The Senate committee investigating campaign finance has agreed to let Democrats look into whether tax-exempt groups illegally helped Republican candidates.
The agreement Wednesday to issue document subpoenas to determine whether organizations such as Americans for Tax Reform abused their tax-exempt status by coordinating political activities with the Republican Party drew praise from Democrats.The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee investigation had gotten off to a bitter start with Democrats accusing Republicans of confining the probe to allegations of wrongdoing by President Clinton's re-election effort. Until Wednesday, only two of the panel's 63 subpoenas dealt with Republican fund raising.
"The level of trust among the members of the committee is growing and my optimism that we will be able to conduct a fair and comprehensive investigation is growing," Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., told reporters.
In the House, Republicans on its House Government Reform and Oversight Committee said Wednesday they would support language to widen the scope of the panel's investigation.
"I couldn't be more comfortable with this language," Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., said following a closed caucus of committee Republicans. "It gives us the flexibility to go after the serious violations wherever we may find them."
Some Senate Republicans had resisted attempts by Democrats to issue subpoenas for 11 tax-exempt groups, particularly for the Christian Coalition, the National Right to Life Committee and the American Defense Institute.
Under the deal, those groups will not be directly subpoenaed. But a subpoena issued Wednesday to the Republican National Committee seeks documents relating to activities of all 11 organizations.
Subpoenas were also issued to the Democratic National Committee and the campaign committees for Clinton and his Republican challenger, former Sen. Bob Dole.