Congressional investigators sought new information today as lawmakers eyed whether Denise Rich's big-money contributions to former President Clinton may have effectively bought a pardon for her financier ex-husband, Marc Rich.
The House Government Reform Committee has subpoenaed records relating to Ms. Rich's financial transactions from two of her banks, the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton library foundation.
The subpoenas are for checks and pledges of donations in excess of $5,000 from Ms. Rich, other family members, five companies and foundations connected to the Rich family and from Beth Dozoretz, a former finance chair of the DNC.
The committee also released copies of letters sent to the Secret Service and National Archives requesting records to determine when — and how often — Ms. Rich and others visited the White House during Clinton's two terms.
Committee Chairman Dan Burton, R-Ind., also has asked the Defense Intelligence Agency for "any" information it may have gathered on Mr. Rich and his partner, Pincus Green, from 1985 to the present. In addition, Burton is asking CIA Director George Tenet to help declassify "certain materials" that were discussed at a Feb. 6 background briefing for committee staff.
Senate hearings on the Rich pardon begin Wednesday as senators debate whether to call the former president himself to testify on Capitol Hill.
Different Rules for the Wealthy?
Even Democrats — nearly uniformly — say Clinton made an inexcusable error in judgment by pardoning Rich, one of the nation's most-wanted fugitives. Rich fled the country in 1983, shortly before being indicted in what prosecutors call the largest tax fraud case in U.S. history. Rich has lived in Switzerland ever since.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said during hearings last week the pardon "creates the appearance of a double standard for the wealthy and powerful." And Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who ran for vice president on Al Gore's ticket, called the move a "terrible mistake."
Last week, Ms. Rich refused to answer the committee's questions, citing her Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating herself. That deepened GOP suspicions that she had something to hide, and that her contributions and access — not the merits of the case — helped persuade Clinton. Some Republicans have suggested granted her immunity so that she could be compelled to testify.
Denise Rich has donated more than $1.5 million to the Democratic Party, to Clinton's campaigns, to Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign, and to the $200 million Clinton library.
As controversy over the clemency grants made on his final day in office continues to dog the former president, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Monday he is ready to help Congress investigate the matter.
Stopping short of endorsing the efforts of some Republicans to grant immunity to Ms. Rich, Ashcroft pledged to cooperate with Congress.
"I respect the right of the United States Congress to get information and to grant immunity in order to get information," Ashcroft said. "It's with that in mind that I would say that I would be very pleased to work with the department to cooperate with the Congress whenever possible."
Trafficker Pardon Raises New Questions
As the Rich issue continued to simmer, a new controversy emerged over Clinton's decision to pardon a convicted drug trafficker.