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House Grants Burton Broad Powers

Head of campaign-finance probe can interview whomever he wants

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 20) -- The House voted mostly along party lines today to give Rep. Dan Burton the deposition powers he requested in his committee's probe of questionable campaign finance practices.

Voting 216-194, the House approved the resolution giving Burton (R-Ind.), chair of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, sole authority to approve questioning witnesses anywhere in the world.

"We are investigating a possible massive scheme for funneling millions of dollars in foreign money into the U.S. electoral system" and an allegation that "the Chinese government at the highest level decided to infiltrate our political system," Burton said.

"We are investigating a White House which was a frequent stop for major contributors with foreign ties who have now fled the country or taken the Fifth Amendment," Burton said.

Democrats were outraged, but powerless to stop the measure. "No member of Congress, no American, has ever had this breadth of power," said Henry A. Waxman, of California, Reform and Oversight's ranking Democrat. "It is a terrible idea even if it were being handled responsibly. But it's not. The record proves it is being used as a raw partisan tool."

Waxman noted that only 10 of 292 subpoenas issued so far were to Republicans, and the rest to Democrats.

Five members broke ranks on the vote. Rep. Marge Roukema (R-N.J.) voted against it, while Democratic Reps. Virgil Goode of Virginia, Gene Taylor of Mississippi, Ralph Hall of Texas and Jim Traficant of Ohio all voted for it.

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