Gavel To Gavel

Gavel To Gavel: Fund-Raising Hearings

Senator Thompson Ready For Public Hearings

Aired July 3, 1997 - 4:00 p.m. ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It seems to me looking at it, that you are walking a kind of tightrope; that you have some very public pushing from the right saying, at least obliquely, we want to you go after the Democrats; a very public pulling from the left saying, we want you to zero in on Republicans just as much as you do Democrats. Where are you finding the balance line?

FRED THOMPSON, (R) SENATOR, TENNESSEE: Following the allegations and following the evidence, wherever that might lead. I have no quota system. I have said in the very beginning, if Republicans have problems -- I or anybody else -- then we've got problems. And you lay them on the table and deal with them. But I'm not going to try to generate a lot of time and effort just trying to find something to -- in the name of so-called balance. Whatever the allegations are, that should be the determining factor, and not which party is producing the allegations.

CROWLEY: And if it's 90-10 one way or the other, it's allegations?

THOMPSON: I'm not responsible for the activity. I'm just responsible for investigating the activity, and if it's 90-10 or 50- 50, that's the way it will be.

CROWLEY: The political dynamics of this -- you know that no matter what you do, there are going to be those saying, he's running for president. How do you handle that sort of thing?

THOMPSON: Well, it's all been kind of amusing to me a little bit because in the last several months, without my having lifted a finger or raised a dollar or said a thing about it, you know, I've been nominated, and defeated, and elected, back around again three or four times. But there's nothing I can do about that. All I can do is try to do a good job and clearly, you know, if you do a good job you're enhanced in every way, and if you do a bad job you're not. But the definition of a good job is not trying to hype things or create turmoil or grab a headline every 30 minutes.

The way do you a good job is to follow the facts where they lead and be fair in the way that you treat people and handle the investigation. And if I'm able to do that, I'll live with whatever the political consequences come from that. And if we do our job well -- if we're thorough and fair and act like adults doing adult work, and not like kids in a sandbox, which is what the American people, I think, often expect of us, then we'll -- we'll all be OK.

CROWLEY: How confident are you that, that is going to happen, given that there has been some sandbox doings in the weeks leading up to this?

THOMPSON: I feel good about it. I think that members of the committee are focused now. And if we're smart as we're supposed to be about such things, we will understand that we can't misbehave and we can't act like children, and we can't be partisan, and we can't cover up, and we can't be unfair, and all those things of things that are the basic tendency, I think, of us here in Washington -- a lot of times. We can't have business as usual when we go public and when people are watching. The average person is watching to see how we're doing. That's coming home to us now.

CROWLEY: Give me a broad brush of the agenda of what you can tell me about the mission and the agenda, how you're going to set this up?

THOMPSON: Well, I can only talk about it in the broadest sense. Our basic goal is to first look at the things that have to do with congressional oversight mostly. Our committee is an oversight committee -- and how our government is working, any abuses that might have taken place, allegations pertaining to our last election concerning money laundering, foreign involvement, things of that nature.

Then when we finish with that, we'll take a look at the broader issue of soft money, the use of independent groups -- that both political parties engage in and mostly, as far as we know, mostly legal activities. But the main thing is to be able to take a look at that. Look at the abuses and the illegalities that might have been there, then put it in context of our overall system and see if we can't do better.

CROWLEY: What's been the extent of White House cooperation with you?

THOMPSON: We work pretty well with them. They have cooperated to a certain extent. Recently, we have learned they have not given us documents that they should have given us, which I'm disappointed at.

CROWLEY: Why do you think that is?

THOMPSON: Well, I'm afraid that, that's -- that's kind of a normal kind of thing in town. People slow walk things, you know, when they are given the opportunity, especially if you've got a cut-off date. But we'll have to face up to that and we'll resolve it. I think we'll get it done. I was a little bit disappointed this morning to read -- what I had heard from some reporters last night, and that is that the White House staff had started bringing reporters in and telling them their strategy in dealing with our committee -- that they were going to charge us with partisanship, that they were going to charge me with being partisan, that we were going to have people over there in the hearings, you know, spinning their story and trying to discredit what we're doing and all of that. That's politics as usual. I guess it's to be expected, but I thought we could do a little better than that this time.

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