The House Government Reform and Oversight Committee resumed hearings on campaign finance abuses Thursday as Democrats and Republicans on the panel sparred over the usefulness of continuing an investigation that was effectively ended last week by its counterpart in the Senate. But amid the sparring, Thursday’s session did produce one new witness, White House deputy counsel Cheryl D. Mills, and an admission by White House officials that a document they withheld last year should have been turned over to the committee then.
“If anyone wonders why we must continue this investigation,” said committee Chairman Dan Burton, R-Ind., “just consider the history of this White House. Would anyone be surprised if documents central to our investigation are still somewhere in back rooms at the White House or basement offices or misplaced files?”
Committee Democrats belittled Thursday’s session, asserting that it duplicated a Senate hearing on the same subject. Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., called the House investigation an exercise in “trivial pursuit.”
Mills, testifying for the first time, said that in 1996 she and then-White House Counsel Jack Quinn decided that a page of handwritten notes dealing with the White House computer database did not have to be turned over to the House committee because it was “not responsive” to the panel’s subpoena.
The undated notes, turned over to the committee last week, were written by Brian Bailey, an aide in the deputy chief of staff’s office.
They said that then-deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes and Democratic National Committee executive director Deborah DeLee wanted a meeting “to make sure (the White House database) is integrated with the DNC data base” and that Clinton “wants this to (cq).”
The committee, which abruptly adjourned at 4 p.m. because of a microphone malfunction, never got around to asking Mills why she and Quinn decided that the notes were not covered by a committee demand for “all communications” dealing with the database.
It is unlawful to use government property such as a computer database for political purposes.
In a statement relayed to reporters by White House special counsel Lanny J. Davis, Mills said she could not re-create the 1996 decision by her and Quinn but now agreed that the document should be turned over to the panel. She also said she thought the notes referred to the DNC’s sharing its computer information with the White House, a practice she said “was and is appropriate.”