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Democrats to Block Funds Probe Unless GOP Curbs Partisanship

By Helen Dewar
The Washington Post

Senate Democrats Tuesday put Republicans on notice to expect trouble in winning approval for financing their investigation of campaign-financing abuses unless they clearly specify its scope and duration and ground rules for Democratic participation.

The warnings from Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), the ranking Democrat on the Governmental Affairs Committee, came shortly before committee Chairman Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) presented the Senate with a broad outline of the committee's plans.

"We will be more than ready to support that funding resolution once we've had the opportunity to resolve these matters," Daschle told reporters Tuesday morning. "But they have to be resolved to our satisfaction."

In his address to the Senate, Thompson listed several broad areas of focus, such as whether administration officials observed legal barriers between fund raising and official business, that appeared targeted mostly - but not exclusively - at allegations of Democratic fund-raising excesses. He said the investigation will be pursued without regard to party and that Republicans will "in no way" limit Democrats' right to investigate what they deem important. He did not say how long the inquiry might last and cautioned that its duration depends in part on White House cooperation.

While cordial in response, Glenn reiterated his call for more specific ground rules and suggested that the scope be broadened to include several areas Thompson did not mention, including "misuse of charitable and other organizations" for political purposes - a clear reference to the recent ethics case against House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).

Glenn also said the probe should be aimed at reforming the campaign-finance system as well as providing information about abuses. He said he is convinced that reform will not occur "until the pressure from the American people becomes overwhelming" and believes that "this investigation, if done right, could be the vehicle to create that pressure." But it will not occur "if the inquiry drags on into next year - an election year - when changing the campaign-finance laws will be impossible."