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E-mail From Washington

From: John King
In: Washington
Posted 6-2-97

Subject: GOP Chairman Seeks Broad New Powers In House Campaign Finance Investigation

The Republican chairman of a House committee investigating campaign fund-raising is seeking broad powers to subpoena witnesses and tax records of organizations under investigation.

Aides to Dan Burton, chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, are distributing a draft resolution that would give Burton the power to subpoena witnesses to give depositions to committee investigators.

Burton would have to consult the committee's ranking Democratic member, California Rep. Henry Waxman, but would not need his blessing before proceeding.

The draft resolution also would give Burton's committee the authority to inspect the tax returns of individuals and organizations under scrutiny, for the 1990 through 1997 tax years. Burton also is seeking the authority for the committee to directly represent itself in judicial proceedings, instead of needing prior approval of the full House.

Burton needs House approval of the plan because it would expand his authority -- and the committee's -- beyond current limits.

A background sheet distributed to members with the draft resolution says the chairman would give the ranking Democratic member one day's notice before any deposition is taken. It also says:

  • that any tax records would be received in sessions closed to the public.
  • Burton, as chairman, would have the authority to contact international law enforcement agencies if necessary for assistance in obtaining information sought by the committee.
  • the committee would be allowed to take depositions and gather evidence abroad.

Democrats are resisting the effort on grounds it would place too much authority in Burton's hands. Specifically, two Democratic congressional aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Democrats were concerned with language in the resolution that would allow depositions to be made public once they are received by the committee.

The Democratic complaints center on David Bossie, the lead investigator for the Burton committee and a former investigator for a conservative Republican group. Democrats accuse Bossie of running a partisan investigation and say they do not trust that he will protect confidential tax information of Democratic and Democratic-leaning groups. They also suggest the disclosure provisions would allow Republicans to make public depositions they believe will embarrass Democrats.

If nothing else, the Democrats said they took Burton's push for new powers as a sign he was preparing to have his committee take a more active and aggressive role before a similar Senate investigation moves into public hearings sometime in July.

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