Republican Sen. Tom Coburn is circulating a letter today in an effort to stop a Democratic amendment that would cut off funds to the office of Independent Counsel David Barrett.
Barrett spent years investigating the case of Henry Cisneros, the Clinton administration Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Cisneros was accused of lying to the FBI about payments he made to a former girlfriend. In September 1999, Cisneros pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
Barrett, who has finished his final report, is said to have uncovered evidence of Internal Revenue Service officials’ efforts to protect Cisneros over allegations Cisneros had not paid taxes on the money he gave to the former girlfriend. Democrats are attempting to cut off Barrett’s funds to keep the report from being made public.
Here is the Coburn letter, in full:
The Honorable Thad Cochran
Chairman, Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Dear Chairman Cochran:
We are writing to express our concern regarding Senate Amendment 399 that was adopted by unanimous consent during recent debate over the emergency supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 1268). This amendment prohibits any additional funds from being spent on the Independent Counsel investigation of Henry Cisneros, former Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If the language from this amendment is enacted into law, there is the risk that the final report on this investigation will not be released. Given the extraordinary amount of time and public funds that have already been expended on this matter, we do not believe that the Cisneros investigation should be prematurely terminated before its final findings are made public.
We understand that many people have very strong feelings about the propriety of the Independent Counsel itself. We also understand that others have concerns about the use of taxpayer dollars to fund these types of investigations. We share these same concerns.
The Independent Counsel, which began its investigation in May 1995, was appointed to investigate false statements by Mr. Cisneros to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, according to myriad news reports, the scope of the Independent Counsel¹s investigation later included both the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service. According to one of the judges overseeing the Independent Counsel, the investigation was ³an apparently wide-ranging probe of government officials who mightŠhave sought to shield Mr. Cisneros.² If there is any truth to the charge that Mr.
Cisneros was shielded by any federal official or department, both the Congress and the public deserve to know.
Accordingly, we respectfully urge you to not include any language regarding the Independent Counsel investigation of Mr. Cisneros in the final conference agreement for H.R. 1268.