Herman Independent Counsel Wins Indictment

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Ralph Lancaster, the independent counsel appointed to investigate Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, has obtained the first indictment in his nearly two-year investigation.

A federal grand jury in Washington Feb. 16 indicted Abdul Rahman, a foreign national, for allegedly funneling illegal foreign contributions to the Democratic Party through two U.S. citizens, Vanessa Weaver, a close friend of Herman, and her sister Caryliss Weaver.

The indictment accuses Rahman of providing $150,000 in illegal contributions to the Democrats and causing false campaign finance reports to be filed with the Fed. Election Commission regarding an additional $50,000 in contributions. Court documents indicated that Venessa Weaver may also be indicted soon.

Lancaster sought the indictment now to keep the case against Rahman alive because a statute of limitations was about to expire. The Weavers' attorney tried to keep the Rahman indictment sealed. U.S. Dist. Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle held that there was no legal justification for keeping the indictment secret. Huvelle unsealed the indictment even though Lancaster didn't oppose the motion to seal it.

Lancaster was sworn in as independent counsel in May 1998, shortly after Atty. Gen. Janet Reno asked for a probe of Herman in the wake of charges that she was involved in illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic Nat'l Committee. In Jan. 1998, Laurent Yene, a Cameroon businessman working in the United States, told the Dep't of Justice he gave Herman money in exchange for favors for his clients, including help in obtaining a Fed. Communications Commission license. Herman served as White House public liaison before becoming Labor Secretary. She was DNC staffer from 1989-91.

In addition to seeking an investigation of whether Herman played a role in illegal campaign contributions, Reno asked for a probe of whether she improperly sought to benefit a company in which she had a financial interest while serving as public liaison. The company, Int'l Investments & Business Development, was co-owned by Yene and Vanessa Weaver.

W. Neil Eggleston, the "internal appellate judge" of the failed Laborers Union "internal reform effort," is Herman's attorney in this case. [BNA 3/1/00]