Barbour's Group Resists Senate Subpoenas
Republican think tanks's refusal represents a test for Sen. Thompson
By Brooks Jackson/CNN
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, July 1) -- When the Clinton White House resisted congressional subpoenas, some Republicans called it "stonewalling." Now a group founded by former GOP national chairman Haley Barbour is refusing information demands from campaign finance investigators in the Senate.
It's a serious test for Sen. Fred Thompson, the chairman of the Senate committee investigating fund-raising irregularities during the 1996 campaign, and the outcome could determine just how bipartisan the campaign finance investigation will be.
Only last Friday Republican Thompson and Democratic Sen. John Glenn were all smiles as they worked out an agreement on immunity for witnesses and subpoenas for political groups, Republican and Democratic. The Senate committee's hearings are due to begin next week.
But now comes a direct challenge to the committee's authority by the National Policy Forum, a Republican think tank founded by Barbour when he was chairman of the Republican Party. Thompson's committee subpoenaed documents from the group last April, but Monday night, the forum's lawyer sent a letter, refusing to comply.
In the letter, the lawyer said, "Since the forum had nothing to do with the 1996 federal election campaign, the committee plainly lacks jurisdiction to investigate the forum's activities." The committee's mandate is to probe questionable 1996 campaign fund-raising.
Democrats say the forum was used as a front for overseas money. It got a $2 million loan backed by money from Hong Kong, and paid $1.6 million of the proceeds to the Republican National Committee, allegedly to finance House elections in 1994. And now we're told about $800,000 of that has never been repaid, even more than previously reported.
For the record, the forum is turning over boxes of material such as their tax returns, which are public record anyway. But the forum's lawyer says it won't turn over donor lists or correspondence showing why the Internal Revenue Service refused to grant the forum tax-exempt status.
So the question now is, will Thompson move to force compliance by Barbour, the former head of his own party?
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