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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Allegations Delay Campaign Probe

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senate and House investigations into campaign fund-raising became mired in partisanship as Senate Republicans increased pressure on Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint an independent counsel, and House Democrats vowed to block an investigation centered only on White House improprieties.


With the House's top investigator fighting off charges that he shook down a lobbyist for donations, a planned committee meeting on the investigation was put off Wednesday. Republicans also were trying to define the committee's scope in advance of a House vote on the panel's funding scheduled for Thursday.


In the Senate, a 55-44 party-line vote called on Reno to move to appoint a special counsel to look into campaign fund-raising actions by the Clinton administration. Democrats went with a milder resolution calling on Reno to use her judgment on the issue. The Democratic effort failed on a 58-41 vote, with three Democrats voting with the Republicans.


Senate Majority Leader Republican Trent said the Senate's prodding of Reno was done because, "like the American people, we wonder what it will take to jar the attorney general into triggering the independent-counsel law.''


Reno has indicated that campaign fund-raising allegations have not yet risen to the level needed to trigger the independent-counsel statute.


The partisan jockeying illustrates the difficulties inherent in investigations into campaign fund-raising. Members of both parties do it, and each accuses the other of improprieties. Republican Representative Dan Burton was accused by a former lobbyist for Pakistan of threatening to cut him off from further communication because he had not raised money for the congressman. Republicans cried foul, noting that the lobbyist is a leading Democrat.


"We expect this to be only the beginning of the attacks to discredit members of the oversight committee,'' said Republican Representative John Mica, a member of the panel. "It's the White House and DNC [Democratic National Committee] and others who don't want the investigation to go forward.''


Burton's committee is set to look into alleged White House improprieties but not congressional ones.


An angry Burton confronted a reporter for The Washington Post, which first reported the Burton-lobbyist story, accusing the paper of being unfair. Republican Representative Michael Forbes said there doesn't appear to be a "right side'' in any of the investigations of campaign finance. "The voters are saying a plague on both your houses. If we make this a partisan investigation, we do ourselves a disservice in this Congress,'' he said. Forbes said an independent counsel was probably the best way to go.