Remember six months ago when the investigation of Henry Cisneros by independent counsel David Barrett was approaching its tenth anniversary and people got upset because Barrett was still spending boatloads of money for no apparent purpose? Well, six months later he's still at it.
This spring, Republicans and Democrats voiced outrage over the news that independent counsel David M. Barrett was still pursuing a decade-long, $21 million investigation into a crime long confessed and paid for. Without debate, the Senate unanimously agreed to strip Barrett of further funding for his inquiry on former housing secretary Henry G. Cisneros.
But, prodded by conservative commentators, House Republican leaders grew convinced that Democrats were trying to suppress embarrassing revelations about the Clinton administration. The Senate provision was ditched behind closed doors, and Barrett and his staff continue to work -- at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $2 million a year -- on an inquiry that seemingly ended 13 months ago.
In its semiannual audit, the Government Accountability Office said yesterday that Barrett spent $930,742 from October 2004 to March 2005, six years after Cisneros pleaded guilty to the charges Barrett was appointed to investigate -- and more than a year after Barrett submitted his 400-page report for final judicial review. The GAO did not indicate what Barrett has been doing since he finished his report, other than maintain staff and office expenditures that have continued to rise since the investigation ended.
John Scofield, spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, said yesterday that Congress has no business intervening in an independent counsel's investigation -- which, after all, is supposed to be independent.
Besides, he said, moves to strip Barrett's funding amount to "legal assistance from Democrats trying to cover up a report that would tar them."
In a break from previous audits, the GAO report included language saying it was not expressing an opinion on the reasonableness or appropriateness of the expenditures. But in an interview, U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker, a political independent who heads the agency, said he has requested additional information on Barrett's activities, given the sums involved and the state of his investigation.
It is not clear what Barrett's office is doing on a day-to-day basis, but the audit provided broad categories of expenditures. Barrett spent $464,009 on pay and benefits over six months; $24,014 on travel; $236,316 on rent, phone bills and utilities; $103,233 on contractors, mainly lawyers on retainer; and $74,178 on administrative services.
"These are pretty substantial numbers," Walker said.
1. This investigation has gone on longer than those into the Iran/Contra scandal and Whitewater.
2. The main target of the investigation pled guilty to a crime in 1999, and paid a fine for it. No one else has ever been named as a subject of investigation.
3. The independent counsel released his "final" report last year, several months and many dollars after it had been written. Nobody knows what he's been doing since, other than spend more money.
4. Yet the House Republicans refused to remove his funding, on the grounds that there might be some nugget of Clinton misbehavior still buried out there somewhere.
As Houtopia points out, it's a little hard to take seriously any claim by the pro-DeLay crowd that Ronnie Earle's investigation is just a partisan witch hunt when DeLay himself is unwilling to allow David Barrett to be decoupled from the government teat. If in 2015, after all the trials and appeals have run their course, the Travis County DA is still convening grand juries to investigate the 2002 elections, then maybe I'll have some sympathy. In the meantime, please spare me. Thanks to Rhetoric and Rhythm and The Jeffersonian for the link.Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 02, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack