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Probe Of Ag Dept. ‘Favors’ Reaches White House

Independent Counsel Donald C. Smaltz has asked the White House for information on who may have influenced political appointments at the Agriculture Department after President Clinton’s election.

According to a memo obtained by The Associated Press, White House Counsel Abner J. Mikva has asked White House staff for documents related to the “nomination, confirmation or appointment of political appointees and consultants.” The memo did not name names, but former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy was one of those appointments.

The memo said the information was requested by Smaltz.

Smaltz was appointed last Sept. 9 to investigate Espy and favors he received from Tyson Foods Inc. and other companies doing business with the department. The request for White House information indicates a deeper look at possible corporate attempts by Tyson and others to influence the department.

“This request is only for documents, including any letters of recommendation, related to the appointment of personnel at the Department of Agriculture,” said the memorandum, dated March 22, said. “It does not cover any documents relating to the conduct of their official duties once they were appointed.”

“This is in response to a document subpoena, and to the best of our ability we will pull together the information that is requested,” said White House spokeswoman Ginny Terzano, declining further comment.

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