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Jewish World Review July 8, 1999 /24 Tamuz, 5759

Paul Greenberg

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Today's tax tip: the Webb Hubbell System --
HERE'S A MONEY-SAVING WAY for all you good people out there who work hard, play by the rules and dutifully file your income taxes every year. You deserve a break, and it's time you were let in on a simple but ingenious way save wads of money: Just go right ahead and do just what you're doing, like the good, law-abiding, tax-filing citizens you are. Just don't pay the money.

That's right. File all the returns (it's against the law not to), but never get around to sending in the check. That's what Webb Hubbell did. A longtime clintonoid, he's the former mayor of Little Rock, special justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court and associate attorney general of the United States who's just been convicted again.

The former everything regularly filed his returns, reporting sizable taxes on his even more sizable income. The returns are all noted in the court papers. He toted up his taxes for 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992, and again in 1994 and 1995, but he just didn't pay them. His system is simplicity itself.

Even the best system has its flaws. Our Hero did have to pay something on his tax bill for 1994. ($7,111) It seems that, as the third-highest official at the Justice Department, he was subject to withholding. Warning: This system may not work if you're just a working stiff who gets his taxes deducted from a payroll check. Those folks have to pay at the office. So the little guy can forget it. What you really need is a bunch of clients who pay you sizable fees for vague services rendered.

It's not clear how much Judge/General Hubbell still owes the revenooers; he doesn't dispute $436,586 of the bill. It could be more. The plea bargain puts the amount to be negotiated in excess of $761,123, counting penalties and interest. Not a bad return for a little studied neglect. Sure, there's a law against this kind of thing. (U.S. Code: Title 26, Section 7203, to be exact: Willful failure to file return, supply information, or pay tax.) The misdemeanor, which is what Mr. Hubbell pled guilty to last week, carries a fine of up to $25,000 and a sentence of up to a year in jail.

But distinguished defendant got off with a year's probation after pleading guilty to this and an unrelated felony, as well. (When they call this sort of thing a plea bargain, they mean bargain.) But he does have to pay a special assessment: $125. Not bad on half a million or maybe more in unpaid taxes. (Let's not even count the $54,000 in taxes he could owe in Arkansas taxes, or the $78,000 in Washington, D.C. Call it lagniappe.)

Yes, Webb Hubbell still owes the money. But not even the federal government can squeeze blood out of an ever-so-distinguished turnip. No assets, no payments. So if you're tempted to try the Webb Hubbell System, take the simple precaution of spending the money before they catch up with you. And when they do, accuse the prosecution of condugting a witch hunt, a political vendetta, a Starr Chamber, and generally of spoiling all the fun.

Then, when it's over, issue a self-serving statement that's more brag than confession. Write it as if you're nominating yourself for sainthood or at least martyrdom. Make it sound like a vindication, instead of another plea bargain and light sentence. Do it right, and have the right friends, and even the president of the United States, the country's chief law-enforcement official, might wish you well.

When framing this victory statement, be sure to throw in a generous amount of self-pity. Webb Hubbell's statement the other day would make a good model. ("After five years, it's over. The Office of Independent Counsel has finally agreed to leave me, my family and friends alone. For the first time in five years, I am not under criminal investigation. ...'') And if you were the one who involved yourself, your family and friends and associates in your schemes, and betrayed their trust, and made the folks back home look like suckers for ever trusting you, make it all seem as if it's the law's fault.

Above all, express no regrets. Make no apology for your crime, though it's permissible to offer an unconvincing excuse or two. Webb Hubbell's venture into this genre may be the most impressive and least remorseful statement issued by a high-level crook in the Clinton or even the Nixon administration. It just drips with oh-so-righteous indignation. It deserves an award of some kind. Maybe somebody could start a contest for Bad Victor Hugo prose, the way we have Bad Hemingway.

As a self-serving memoirist, The Hon. Webster Hubbell III brings to mind another great talker from Arkansas at the heart of the Clinton Scandals -- the late great Jim McDougal, only without the charm. Mr. McDougal was a rogue, but he knew it, even took a certain pride and joy in it.

Caution: This economical way to pay your taxes, or rather not pay them, won't work if you're an honest, law-abiding taxpayer, i.e., poor sucker, who couldn't bear to face his fellow citizens who do pay their taxes after pulling off something like this. The one absolute requirement for using the Webb Hubbell System is an utter shamelessness. But there's a lot of that going around.


