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The ranking Republican on the House Banking Committee said Thursday the American people should be allowed to draw their own conclusions about President Clinton's Whitewater real-estate venture.

Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa, who has filed a lawsuit seeking documents from federal regulatory agencies on the failure of Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan and Whitewater Development Corp., said, "What's at issue is freedom of information and the right of the public to know.""What this is really seeking is how the taxpayer lost $67 million in an institution that was only $110 million in size," he said on Fox-TV.

"This is about conflicts of interest, it's about taxpayer losses, it's about potential recovery of taxpayer funds," he said.

"Clearly there's an embarrassing circumstance, and those powers that be don't want it on the table," he said. However, "people can draw their own conclusions from the facts. This is simply and utterly about full disclosure of an open government in an open society."

Leach filed the suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

It asserts that regulators are preventing Leach from fulfilling his oversight duties as the banking panel's ranking minority member and asked that the case be set for expedited handling.