Nonprofits Object To Thompson Subpoenas
House investigators just miss Trie in China, reports Times
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Aug. 15) -- A wide array of nonprofit groups is objecting to unusually broad subpoenas handed out by the Senate committee investigating alleged campaign fund-raising abuses.
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee issued subpoenas to 26 groups, trying to determine if the nonprofits' lobbying efforts were illegally coordinated with political candidates' election efforts during the 1996 elections.
Art Spitzer, legal director of the Washington chapter of the ACLU, told The Associated Press that nonprofit groups are asserting a First Amendment privilege in resisting the summonses.
"The subpoena asks for all documents involving issue advocacy and discussion of public issues, how organizations decide what issues they are going to discuss and what they are going to say about them and how much money they are going to spend," Spitzer said.
"The subpoena really calls for every piece of paper that deals with what most of these organizations do," Spitzer said, making the groups vulnerable to their political enemies.
The groups range across the political spectrum from the AFL-CIO to the National Right to Life Committee Inc. Committee Republicans issued the subpoenas to groups on the left, while Democrats did so to those on the right.
James Bopp, counsel to the National Right to Life Committee, wrote to the other groups subpoenaed, highlighting "some of the areas of concern which pose a substantial threat to free speech and free association rights of citizen groups."
He and representatives from other groups are working with committee staff to try to narrow the scope of the subpoenas.
House Investigators Just Miss Trie
Meanwhile, House congressional investigators just missed catching up with fund-raising figure and Clinton friend Charlie Trie in Beijing, reports today's New York Times.
The Times story says a State Department official called a member of the staff of the House committee investigating campaign fund-raising with a tip that Trie could be found in the Tianlun Wangqiao hotel in Beijing and passed on Trie's room and phone numbers. But the official also said that Trie would be checking out within six hours.
Investigators called Trie's room but got no answer.
Rep. Dan Burton, who chairs the investigating committee, said the incident shows the administration is making only a half-hearted attempt to assist his inquiry. "For the State Department to give us a phone number to reach him within a six-hour period is just ludicrous," Burton told the Times.
But the State Department objects to Burton's characterization. "We find it surprising and stunning that they would imply that we would not be doing everything we can to help," State spokesman James P. Rubin told the Times.
Catching Trie on the phone would likely not be very helpful to the investigation, as he has said he does not want to cooperate. He cannot be subpoenaed while in China, since that country has no legal assistance treaty with the U.S.
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