Janet Reno's `Vigorous' Investigation
Will someone please give Attorney General Janet Reno a dictionary? In a letter on Friday to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, Miss Reno assured him that the Justice Department's task force investigating campaign-finance abuses "is continuing to pursue the investigation vigorously and diligently." Citing the task force's "vigorous and thorough investigation of the allegations" contained in an earlier letter to her from Mr. Hyde, Miss Reno rejected the notion that she and her department faced any "conflict of interest" by pursuing the investigation themselves.
The task force Miss Reno appointed 11 months ago may be many things - incompetent, unfocused, confused - but it clearly is neither "vigorous" nor "thorough." Nor has it spent the past 300-plus days "diligently" pursuing the investigation - at least not by any reasonable or conventional definitions of those terms. As it happened, on the same day Miss Reno dispatched her reply to Mr. Hyde, The Washington Post published a devastating report detailing internal conflicts and disagreements within the task force between Justice Department attorneys and FBI agents, crippling the investigation from its beginning.
Fitting into the Justice Department's pattern of almost willful ignorance, in the issue hitting newsstands today, Time magazine reveals the existence of videotapes taken of the famous White House coffees, something the attorney general was apparently blissfully unaware of. If a direct pitch for campaign contributions was made during these cozy get-togethers by members of the administration, the smoking-gun evidence may well be right here. As Sen. John McCain told CBS' "Face the Nation," "I have never seen anything like it, and I'm not sure long time Washington observers have since the firing of Archibald Cox."
Still, on Friday, Miss Reno did call for an expanded investigation of Vice President Al Gore's use of White House telephones to solicit campaign donations. This is modest progress, if much belated. It was, after all, in early March, four months into the task force's investigation, that Miss Reno learned - from newspaper reports, of course -that Mr. Gore had used his White House office to make fund-raising telephone calls. For the next six months, including in an April letter declining to seek an independent counsel, Miss Reno ignorantly parroted the White House line that Mr. Gore's phone calls had only raised "soft money," which she claimed was not covered by the relevant statutes. And it was only last month that she and her task force learned - again from newspaper reports -that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) routinely diverted the first $20,000 raised by Mr. Gore from any single major donor to its "hard-money" accounts. Moreover, several memos addressed to Mr. Gore and the president surfaced, confirming that the DNC's practice had been clearly outlined to them. …