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"I think those meetings are good. I think the President should keep in touch with people." -- Bill Clinton, defending White House coffee klatches involving him, regulators, and campaign contributors from businessEDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

A DRAWING BOARD TO RECKON WITH

TWO OF THE MOST FAMOUS and mercurial figures in the product-design world are linking up. Iconoclastic Tucker Viemeister is leaving Smart Design, the hot New York design house that he helped found, to join bad-boy Hartmut Esslinger's successful Sunnyvale (Calif.)-based frogdesign. If the chemistry works, watch out. If it does not--watch out.

In the U.S., frogdesign is best known for designing Apple Computer's Macintosh computers. Esslinger drives the design community nuts with his ability to consult directly with top CEOs--and get top dollar.

Tucker Viemeister, who will launch frog's New York office and be its creative director, is named after the famed Tucker car, designed by his dad. His Smart Design is best known for the popular OXO Good Grip line of products, which sport fat handles that make kitchen and garden utensils easy to grasp and use. Its many other designs include a coffee carafe for Cuisinart.

Viemeister will help Esslinger implement frog's new Integrated Strategic Design program. This offers one-stop shopping for companies in search of innovations to expand their lines, now that they've gone through their downsizings phase.By Bruce Nussbaum EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

DIAL `D' FOR DONORGATE

THE INITIAL FINDING stunned congressional Donorgate investigators. And now they've uncovered more. Last fall, they were surprised when they found phone message slips indicating that then-Commerce Dept. official John Huang received calls from federal bank examiner Ken Quincy in May, 1995--on the eve of a critical examination of Huang's former employer, troubled LippoBank of California.

Congressional investigators say a follow-up comparison of phone records, obtained by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s inspector general, with the times on the message slips, indicates Quincy indeed called Huang twice. Quincy says he doesn't recall placing any such calls.

The IG also turned up a call last July from Gregg Golden, a senior FDIC counsel, to Huang, who was then working at the Democratic National Committee. Like Quincy, Golden says he doesn't know Huang--and says he may have been calling to make dinner plans with a friend's nephew then interning at the DNC.

Hill investigators want to know if Huang tried to use his influence to intercede with LippoBank's regulators. Huang didn't return calls for comment.By Dean Foust EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

THE SPEAKER'S $100,000 QUESTION

SO IS NEWT GINGRICH GOING to pay a $300,000 fine or a $300,000 something else? There's more than semantics involved in what to call money that he must lay out as part of his plea bargain with the House ethics committee. The committee report did not put a name on the payment, merely characterizing it as reimbursement for the cost of investigating the inaccurate statements the Speaker has conceded making to the ethics panel. Gingrich and fellow Republicans call it a "cost assessment"; Democrats, a fine.

The Speaker and his defenders are so adamant on this point because, if he pays a $300,000 "fine" from leftover campaign dollars or a legal-defense fund, it would be taxable income--forcing him to cough up an extra $100,000 or so for the IRS. His pals argue that fines are limited to instances of personal financial gain. The IRS would rule on the matter.

Gingrich aides say he is awaiting the advice of his attorney before deciding how to pay the money. Democrats say Gingrich could avoid any potential IRS problems by ponying up from his own pocket. Meanwhile, Capitol Hill wags suggest calling the $300,000 a charitable contribution to reduce the federal deficit.By Richard S. Dunham EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top


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