07/02/99:Vision restored: the Supreme Court gets it
06/29/99:What makes Hillary run?
06/24/99: A Cafe Called Time: A Play In Three Acts
06/22/99: Amazing stories from D.C. Comix
06/17/99: George W.'s first mistake
06/08/99: Hail to the chief?
06/02/99: In praise of failure
05/26/99: Betrayal in the making: let's not make a deal
05/20/99: Israel's big switch: new era or just a mood swing?
05/18/99: Free our kids: revive the land of opportunity
05/13/99: This war will end --- or spread
05/11/99: South Sider comes through
05/07/99: There is no substitute for victory
05/05/99: A Tale of two colonels
05/03/99: It's the culture, stupid
04/30/99: Bumpers' 'B.S.'
04/27/99: An American tragedy: the fall of Kenneth Starr
04/23/99: Presidents and the press
04/14/99: A revealing moment
04/14/99: War Day by day
04/12/99: Just a few questions
04/06/99: The problem with the Left
04/05/99: The problem with the Right
03/30/99: But can he convince himself?
03/26/99: Short bursts
03/24/99: Once more into the quagmire
03/17/99: Big time in Little Rock
03/15/99: Our own Roger Taney
03/09/99: A different ‘Waterfront’
03/05/99: Law and disorder
2/26/99: King Richard's revenge
2/25/99: Open season on the fetus, and a good word for the pagans
2/23/99: It never ends: Here comes the judge
2/19/99: After the storm: Going through the debris
2/17/99: Where's the closure?
2/12/99: Hussein the Hashemite: The wiliest player on the board
2/09/99: The social security game
2/04/99: Our own Inspector Clouseau
2/01/99: Night scene, night thoughts
1/28/99: The decay of the art of lying
1/26/99: Impeachment: Short subjects
1/22/99: Bounce, glitz and tedium: The State of the Disunion
1/20/99: Destructive engagement: How to encourage tyranny
1/18/99: Martin Luther King: The radical as conservative?
1/11/99: Why America is apathetic about Bill's date with destiny
1/06/99:The year of Moronica
1/04/99: Clinton’s janitorial crew of two
12/29/98:The Senate will be on trial, too
12/29/98:A look down the avenue
12/22/98: The surreal impeachment
12/17/98: Another moment of truth approaches
12/15/98: The President's defenders: witnesses for the prosecution
12/10/98:The latest miracle cure: CensurePlus
12/03/98: Sentences at an airport Sentences at an airport
12/03/98: Games lawyers play
12/01/98: Ms. Magoo strikes again, or: Janet Reno and the law
11/26/98: The most American holiday
11/23/98: Same game, another round
11/18/98: Guide to the perplexed
11/09/98: A vote for apathy
11/03/98: Global village goes Clintonesque
11/02/98: Farewell to all that
10/30/98: New budget, same swollen government
10/26/98: Of life on the old plantation -- and death in the Middle East
10/22/98: Starr Wars (CONT'D)
10/19/98:Another retreat: weakness invites aggression
10/16/98: Profile in courage
10/14/98: A new voice out of Arkansas
10/09/98: Gerald Ford, Mr. Fix-It?
10/07/98: Impeachment Journal: Dept. of Doublespeak
10/01/98: The new tradition
9/25/98: Mr. President, PLEASE don't resign
9/23/98: The demolition of meaning
9/18/98: So help us G-d; The nature of the crisis
9/17/98: First impressions: on reading the Starr Report
9/15/98: George Wallace: All the South in one man
9/10/98: Here comes the judge
9/07/98: Toward impeachment
9/03/98: The politics of impeachment
9/01/98: The eagle can still soar
8/28/98: Boris Yeltsin's mind: a riddle pickled in an enigma
8/26/98: Clinton agonistes, or: Twisting in the wind
8/25/98: The rise of the English murder
8/24/98: Confess and attack: Slick comes semi-clean
8/19/98: Little Rock perspectives
8/14/98: Department of deja vu
8/12/98: The French would understand
8/10/98: A fable: The Rat in the Corner
8/07/98: Welcome to the roaring 90s
8/06/98: No surprises dept. -- promotion denied
8/03/98: Quotes of and for the week: take your pick
7/29/98: A subpoena for the president:
so what else is new?
7/27/98: Forget about Bubba, it's time to investigate Reno
7/23/98: Ghosts on the roof, 1998
7/21/98: The new elegance
7/16/98: In defense of manners
7/13/98: Another day, another delay: what's missing from the scandal news
7/9/98:The language-wars continue
7/7/98:The new Detente
7/2/98: Bubba in Beijing: history does occur twice
6/30/98: Hurry back, Mr. President -- to freedom
6/24/98: When Clinton follows Quayle's lead
6/22/98: Independence Day, 2002
6/18/98: Adventures in poli-speke

©1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate