Charging that videotapes of White House coffee klatches may have been altered, the head of a House investigating committee said Sunday that he may seek the assistance of lip readers “to make sure that we get the whole story.”
Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., leveled his accusation while complaining about the quality of the tapes, which show President Clinton acting as host at meetings attended by big donors.
“The tapes are going to be analyzed very thoroughly by technicians to pick up sound and so forth that may not be readily apparent when you first look at them,” Burton said on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation.”
“We think maybe some of those tapes may have been cut off intentionally - been, you know, altered in some way,” Burton said. He offered no specific evidence.
White House officials angrily dismissed Burton’s accusation, saying they know of nothing that has been done to alter the tapes.
“Neither the White House counsel’s office nor the communications agency responsible for videotaping has any knowledge about editing of those videotapes,” said White House special counsel Lanny J. Davis. “If Congressman Burton has such evidence, let him tell us what it is rather than engaging in unfortunate innuendo.”
The emergence of the tapes has heightened the partisan debate over whether Clinton may have violated federal campaign finance laws by seeking donations on federal property or by soliciting “soft money” for his own campaign - contributions that are supposed to be used only by political party organizations for general party-building activities.
Soft money can be contributed in unlimited amounts. “Hard money” - contributions directly to candidates - is limited by federal statutes.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said Sunday that a Dec. 7, 1995, videotape proves that Clinton broke the law requiring that soft money be at the disposition only of party organizations. On the tape, Clinton credits his high poll ratings to party-funded television “issue” ads paid for with soft money.
“Now we have it from the president’s own mouth that the purpose of the money being raised by the Democratic National Committee was to promote his own campaign,” Specter charged on “Fox News Sunday.” He called Clinton’s statement a “smoking gun.”
Former DNC Chairman Don Fowler disputed that allegation. Speaking on CNN’s “Late Edition,” he said those ads were designed to help all Democrats and that the 100-plus hours of the tapes “demonstrate (that) our fund-raising activities were conducted in accordance with the law.”
Specter also called for extending the deadline of a probe by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, of which he is a member.
Former President Jimmy Carter, speaking Sunday on CNN”s “Late Edition,” said the incessant fund raising both by the president and members of Congress “gives the American people the impression, which is not always erroneous, that to get legislation passed or decisions made, you’ve got to contribute money in a so-called legal bribe.”
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