"It's an instructive hour that should leave viewers more appreciative of Mr. Smaltz for drawing attention to the sometimes cozy relations between public officials and the business interests they are entrusted with overseeing. It may also stir some disquiet over the power of a zealous prosecutor to make a big deal out of small matters.
Mr. Boyer, though sympathetic to Mr. Smaltz's image of himself as a model of independence, grants that tactics like putting pressure on relatives of witnesses have not endeared these prosecutors to the public."
"...But the final word is given to Mr. Smaltz and his supporters, who say that although the alleged gifts may not be large, the principle of keeping public officials under outside scrutiny justifies the time, money and tactics that he has brought to his pursuit of Mr. Espy. Given the dim prospects for the office's survival in its present free-swinging form, the program's title might better have been "Requiem for an Independent Prosecutor."
"FRONTLINE's Secrets of An Independent Counsel is a rare opportunity to hear first-hand from someone who is doing one, as the controversy about this process rages. The independent counsel statute expires in 1999, and this year Congress will begin considering its fate.
Since active prosecutors ordinarily don't speak out, their voices have been missing, and the chief purpose of this FRONTLINE is to add it, says correspondent Boyer. But FRONTLINE does this with balance. It gives the other side a chance to be heard too."
"...What Smaltz has to say in this provocatively disturbing hour of FRONTLINE is as timely as it is familiar."
"Even though Secrets of an Independent Counsel sets out to show how important it is to have independent counsels--and the morally lax Clinton White House seems to provoke a burgeoning crop of them--the program has the effect of showing (1) that they can be as slimily ruthless as the lawyers representing supposedly corrupt corporations, and (2) that they have all the tenacity of Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny , who demanded that all keys on the ship be surrendered so that he could determine the whereabouts of the missing strawberry preserves.
"The same FRONTLINE production team (correspondent Peter Boyer and producer Michael Kirk) who scuffed up Bill and Hillary pretty good with last year's Whitewater documentary, Once Upon a Time in Arkansas , get in another round of shots tonight.
The team was granted extensive access to Los Angeles attorney Donald Smaltz, independent counsel in the four-year-long investigation of former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. What began as a probe into Espy's accepting petty cash ($12,000) and "favors" (free plane rides, tickets to football games from major agribusiness tycoons) opens here to reveal a slice of the cancerous union of big money and politics."