Ickes Role In Fund-Raising Gets 'Considerable Review'
In Reno-Burton showdown, both cite support from former attorneys general
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Aug. 7) -- The Justice Department is intensively reviewing the report submitted in July by Charles LaBella, the outgoing head of the Justice Department's campaign finance task force, a senior Justice Department official tells CNN.
The LaBella memo recommends that Attorney General Janet Reno request an independent counsel to investigate fund-raising abuses by Democrats during the 1996 election cycle.
Justice Department officials are especially interested in an area of the report concerning the role that Harold Ickes, the former White House deputy chief of staff, may have played in fund-raising decisions for the Democratic Party.
Reno has not invoked a 30-day review, a first step in triggering the Independent Counsel Act, a senior law enforcement official told CNN.
The attorney general has promised members of Congress that she would make a decision whether to act on the LaBella memo within three weeks.
The LaBella memo has been the source of controversy on Capitol Hill this week.
Reno has refused to turn over the memo to Rep. Dan Burton's House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Burton's committee has also been investigating campaign finance abuses.
The committee voted Thursday to cite Reno for contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over the LaBella memo and a 1997 report from FBI Director Louis Freeh. Freeh's memo also recommends that Reno seek an independent counsel to probe the fund-raising practices of the 1996 Clinton/Gore re-election campaign.
On a 24-19 vote, Republicans on the committee recommended that the full House of Representatives consider the issue when members return in September from their recess.
On Friday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch issued a statement denying Democratic claims he opposed the House committee's vote.
"It has been suggested by some that since the Senate Judiciary Committee
has temporarily withheld a decision on whether to compel the production of certain documents, that I oppose the action undertaken by House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Dan Burton. This is not the case," Hatch said in his statement.
The Utah Republican concluded, "I do not believe the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee acted inappropriately in its vote to cite Attorney General Reno for contempt of Congress".
During the heated committee debate Thursday Democrats repeatedly cited Hatch's assumed opposition to the vote.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has also request a copy of the LaBella memo.
Reno claims the memos contain secret grand jury information and a blueprint to the Justice Department's investigation.
Reno, Burton both cite support from former attorneys general
Rep. Dan Burton
Both Reno and Burton attempted to line up support from former U.S. attorneys general to bolster their positions in the fight over producing the subpoenaed documents.
Reno released letters Thursday from three former Democratic attorneys general backing her refusal to hand over the internal memos.
Burton, meanwhile, said his staff had also received the approval of three former attorneys general. Despite calls from Democrats for Burton to identify the three former officials, he declined to do so.
The Justice Department, in conjunction with ranking committee Democrat Rep. Henry Waxman, released letters from Nicholas Katzenbach and Ramsey Clark who served under President Lyndon Johnson, and from Griffin Bell, who served as President Jimmy Carter's attorney general.
In Katzenbach's letter to the House Committee he wrote, "It is hard to imagine a less appropriate subject for a subpoena or one more calculated to politicize the [Justice] Department."
Ramsey Clark wrote, "It would create a serious threat to constitutional government, the rule of law and individual rights for Congress to hold the Attorney General of the United States in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over to the Congress investigative materials and departmental recommendations based on them in an ongoing Department of Justice investigation."
Bell said in his letter, "I believe it is of paramount importance to preserve the confidentiality of internal communications between the Attorney General and advisors or investigators in order to ensure that such advisors feel free to render candid advice that is not swayed by public opinion, fear or fear of future disclosure to Congress."
CNN's Terry Frieden and Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.