WASHINGTON - David M. Strauss' appointment as executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. is unlikely to be derailed by recent revelations of his alleged deep involvement in the Democratic fund-raising scandal, sources say.
"That has not been raised as a possible roadblock to his PBGC directorship," said Will L. Sollee Jr., principal consultant in the Washington office of Price Waterhouse L.L.P. and a former Democratic aide to the Senate Finance Committee.
A formal announcement of Mr. Strauss' appointment to head the PBGC is "imminent," a White House aide said. Mr. Strauss has been picked by the Clinton administration to replace the late Martin Slate as head of the pension insurance agency (Pensions & Investments, June 9). Mr. Strauss already has been briefed by administration pension officials, including PBGC executives, as well as members of the private pension community, a PBGC spokeswoman confirmed.
In large part, the chances of Mr. Strauss' appointment stalling because of pressure from Republican lawmakers are diminished because the appointment does not require confirmation by a Senate committee.
Gary Ford, former general counsel to the PBGC in the late 1980s, dismissed Mr. Strauss' alleged connection to the fund-raising scandal as "rumors or unproven allegations," that should make little difference to his appointment.
"Recall that Alexis Herman (the new Labor Secretary) was also the subject of unsubstantiated allegations and ultimately was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. I believe the administration was right to stand by that nomination and I hope they will stand by David Strauss as well," said Mr. Ford, an avowed Democrat.
A front-page story in the June 12 issue of The New York Times reported Mr. Strauss, deputy chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, as deeply involved in the Democratic Party fund-raising scandal. Mr. Strauss did not return several telephone calls from Pensions & Investments, seeking comment.
Although it is too soon to dismiss the possibility that Mr. Strauss might be called to testify in congressional hearings on the fund-raising scandal, sources said it might cause little disruption of the running of the federal pension insurance agency.
Sen. Fred Thompson, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, will begin a series of hearings on the issue in early July.
At the same time, a spokeswoman for the House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee of the House Education and Workforce Committee, also expressed concern about Mr. Strauss' possible links to the Democratic fund-raising scandal.
"I think it's an issue. I definitely do," she said. The subcommittee's oversight of the PBGC extends to hiring and staffing matters, she noted.
But Randolf H. Hardock, partner at the Washington law firm of Davis & Harman and former benefits tax counsel at the Treasury Department in the first Clinton term, said the question of whether it was proper for Mr. Gore to attend the Buddhist temple fund-raiser "has been milked for all they can." Besides, "I don't know how it affects pension policy," he pointed out.