Justice Department To Search White House Phone Logs (9/21/97)
Republicans Demand Independent Probe Of Clinton Fund-raising
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Sep. 21) -- The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday he has "no doubt" Attorney General Janet Reno will appoint an independent counsel to investigate White House fund-raising -- a decision he said should have been made months ago.
"She ought to get the burden off her back," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Hatch also called President Bill Clinton's 1996 fund-raising activities "unethical, illegal (and) in poor taste."
The Justice Department announced Saturday it opened a 30-day review into allegations that Clinton solicited contributions in telephone calls from the White House in a violation of federal law. A similar inquiry of Vice President Al Gore has been launched.
"Where they make phone calls and whether the president raises money or not is one thing. The way they've done it seems to be unethical, illegal, (and) in poor taste," Hatch said. "Were foreign influences trying to influence the election?"
The key issue, he said, is whether the misuse of "soft money" donations as "hard money" helped re-elect the president.
Hard money is limited under federal law and goes directly toward federal campaigns. Soft money, which may be contributed without limit, is supposed to go to party-building activities.
Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he too believed Reno would assign an independent counsel.
"I honestly think she has no other choice," he said on "Meet the Press."
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) on CBS' "Face the Nation" called for Reno's resignation for not taking action sooner. Other GOP legislators have urged for impeachment procedures to begin if Reno does not appoint a special prosecutor.
"I frankly think the attorney general should resign," Cochran said.
Clinton aide: President did nothing wrong
Reno has so far resisted appointing a special prosecutor, suggesting that it is unclear whether a century-old law banning federal employees from seeking political donations from federal offices is applicable to the president and vice president.
But a Justice Department-FBI probe into fund-raising activities has taken on new life in recent weeks with reports that donations solicited by Gore, and possibly Clinton, were moved from soft money accounts, which may be outside the law, to hard money ledgers.
Clinton has said he does not remember making any fund-raising calls from the White House. Gore acknowledges making 46 fund-raising calls.
White House senior adviser Rahm Emanuel said on CNN's "Late Edition" that the president did nothing illegal. "We plan on cooperating" fully with the Reno investigation, Emanuel said.
Both Clinton and Gore have sought to downplay any political damage from the latest development. "I don't know anything about it," Clinton said on Air Force One as he returned from a trip to California. Gore said in Moscow that it would have no effect on his current visit to Russia.
Levin says law is antiquated
A federal law first passed in 1883 prohibits government officials from soliciting campaign donations from a government building or on government property.
Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who serves on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee investigating campaign fund-raising, told Fox television that the law is antiquated and ambiguous. He also emphasized that congressional members have used similar techniques to raise money without facing prosecution.
"Do you now trigger an independent counsel to prosecute the president and vice president for the same kind of activity that was prosecuted when done by United States senators?" he asked.
The Governmental Affairs Committee next week will turn away from its hearings concentrating on possible Democratic transgressions in the last election and look at the larger issue of soft money in politics.
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