Now, the Real Summer Entertainment

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Washington's summer blockbuster begins tomorrow with the start of Senator Fred Thompson's hearings on campaign finance abuses in the 1996 election. Richard Sullivan, former finance director of the Democratic National Committee, is expected to be the first witness called when the panel begins hearing testimony on Wednesday. Republicans will use the first day and a half of hearings to lay out their contention that Bill Clinton and the Democrats, in disarray after the 1994 GOP midterm election landslide broke the Democrats' 40-year hold on the House and left the President defending his relevancy, desperately tapped every conceivable source of soft money, including potentially illegal foreign campaign contributions, in their all-out drive to win in 1996. Newt Gingrich says he wants to know if some Democratic fund-raising techniques led to Chinese espionage. Thompson's investigators hope to prove that Democratic campaigns were fueled in part by illegal foreign money, perhaps guided by Democratic fundraiser John Huang, who held a top-secret clearance in connection with his Commerce job in the Clinton Administration. Thompson will be grilling former DNC head Don Fowler as well as former top Clinton aides Mac MacLarty and Harold Ickes, who was unceremoniously dumped by Clinton after his November victory and whose filing cabinets have been providing the committee with leads ever since.