A Senate panel agreed Wednesday to broaden its investigation of potential Democratic fund-raising abuses to include GOP-linked tax-exempt organizations, the Republican Party and Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign.
Senate Governmental Affairs Chairman Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. John Glenn of Ohio, resolved a five-week impasse over the details of subpoenas to GOP-backed organizations in their investigation of fund-raising practices in the 1996 presidential campaign.
Previously, the committee had issued 63 subpoenas, mostly to figures involved in the fund-raising controversy plaguing the Democratic National Committee and President Clinton’s re-election campaign. Only two of those 63 subpoenas targeted Republican groups.
On Wednesday, committee Republicans agreed to issue 10 more subpoenas to former Senate Majority Leader Dole’s losing presidential bid, the Republican National Committee and a bevy of tax-exempt organizations run by conservative activists.
As part of the negotiations, Democrats agreed to drop their request for documents from two prominent organizations that support Republicans, the Christian Coalition and the National Right to Life Committee. However, Republicans agreed that the Republican National Committee should hand over documents relating to the two groups.
Democrats want to know to what extent the GOP coordinated campaign activities with those and other tax-exempt groups.
“The level of trust among the members of the committee is growing, and my optimism that we will be able to conduct a fair and comprehensive investigation is growing,” Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said after the subpoena impasse was resolved.
On the other side of the Capitol, however, the mood was far different.
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, and Wisconsin Democratic Rep. David Obey nearly came to blows over the issue of campaign finance abuses.
The episode began when Rep. George Miller of California, a Democrat, referred to newspaper reports that in 1995 DeLay had invited industry lobbyists to his office to write a bill declaring a moratorium on environmental, health and safety regulations.
DeLay denied he asked lobbyists to write the bill and challenged Miller to name names. After seeing the dust-up on television, Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., rushed to the floor from his office, waving an article that referred to lobbyists shaping a regulatory moratorium bill in DeLay’s office in January 1995.
“I said, ‘Tom, here’s the article. Do you deny it?”’
At that point, Obey said, DeLay stuck his finger in his chest and called him a vulgar name. The incident occurred just one month after 220 House members returned from a “civility retreat” in Hershey, Pa.