Burton Slams White House 'Stonewalling'
He takes 'point of privilege' to outline fund-raising investigation for the American people
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 12) -- An impassioned Rep. Dan Burton took to the House floor Tuesday to defend himself and the campaign finance investigation he chairs and blamed White House stonewalling for delaying his probe.
"My conduct as chairman has been criticized by many of my Democratic colleagues. These criticisms have been echoed in the press. So I'm taking this point of personal privilege to lay out to the American people the facts about this investigation," Burton said.
The Indiana Republican spoke in advance of a big day for his House Government Reform and Oversight committee. Another vote is scheduled Wednesday on immunity for four potential witnesses, something Democrats on the panel have refused to approve.
They accuse Burton of waging a partisan vendetta against President Bill Clinton. The ranking Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman of California, plans to raise a motion to have Burton removed as chairman.
Burton hit back in his floor speech, accusing the Democrats of sleazy tactics. "The fact is that this committee has been subjected to a level of stonewalling and obstruction that has never been seen by a congressional investigation in the history of this country," he said. "This investigation has been stonewalled by the White House. This investigation has been stonewalled by the Democratic National Committee.
"This committee has seen over 90 witnesses -- 90 -- either take the Fifth Amendment or flee the country to avoid testifying -- more than 90. The fact that all of these people have invoked their Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination is a pretty strong indication that a lot of crimes have been committed," Burton said.
Detailing the past year and a half of his panel's fund-raising investigation, Burton pointed to alleged efforts by Democrats to distract attention from crimes committed during the 1996 campaign.
"The White House's game plan has been to stall and obstruct legitimate investigations for as long as possible, and then criticize the length of the investigation, and all the while attacking the investigators," he said.
Burton described alleged "cloak and dagger" incidents, including "derogatory information" about Burton sent anonymously to a Indiana reporter in an "unmarked manilla envelope without any return address." The chairman told of another anonymous tipster who sent a journalist to find another envelope glued to the back of a phone book in a phone booth of a Senate office building.
It is unlikely that Waxman's motion to have Burton removed as chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee will pass.
If it does not, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) says he will likely take to the floor later on Wednesday afternoon for a point of personal privilege to ask the entire House to consider whether Burton should be removed from the campaign finance investigation.
A letter to Clinton
Earlier Tuesday, Burton seized on President Bill Clinton's $280 million international crime control proposal to take a political swing at the White House, sending the president a list of suggestions for the initiative. All were related to Burton's campaign finance investigation.
The suggestions that Burton sent to Clinton are:
"Improved relations with justice ministries of foreign countries to gain their assistance in securing the return of some twenty individuals who have fled the country rather than cooperate with this committee."
"Securing more than 'lip service' cooperation from China regarding the House campaign finance inquiry by demanding that our investigators be given the visas so far refused to visit Beijing, Hong Kong and other Chinese centers."
"Determining whether large contributors to the Democrat party influenced approval for two U.S. companies to transfer ballistic missile technology to China at the same time a federal grand jury was investigating those companies for illegal exports to China of similar technology."
"Learning why the Riady's Lippo Group of Indonesia paid former Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell $100,000 out of the total $700,000 that he received and that his recent indictment for tax evasion was for ' little or no work.' "
"Exploring the circumstances of your Adminstration's preventing the State of Utah's 'clean burning' coal property from being mined, a decision that was alleged to bring economic benefit to the Riady family of Indonesia, whose companies control substantial coal deposits."
"Probing whether China had a plan to use campaign contributions so that its state shipping company, COSCO, could get possession of the Long Beach naval shipyard in California. As you know, this company has been implicated in smuggling AK-47's into the U.S."
"Investigating any connection between Ted Sioeng's half million dollars in contributions to the Clinton/Gore effort and his purchasing a pro-Taiwan Chinese language newspaper that he then changed to a pro-communist paper."
"Surveying to what extent John Huang's top secret security clearance (gained five months before working at the Commerce Department and retained for a full year after he left government while working as a DNC fund-raiser) may have contributed to the knowledge base of foreign organizations."
"Requesting that your fellow Democrats who are the Minority Members of this Committee stop blocking immunity for four witnesses with information about illegal contributions of foreign money to political campaigns. The Justice Department already has immunized two of them and does not oppose Congressional immunity for any of the four."
Taking a parting shot at the president, Burton concluded his letter by reminding Clinton that "the Congressional investigations of campaign finance crimes have exposed money laundering, masked contributions and other violations of law that have occurred across national borders. We believe you would agree that any battle against international law breaking should have such felonies in its focus."