Senate Democrats Won't Allow Immunity For Funds Witnesses
By Brooks Jackson/CNN
WASHINGTON (June 12) -- The Senate investigation into questionable campaign fund-raising ran into more roadblocks today, with committee Democrats refusing to go along with a Republican proposal to grant immunity to 19 witnesses.
Hearings begin July 8, and investigators on the Governmental Affairs Committee, led by GOP Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, are zeroing in on an April 1996 Democratic fund-raiser at a Buddhist temple in Los Angeles. Vice President Al Gore, who attended the event, once denied it was a fund-raising event, though it produced $167,000 for the Democratic National Committee.
Investigators believe about 40 percent of that money was laundered, and several of those who gave money are refusing to testify about where it really came from. So Thompson wants to grant them immunity from prosecution. He could then force them to testify, or face charges of contempt of Congress.
But Democrats are refusing to go along.
"We're not being told all the repercussions and ramifications of these questions relating to immunity," Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) told reporters. "There are some very legal, very important legal matters, that pertain to this that need to be discussed in greater detail."
Thompson needs to get at least two Democratic votes to get a two-thirds majority, required for any grant of immunity. So Democrats can block immunity, and their leader is opposed to it.
"There are a lot of outstanding questions and we just think it's premature and perhaps ill-advised in any case," Daschle added.
The Democratic strategy is to hold Thompson's request for witness immunity hostage. What Democrats say is that they need to know more about what testimony the witnesses would give.
And, what Democrats want is for Thompson to bow to their demands for more subpoenas for Republican groups, such as the Christian Coalition.
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