Republican leaders predicted Sunday that Attorney General Janet Reno will recommend against naming an independent counsel to investigate campaign fund raising by President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. They charged she will use a legal technicality to justify that decision.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch said Reno could “hide” behind narrow definitions of the law, but that would not obscure the greater need to investigate alleged fund-raising violations by the White House and the Democratic Party during the 1996 presidential campaign.
“There are enough facts to lead anyone to the conclusion that crimes may have been committed” by people covered or associated with those covered by the Independent Counsel Act, the Utah Republican senator said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Reno has until Tuesday to inform a special court of her decision on whether to seek an independent counsel to investigate telephone fund raising by Clinton and Gore and allegations that former Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary solicited a charitable contribution in exchange for meeting Chinese businessmen.
Justice Department spokesman Bert Brandenburg insisted Reno’s decision would be made based on the evidence.
The task force has recommended against asking for an independent counsel on grounds that the 114-year-old statute barring solicitation of campaign contributions in federal offices was designed to prevent shakedowns of federal employees and never has been used to prosecute federal officials who phone private citizens from their homes or offices.
But Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week” that beyond the questionable calls, Clinton personally had directed $27 million in “soft,” or unregulated, money into ads promoting his candidacy. If those were advocacy ads, “there is a flat violation of federal election law.”
But Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., also appearing on ABC, charged that Republicans are in a “constant search for a rationale for an investigation.” He said election laws basically collapsed in 1996, with both parties taking advantage of loopholes to pour money into ads.