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Committee Votes to Subpoena Democratic Fundraising Papers

By Helen Dewar
The Washington Post

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee voted Thursday to issue its first 52 subpoenas for documents focusing on alleged Democratic fund-raising abuses, even as it remained deadlocked along party lines over funding for its investigation.

After an hour of angry arguments, the Republican-controlled panel unanimously approved 41 subpoenas and split along party lines, 9 to 7, in favor of issuing nine others about which Democrats had raised questions. These nine will be issued next week regardless of whether agreement has been reached in the meantime.

The target list included many of the business and lobbying figures who have been named in published reports about foreign-related contributions to the Democratic National Committee and White House events that gave big donors access to President Clinton.

While no subpoenas were issued for White House documents, some of the approved subpoenas sought information on meetings with Clinton and other top officials and attendance at White House functions, according to Senate aides.

Still in the negotiation stage are subpoenas for the DNC, the Republican National Committee and the presidential campaign organizations of Clinton and his 1996 GOP rival, Robert J. Dole, aides said.

Approval of the subpoenas followed the latest in a series of acrimonious exchanges that have rocked the normally collegial panel since it began preparations for the probe. It was kicked off by a complaint from Sen. John Glenn (Ohio), the committee's ranking Democrat, that the subpoenas were aimed almost entirely at the Democratic Party despite Republicans' claims the investigation would focus on both parties.

Fifty of the 52 subpoenas were aimed at Democrats and two at Republicans, Glenn protested. "After all the talk about bipartisanship, that's really hardball (and) hard to accept," he said. "This has been anything but a bipartisan approach so far."

Clearly angry, Committee Chairman Fred D. Thompson, R-Tenn., responded that he has "gone past what the rules require" in an attempt to cooperate with Democrats and added, "At every step of the way, I've been met with resistance."

Pleading for the kind of procedural compromise that eventually enabled the committee to emerge with a semblance of unity, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., observed almost sadly, "It's going to be hard to get out of the mud-wrestling pit that this can descend into."

Meanwhile, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, which is also investigating fund-raising abuses, said he will issue subpoenas to three former Clinton administration officials.