Reno Makes Her Case For Slow Course (10/15/97)
Report: Memo Recommends Against Probe Of Gore
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Nov. 22) -- Campaign finance investigators are expected to recommend to Attorney General Janet Reno that she reject an independent counsel inquiry into fund raising by Vice President Al Gore, sources told CNN Saturday.
According to the sources, Justice Department lawyers said it would be nearly impossible to bring a successful case against the vice president.
Investigators reportedly also are preparing a recommendation that Reno not seek a counsel to probe President Bill Clinton and former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, who is accused of soliciting a charitable contribution from a lobbyist in return for a meeting.
Reno has reached no decisions, although congressional Republicans have pressured her to apply to a special court for appointment for an independent counsel to probe the cases. Formal recommendations could reach Reno on Monday. Under the law, she has until Dec. 2 to make up her mind on the Gore case.
FBI agents and prosecutors from the department's campaign finance task force interviewed Gore and Clinton last week about their phone calls from government buildings.
A 114-year-old law, passed before general use of the telephone, bars officials from soliciting campaign contributions while inside federal buildings. The law never has been used, however, to prosecute officials believed to have used their office telephones to solicit contributions from private citizens at home or at work.
Officials said a legal analysis of the law played a big role in their thinking about the case, because the independent counsel statute requires Reno to follow Justice Department precedents.
The evidence of who made what calls for what type of contribution also was a factor, the officials said.
Gore has acknowledged making 46 fund-raising calls from his government office, but he said he was raising "soft money" for general party building and generic advertising, which Reno said is exempt from the campaign-finance laws.
Clinton has said he may have made fund-raising calls, but can't recall them.
Some documents and testimony from aides indicate that most of the president's calls apparently were made from the White House residence, which is not covered by the solicitation law. They also apparently were designed to raise soft money or thank contributors for donations.
The inquiries into Clinton and Gore's activities began after investigators learned that some of the contributions were later spent by Democratic Party officials on "hard money" efforts to re-elect the president. Investigators looked into whether the two were responsible for or even aware of that shift.
Common Cause maintains that issues concerning the alleged buying and selling of political influence remain unresolved and cry out for an independent counsel.
Ann McBride of Common Cause, a citizen's lobbying group, said such a recommendation is like "not moving forward on a jay-walking matter while failing to even investigate what could have been bank robberies."
Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., who has frequently been critical of the administration, said that "it's going to be up to Congress to take action through impeachment proceedings."
Democratic National Committee Chairman Roy Romer said, "We can get on to the issues that are important to the country -- education and health and the environment and the economy."
CNN White House Correspondent John King and CNN Reporter Louise Schiavone contributed to this report.
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Weekend Nov. 22 & 23, 1997
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