Former Clinton aide Harold Ickes under new scrutiny
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WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Aug. 18) -- Former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Harold Ickes is under intensive scrutiny by the Justice Department as Attorney General Janet Reno nears a decision on whether to appoint an independent counsel to investigate campaign fund raising by both Democrats and Republicans, CNN has learned.
Reno should complete by early next week a review of her department's investigation into allegations of fund-raising abuses during the 1996 election campaign, a spokesman said Tuesday.
Democrats and Republicans investigated
Ickes was a key White House fund-raiser during that campaign. Investigators also want to know if he lied to a Senate committee about whether the White House intervened in a Teamsters labor dispute in exchange for donations.
Ickes has denied any wrongdoing and could not be reached for comment. Though he is not technically covered by the Independent Counsel Act, Reno is considering employing the act anyway because Ickes was so close to the president.
Another focus of Justice investigators is whether the 1996 presidential campaigns for Bill Clinton and Republican candidate Bob Dole illegally controlled so-called "soft money" for political ads.
Such money is supposed to be used for building party support, but not for specific candidates.
Democrats and Republicans have denied "soft money" abuse allegations before. But the issue was reinvigorated recently when Charles LaBella, former head of the department's campaign finance task force, issued a report calling for an outside investigation.
Gore probe, too?
His report also renewed old questions about whether Vice President Al Gore broke federal election laws when he used White House telephones to make fund-raising calls.
A report in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal said that in recent weeks, several witnesses questioned in the past about Gore's phone calls had been re-interviewed. The vice president has denied wrongdoing.
Both LaBella and FBI Director Louis Freeh have written reports to Reno recommending she appoint an independent counsel. Republicans, who want to see the reports, have threatened Reno with contempt of Congress if she doesn't turn them over.
The attorney general has steadfastly refused, saying there was insufficient evidence that a high-ranking official committed a crime, and it is not clear whether she will reverse her position when she concludes the review.
"My anticipation is she will complete that review sometime later this week or early next week," said Justice Department spokesman Bert Brandenburg.
Once the attorney general completes her review, the Justice Department will decide within weeks on launching two separate 90-day investigative probes, the first steps toward the appointment of an independent counselCorrespondent Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.
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Wednesday, August 19, 1998
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