Gavel To Gavel

Lobbyist Says Babbitt Talked About Campaign Donations (10/30/97)

Senators Grill White House Lawyers Over Tapes (10/29/97)

Gavel To Gavel: Fund-Raising Hearings

Thompson Calls An End To Senate Funds Hearings


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 31) -- After 32 days of public hearings since July, Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, chairman of the Senate committee investigating alleged campaign finance abuses, said today his panel has "recessed subject to the call of the chair."

"What does that mean? That means that if we need to have hearings we will have hearings," Thompson told a group of reporters at a Capitol Hill press conference. "I will not hesitate to call us back in during recess to have hearings if they need to be conducted." (352K wav sound)

But for now, he said, the committee lacked the "caliber" of witness for public testimony, and "I will not be having hearings just for the sake of having additional hearings." (544K wav sound)

Authorized early this year, the panel's public hearings began in July. Beset by partisanship, the sessions often bogged down with Democrats complaining the GOP was engaged in a political witchhunt, while Republicans complained the Clinton Administration was stonewalling, using the committee's Dec. 31 mandatory adjournment to run out the clock.

"I am disappointed that we will not be able to lift the restriction of the cut-off date," Thompson said. "When it was imposed on us last year I said it was a mistake. It has proven to be a mistake in many different respects." (448K wav sound)

Earlier this week Thompson wrote Senate Majority Trent Lott formally requesting an extension. But with even some Republicans opposing a continuance, Thompson said he had realized he couldn't muster the needed votes in the Senate.

"I can count as well as the next guy," the folksy Tennessean said. (352K wav sound)

But though hearings failed to bring forth any Watergate-style "smoking guns," Thompson said the committee's work wasn't for naught. (512K wav sound)

"We've had the first real debate on campaign finance reform in 20 years," he said. "Friends, that's progress." And, he said the committee had shed new light on the role of individuals and independent groups in the campaign finance system.

Thompson, who served as minority counsel for the Senate Watergate committee, has often complained the Justice Department has not been cooperative. His panel's work could been more effective, he said, if a grand jury investigation had been running concurrently.

But he took credit for pushing Attorney General Janet Reno's investigation, which he said was becoming more aggressive. "The new gentleman they have over there [leading the investigation] apparently is shaking things up," he said.

Though the Senate probe seems to be ending, the House investigation, led by Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, has just begun its public hearings into campaign finance with no time limit.

In Other News:

Friday Oct. 31, 1997

Thompson Calls An End To Senate Funds Hearings
Sen. Thompson Says He Thinks Some Witnesses Lied
Fog Delays Clinton's Florida Trip
Car Tax Opposition Propels Gilmore's Candidacy
Two Conservatives Battle For Staten Island Seat
Whitman's Lead Shrinks In N.J. Governor's Race
Are There Ghosts Haunting The White House?

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