GOP Compromises on Finance Investigation

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Senate Republican leaders today toned down their proposed investigation into campaign finance by eliminating Congress from th e investigation and trimming Fred Thompson's investigative budget. On a 9-6 vote, the GOP resolution to investigate the 1996 campaign finances of both parties passed out of committee, where it could be voted on as early as next Tuesday by the Senat e. The move to exclude Congress was primarily the result of a determined effort by the GOP rank and file to take the teeth out of a probe which has the potential of exposing abuses by members of Congress on a case by case basis. Democrats were not pleased that the probe will not include an investigation into the most abused area of campaign finance, soft money contributions, since Republicans generally collect more of those donations. Democrats were also vocal about the size of the investigatory panel 's proposed budget of $6.5 million and were somewhat appeased by a decision to reduce it to $4.35 million. The changes did nothing to silence Republican demands that Attorney General Janet Reno appoint an independent counsel to investigate alleged f und raising improprieties in the Clinton White House. "We feel there's more than enough reason and we don't know why she hasn't appointed one," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Reno refused again Thursday, telling reporters that ther e is still not enough evidence that anything illegal took place in the White House. Reno says she is investigating whether Al Gore's fundraising phone calls from the White House or news that a White House staffer accepted a $50,000 donation on site qualify. While some analysts say Clinton may be better served by preempting Reno and calling for an independent probe himself, early indications are that the President has every intention of riding this storm out until it's buried in the papers. %0 D