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Independent Counsels Spent $36 Million to Probe Officials

By Toni Locy
The Washington Post

Independent counsels investigating President Clinton, the first lady and other administration officials have spent nearly $36 million in two years, logging their most expensive six-month period yet by spending more than $10 million from April through September 1996, according to the most recent figures compiled by the General Accounting Office.

The GAO report provides further evidence that Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr is carving out a place in special-prosecutor history with his spending. In the six-month period ending Sept. 30, 1996, he spent $5,049,625, bringing his total to $22,298,708. His investigation began in August 1994, but is approaching the cost of a longer-running probe into favoritism in the Reagan administration's Housing and Urban Development Department.

Starr's expenses also are more than twice that of his nearest competitor, independent counsel Donald C. Smaltz, who is investigating former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy's acceptance of gifts. Smaltz spent $2,826,010 in the six-month period, according to the GAO report. Since he began his probe in September 1994, Smaltz has spent $8,672,212.

The costs outlined in the GAO report include travel, ordinary office expenses, salaries of attorneys hired by the independent counsels and the cost of borrowing investigators from such agencies as the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, and Customs Service.

Taxpayers forked over $1,345,767 in the six-month period for another independent-counsel investigation, even though the target of the probe died in early April 1996. That brings the cost of independent counsel Daniel S. Pearson's investigation of former Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown to $2,682,538. No one was indicted in Pearson's probe, parts of which were referred to the Justice Department for further investigation.

The investigation into the search of then-candidate Bill Clinton's passport files during the 1992 campaign has cost $2,864,356.

Under the law, targets who are not indicted can recover their legal fees. Those costs are not included in the GAO reports.

Since 1978, when the independent counsel authority was created by Congress, there have been 17 independent counsels. Counting GAO's latest figures, taxpayers have paid $125,741,312 for operating and investigatory costs.