
you're probably not going to be selected.

"But if you're an ordinary American – or a TV celebrity who can be
exploited to benefit someone's career – you'd better abide by the law
or risk having your life turned upside-down by zealous federal

Neale emphasized that Libertarians don't know whether the specific
accusations against Stewart, Cheney or McAuliffe are true – only that
their cases are being handled very differently by government

The result, he said, is that "many people will wonder if justice is a
game in America – in which certain individuals can lose their freedom
and others always seem to win a get-out-of-jail free card."

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