Demos Petition To Merge ‘Redundant’ Fund-Raising Probes House And Senate Investigations Called Inefficient, Waste Of Taxes

Seeking to avert dueling investigations of campaign fund-raising abuses, congressional Democrats want to merge the House and the Senate inquiry.

“Redundant investigations are inefficient and waste taxpayer dollars,” the lawmakers said in a letter to be delivered to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., today. “They will generate confusion, not better public illumination.”

The Democrats note the Commerce Department already has received 35 requests for documents from nine different House and Senate committees - even before the investigations have begun in earnest.

The Democrats’ proposal is not expected to win the support of GOP leaders, who are eager to go forward with separate, multimillion-dollar investigations aimed at the Clinton White House.

A spokeswoman for Gingrich said he has not signed onto the concept and would not do so unless pushed by Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., who is leading the House probe. Burton’s office declined comment.

Although both chambers already have begun issuing a flurry of subpoenas, the two investigations remain in their infancy, mired in internal debate over their budgets and targets of inquiry.

Burton, chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, revealed to Democrats Wednesday that he will request $3.8 million to look into presidential fund-raising abuses. Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House investigative panel, considers that request excessive and plans to fight it at a committee meeting today.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., appeared to reach a deal with his GOP colleagues late Wednesday that would set a budget of about $4.5 million for the Senate investigation and focus the probe on any fund-raising illegalities that may have been committed by congressional or presidential campaigns during the 1996 election cycle, aides said.

The Senate would wind up its investigation by year’s end, with a report required by the end of January.

In both chambers, Democrats are insisting the investigations go beyond possible White House abuses to also look into the fund-raising practices of congressional campaigns.

Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, said Lott and other GOP leaders would be engaging in a “giant cover-up” if they refused to allow the Senate probe to look into wrongdoing among congressional candidates.

Meanwhile, Vice President Al Gore on Wednesday altered slightly his account of the controversial fund-raising calls he made from his White House office.

At a news conference Monday, Gore said he had charged the calls to a credit card provided to him by the Democratic National Committee. In fact, Gore explained through a spokeswoman, the calling card was provided by the Clinton-Gore campaign.

Lynn Utrecht, general counsel for the campaign, said the total cost of Gore’s calls was still unknown.

The Senate is scheduled to vote today on a motion calling on Attorney General Janet Reno to name an independent counsel.

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