25 House Members File Suit Against Morton, Kleppe Charging Failure to Enforce U.S. Anti-boycott Poli

Twenty-five members of the House filed suit today in Federal District Court here charging Secretary of Commerce Rogers Morton and Secretary of the Interior Thomas S. Kleppe with having acted to “hinder, impair or frustrate” the anti-boycott policy of the United States.

At a news conference in the Rayburn Building following the filing of the suit, Rep. Robert F. Drinan (D. Mass.)–one of the 25 complainants–said the two Cabinet officers had “failed, neglected and refused to implement the 1965 Export Administration Act, which states in part: “It is the policy of the United States to oppose restrictive trade practices fostered or imposed by foreign countries against other countries friendly to the United States…”

Drinan charged that Morton and Kleppe had disregarded the law by “failing actively to oppose the restrictive trade practices and boycotts carried out by 14 countries in the Near East and North Africa against Israel and against American companies that trade with Israel.”

BASIS OF LAWSUIT

Leo Pfeffer of New York, a constitutional lawyer who is also special counsel of the American Jewish Congress, is serving as attorney for the 25 House members. He explained that the complaint charges Morton and Kleppe with violating the Constitution by neglecting to meet their responsibility under Article II “that the laws be faithfully executed.”

Pfeffer told reporters the suit seeks an injunction against the two government officials barring them “from promoting or encouraging trade” between the U.S. and the 14 Near Eastern and North African states so long as those countries continue to boycott Israel and U.S. companies that trade with Israel. The complaint also asks for a writ of mandamus directing Morton and Kleppe to “implement and effectuate the national policy of the United States as set forth in Section 3 of the Export Administration Act.”

CHARGES AGAINST MORTON

In charging Morton with “actions tending to hinder, impair and frustrate the anti-boycott policy of the United States,” the suit cites Commerce Department export regulations (Sec. 369.1) stating that exporters “are not legally prohibited from taking

CHARGES AGAINST KLEPPE

Kleppe was charged with “tending to hinder, impair or frustrate the anti-boycott policy of the United States” by requiring American vendors of materials for use by its Geological Survey Bureau in Near East and North African countries “to submit…certifications that neither the steamship on which the materials are to be sent nor the company insuring the materials is on the boycott list of the particular Near East or North African country involved.”

The Near East and North African countries referred to in the complaint as participating in restrictive trade practices or boycotts against Israel or companies that trade with Israel are: Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and United Arab Emirate.

SPONSORS OF SUIT LISTED

All 25 of the House members listed as complainants in the suit are Democrats. The original sponsors of the lawsuit are Drinan, Edward I. Koch (NY), Benjamin S. Rosenthal (NY), James H. Scheuer (NY), and Henry A. Waxman (Cal.).

They were joined by Bella S. Abzug (NY); James J., Blanchard (Mich.); William S. Brodhead (Mich.); Joshua Eilberg (Pa.); Elizabeth Holtzman (NY); William Lehman (Fla.); Clarence D. Long (Md.); Matthew F. McHugh (NY); Robert N.C. Nix (Pa.); James L. Oberstar (Minn.); Richard L. Ottinger (NY); Frederick W. Richmond (NY); Paul M. Simon (III.); Stephen J. Solarz (NY); Morris K. Udall (Ariz.); Charles Wilson (Texas); Lester L. Wolff (NY); and Sidney R. Yates (III.).

REACTIONS FROM LEGISLATORS

Asked why no Republican members are among the “Washington 25″ Drinan theorized that participation would be embarrassing since their own party members are being sued. Drinan said that Republicans were asked to join but they declined. He did not name them.

Drinan also said the factor of the Arab boycott would be a point in the confirmation proceedings of Elliot Richardson as Morton’s successor as Commerce Secretary. “Richardson would see the light very quickly,” he said, “but I can’t predict what he will do. We went forward with the lawsuit even though we knew he was coming in” as Morton’s successor.

At the news conference, McHugh charged that the basis for the Ford Administration’s policy, is “rooted in the dollar sign.” Oberstar said that unless the Congressmen proceed with the lawsuit they are going to allow the Administration to support the Arab boycott, Scheuer said that there are three categories of companies doing business in the Middle East: those that deal with Israel but cannot trade with the Arab countries; those that knuckle under to the Arab countries and cannot deal with Israel, and some that do business both with Israel and the Arabs.

Charging that high U.S. officials must be prevented from violating American policy, Drinan declared “we cannot wait for new legislation when Cabinet members are violating the laws each day.” Abzug said that it was “shocking that foreign powers are forcing us to violate our own laws” and that “the President is silent on the action or inaction by his own Cabinet officer.”

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