Vince Foster case is their hobby

Analysts: These "respectable, over-educated people" question the official explanation of the White House counsel's death.

July 11, 1999|By Carolyn Barta

DALLAS -- Some people call them kooks. .....That doesn't bother Susan Pejovich, Mike McCullough and Hugh Sprunt. They have busy lives -- professional and personal. But their spare time is devoted to an unusual avocation: trying to uncover the cracks in the public accounts of former White House counsel Vincent Foster's death.

Move over, Kennedy-assassination aficionados. Here come the Vince Foster conspiracy buffs.

As we approach the sixth anniversary of Foster's July 20, 1993, death, officially ruled a suicide, this trio of local cybersleuths and 40 others around the country are keeping alive the idea that the Arkansas lawyer didn't die as government reports say he did.

At the very least, they say, the investigations of his death were bungled, resulting in government cover-ups. At most, they believe that the childhood chum of Bill Clinton and former law partner of Hillary Rodham Clinton didn't die at a suburban Virginia park overlooking the Potomac River but was moved there -- or that it wasn't a suicide.

But they scoff at being labeled conspiracy theoreticians.

McCullough said, "We're mostly respectable, over-educated people" who get intellectual satisfaction from trying to piece together a puzzle that they say doesn't seem to fit.

Vince Foster was the No. 2 man in the White House general counsel's office when he was found dead on a slope in Fort Marcy Park, near a Civil War cannon, his thumb locked around the trigger of a .38-caliber revolver.

What ensued in the following hours and days contributed to the mystery surrounding the death of the keeper of the White House portfolios on Whitewater and on the firing of the White House Travel Office staff, known as Travelgate.

The night of Foster's death, White House aides removed files from his office before sealing it. Two days later, White House officials sorted and identified documents in the presence of FBI and National Park Service representatives but denied them access to the files. Whitewater files ended up with the Clintons' attorneys.

Six days later, a handwritten note on yellow legal paper was discovered in the bottom of Foster's briefcase, torn into 27 pieces. The note contained a complaint about "the spotlight of public life in Washington," where "ruining people is considered sport."

"It just didn't ring true," Pejovich said of the early published accounts of Foster's death and White House actions.

She got on the Internet and began reading and chatting in a Whitewater group. Eventually, those seriously interested in the Foster case split off into a separate online group.

Friendships developed. Some remain as only cyberfriends, with no known hometowns. But when Pejovich discovered that Mike McCullough and Hugh Sprunt lived in the Dallas area, the local "Foster Non-Believers Chapter" was born.

The three often get together over margaritas or Thai food or review findings at their homes. On a recent night, they had a "chapter meeting" at a North Dallas Indian restaurant, discussing new developments over biryani, tandoori chicken and curry.

"We went online because it was the only place we could get information," Pejovich said. For a couple of years, she spent two to three hours a day doing research.

The Foster buffs also have filed Freedom of Information Act requests hoping to get more facts.

Sprunt and two other cyberfriends got models of the human skull so they could discuss the bullet trajectory.

These people don't like to be lumped into the broad category of scandal-obsessed "Clinton crazies," preferring instead to be known as analysts.

Sprunt said he has spent thousands of hours going over data because "there are material inconsistencies in the government record. It goes beyond 'close enough for government work.'

"To some extent, I'm in this for truth, justice and the American way. And it's also been interesting. It's been fun," he said. "This is like golf for me."

Pejovich, a professional classical musician, is married to a university professor and has a daughter. An airy room at the front of her Hillcrest/North Dallas-area home doubles as a music studio and an office.

Her "Vince Foster bookcase," next to a computer desk, contains volumes from congressional hearings and books on the Clinton scandals, including works by two prominent Foster analysts: British journalist Ambrose Evans-Prichard and Pittsburgh reporter Christopher Ruddy.

Mike McCullough describes himself as a multi-degreed professional who was president and co-owner of an environmental consulting firm before going to work in regulatory affairs for a large Dallas company.

Of the three, Sprunt has the highest public profile. "He's unquestionably the world's expert in the death of Vince Foster," McCullough said. A certified public accountant and attorney who lives with his family in Farmers Branch, Sprunt has a tax planning and consulting practice and writes and edits tax books. He also has four degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

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