Magazine article USA TODAY

Independent Counsel: Bills Bleeding Taxpayers Dry

Magazine article USA TODAY

Independent Counsel: Bills Bleeding Taxpayers Dry

Article excerpt

While the public's eyes may glaze over at the daily headlines of Kenneth Starr's investigation of Pres. Clinton, the fact that taxpayers have shelled out more than $140,000,000 since the Independent Counsel statute was enacted should serve as a wake-up call, argues Kathleen Clark, associate professor of law, Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.). Taxpayers not only have footed a huge bill for the actual investigations, they have paid millions more for the defense of some two-dozen high-level government officials whom independent counsels have investigated. At the same time, numerous lower-level officials drawn into these investigations--often due to mere association with the actual target--have had to pay their own legal bills.

"The law is great for the lawyers who represent people investigated by independent counsels. The special three-judge court has been willing to award these lawyers high-market hourly rates--up to $375 an hour," explains Clark, an expert on governmental ethics. "It's not clear that the American people have benefited nearly as much. Public trust certainly has decreased." Since the statute was enacted in 1978, 19 independent counsels have been appointed to investigate government officials, and they have brought indictments against dozens of individuals and companies. …

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