The defense attorney who represents President Clinton in the Paula Jones case discussed recent political scandals and the campaign finance reform hearings during a lecture at GW Law School Tuesday.
Robert S. Bennett spoke about practicing law in Washington, a city he called “Alice’s Wonderland,” as part of the Enrichment Program Series presented by the law school.
“Lewis Carroll (the author of Alice in Wonderland) describes a little girl who falls in a well, and when she wakes up in the country, everything is upside down,” Bennett said. “I find that is largely what happens in the nation’s capital.
“The Congress, the press and the lawyers who deal with clients find themselves in a world that is largely marked by irrationality, silliness and enormous wastefulness,” he said.
Bennett criticized the “scandal machine” that operates in Washington between politicians and the media.
“It’s a world where prosecutors use journalists to publicize their investigations and cases,” he said. “It’s a world where investigators leak information to the press in the hope that public pressure will force matters to go forward.”
Bennett admitted that some congressional hearings are necessary, but said the campaign finance hearings are not.
“We need to find out if something is wrong in the system, so we have these hearings to see if legislation is needed,” Bennett said. “The problem with the fundraising question is that we have all the evidence that the system is broken.”
Bennett also spoke to students about his involvement with the Senate Ethics Committee.
“Nobody (on the committee) focused on the bigger issue . which is our problem when we elect a United States senator,” Bennett said. “He has to spend so much time away from Washington to raise different sums of money.”
Students asked Bennett his opinions on the government’s use of independent counsels.
“My view is that we have created a real monster,” Bennett said. “These independent counsels come around and they spend millions and millions of dollars, largely without much success, and their virtue is unaccountable.
“There’s an old expression – beware of the lawyer with one case,” he said.
“Everybody always quotes my rates, but nobody says what I actually collect,” Bennett said. “The truth of the matter is that I do very well . I am not sure if I’d hire me, but if I did, I could not afford myself.”