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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

White House Supports Embattled SEC Chief

WASHINGTON -- The White House stepped up its support Sunday for embattled SEC chairman Harvey Pitt as top presidential aides said Pitt has amassed a sterling record of fines and sanctions in the battle against corporate corruption.

Both Karen Hughes, one of U.S. President George W. Bush's most trusted advisers, and Mary Matalin, counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, repeated the White House position that an internal investigation being carried out is the way to clear up the latest controversy surrounding the Securities and Exchange Commission chief.

Pitt, under fire from Democrats for a series of alleged ethical missteps, is facing new accusations over his handling of the selection of former FBI director William Webster to head a new accounting oversight board.

The SEC's inspector general is investigating whether Pitt concealed from fellow commissioners, who were considering applicants for the job, that Webster had served as an accounting overseer at a company facing fraud accusations.

White House sources have said the chief of staff, Andrew Card, was angry because he was not told of Webster's past before urging him to apply for the SEC appointment.

"The White House was not involved in the vetting process," Hughes said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "I think what the White House has said about that to date is ... that we need to learn all the facts and see the results of that investigation."

But, she said, "I will say that under chairman Pitt's tenure the SEC has imposed a record amount of fines and has enacted a record number of disgorgements against corporate executives who've been engaged in unethical practices."

Appearing on CNN's "Late Edition," Matalin too spoke of "a record number of fines collected from the SEC, a record number of disgorgements collected of ill-gotten funds."

"We just don't know the facts of the vetting process for Webster," she said.

Hughes, who has moved back to Texas and advises Bush under a contract with the Republican National Committee, said Pitt's record "is one of a tough crackdown against excesses and abuses in corporate America," while Matalin added: "Harvey Pitt has had a great record over there in the SEC."

Previously, White House officials had said anonymously that the SEC under Pitt had a good record against corruption.

But spokesman Ari Fleischer and others went no further in praising him than that Bush "continues to have confidence in Harvey Pitt," as Fleischer said Saturday.

At the same time, officials said the administration had grown impatient with Pitt, both for the Webster problem -- and Card's exposure to it -- and for earlier politically embarrassing moves by the SEC chairman, such as meeting with executives of companies being investigated for accounting irregularities.

In the Webster case, the former FBI director had told Pitt that he had headed the audit committee at U.S. Technologies, which reportedly is under federal investigation and is being sued by investors who say they were defrauded of millions of dollars.