Thompson Committee Wraps Up Its Work
Senate panel adopts its campaign finance report on a predictable, party line 8-7 vote
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 5) -- With none of the bombast or sniping that marked some of its campaign finance hearings, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Thursday adopted a Republican-written majority report on a predictable 8-7 vote.
Democrats will produce their own final minority report, ripping most of the conclusions of the Republican majority.
Sen. Fred Thompson, who chaired the panel, said he wished the committee could have produced a single report, but defended the inquiry into the 1996 campaign finance mess. Thompson noted the indictments of Democratic fund-raisers Charlie Trie, Maria Hsia and the charges filed against fund-raisers Johnny Chung and Yogesh Gandhi.
"The hearings that we had will forever be a part of the record, as far as any discussion of our system in the future," the Tennessee Republican said.
Thompson took note of some of the pitched battles between Republicans and Democrats during the hearings.
"We could revisit all of those old wounds and heartaches,
and throw some more stones at each other today if we choose to do so," he said. "But I'm hopeful that now we can put both of these reports before the American people and let them be judged in light of the record that they remember ... There are some pretty important things that we do agree on."
Sen. John Glenn, the committee's ranking Democrat, said the inquiry "had the potential to be a catalyst for a public uproar" to force legislative changes, but that didn't happen.
Glenn tweaked the Senate for deadlocking again on a campaign finance bill, saying that feeds the notion that the American government is for sale.
"In that notion lies the seed for the future destruction of American democracy, and we ignore that warning at our peril," Glenn said.
In the end, the committee seemed too pooped to fight any more, after nine months of hearings, 32 days of hearings and $3.5 million. The final session of the fund-raising probe ended in just 14 minutes.
"There's not any one real big thing," Thompson said, describing what the committee found. "It's a lot of things strung together that paint a real ugly picture.
"We saw unsavory characters with unlimited access to the White House raising illegal money," Thompson said. "We saw Indians being used and shaken down. We saw the Buddhists being used."
The committee never found proof positive of illegal Chinese influence on the presidential campaign, something Thompson brought up the first day of the hearings. On the last, he remained a true believer.
"You put two and two together and maybe you only get three and three-quarters," he said. "But it's very significant and very troubling."
The Democrats, though, say the available evidence "... does not support the conclusion that the China plan was aimed at, or affected, the 1996 presidential election."
Thompson called that more evidence of the Democrats' attitude during the hearings. "Well, it is pretty consistent with the last several months," he said. "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."
CNN's Candy Crowley contributed to this report.