Justice Officials Want Reno To Investigate Democrats' 1996 'Soft Money'
From CNN's Pierre Thomas
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Sept. 6) -- Senior Justice Department officials have recommended that Attorney General Janet Reno take the first step towards the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate whether President Bill Clinton and others may have illegally used campaign funds given to the Democratic National Committee in 1996, CNN has learned.
The officials recommended that Reno open a 90-day preliminary investigation to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant appointment of an independent counsel. Her decision could come as soon as this week.
As CNN has previously reported, Justice Department officials have been looking at allegations that the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign illegally controlled so-called "soft money" donated to the Democratic National Committee.
Soft money can be used for general party-building activities but under federal law cannot be used to support specific political campaigns.
Justice officials have received recent information that senior Clinton-Gore campaign officials -- perhaps with the president's knowledge or at his direction -- actually controlled how soft money given to the DNC was used and tailored DNC-sponsored advertising to bolster Clinton's re-election chances.
The information came from a recent audit by the Federal Elections Commission, which found that a number of the DNC's ads were almost identical to those for the Clinton-Gore campaign.
The Justice Department also has been looking at similar allegations involving the 1996 Dole-Kemp campaign and the Republican National Committee. But sources tell CNN that the new information regarding the Democrats specifically deals with White House officials and has been given priority.
White House and DNC officials have denied any wrongdoing.
Reno already has opened preliminary 90-day investigations into whether Vice President Al Gore and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes violated campaign finance laws during the 1996 campaign.