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Republican who probed Clinton White House hits at Democrats for House investigations
Michael Roston
Published: Tuesday April 10, 2007
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A Republican congressman who issued a large number of subpoenas for Clinton administration officials in the 1990s has joined fellow Republicans in criticizing Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman for alleged overuse of subpoena authority, according to a story in today's edition of Roll Call.

A former Clinton administration attorney fired back that the congressman, Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), was employing a double standard.

Burton chaired the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the 1990s and became famous for issuing a wide variety of subpoenas to Clinton White House staff and other executive branch officials. In a report on the oversight activities conducted to date in the 110th Congress, Burton joined other House Republicans to warn Democrats not to "abuse" their authority.

"The minority is concerned the majority may abuse the deposition authority provided to this committee under the 110th House Rules. The minority also is concerned with the majority's practice of threatening subpoenas to witnesses unless they ‘agree’ to transcribed interviews," warned Burton, along with other Congressmembers.

But Lanny Davis, the White House special counsel who responded to Burton's subpoenas on campaign finances and other matters while serving under Clinton, compared the situation to a late night TV show comedy sketch.

"That is so funny in its obvious double standard that it has got to be Dan Burton’s idea for a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit," Davis told Roll Call's Paul Singer, adding that Burton's chairmanship of the committee had been "the ultimate example of partisan political use of the subpoena power with no obvious legislative intent."

However, Davis did advise caution to the House Democrats.

"We complained about Burton’s use of the subpoena power in the 1990s and need to show restraint and not use the same clearly partisan tactics," he argued.

The full Roll Call article can be accessed by subscribers to the paper at this link. An excerpt is provided below.

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At the end of March, as the House was leaving for a two-week recess, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) issued a report on the oversight plans of every House committee. The report essentially is a compendium of memos from each committee chairman laying out the issues they plan to investigate, from the Agriculture Committee’s plan to review the federal crop insurance program to the Ways and Means Committee’s promise to probe “China’s rampant theft of massive quantities of U.S. intellectual property.”

But the last few pages were a “minority views” section in which Burton, along with committee ranking member Tom Davis (R-Va.) and most of the other Republican members warned that the Democrats are straying close to the line of what is appropriate in oversight.

“Effective, constructive oversight is much more a matter of due diligence and digging than depositions and sensational disclosures,” the Republicans wrote.

“The minority is concerned the majority may abuse the deposition authority provided to this committee under the 110th House Rules. The minority also is concerned with the majority's practice of threatening subpoenas to witnesses unless they ‘agree’ to transcribed interviews. These non-deposition depositions, which were never anticipated in the formulation of the committee rules, allow for the abrogation of procedural rights and safeguards otherwise available to the minority and the witnesses. Without those protections, interviews happen with little or no notice, and selected excerpts from the resulting ‘transcripts’ appear in press releases and unofficial committee documents.”

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