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House fund-raising probe stalls amid questions

The House investigation of alleged White House fund-raising abuses has stalled amid questions about the money-raising practices of the GOP congressman leading the inquiry and rising objections to its partisan nature.

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., a self-described "pit bull" who is leading the foreign-money investigation, on Wednesday was attempting to deal with allegations that he had pressured the Washington lobbyist for Pakistan to raise funds for his congressional campaign, then retaliated when the envoy did not.

Burton abruptly postponed a meeting of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Democrats had hoped to broaden the probe beyond the White House and Democratic Party at the session and to rein in Burton. Some Republicans now fear their own party could suffer damage if they are overzealous, too partisan or holier-than-thou.

Questions about Burton's own fund raising illustrate the vulnerability of critics investigating Clinton yet participating in the same cash-driven political system. Besides Burton, Rep. David McIntosh, R-Ind., and John Mica, R-Fla., have been leading the charge.

A July 1996 memo from former Pakistani lobbyist Mark A. Siegel alleges that Burton complained to the Pakistani ambassador and declared Siegel persona non grata in his congressional office when the lobbyist did not raise $5,000 in donations for his campaign.

Siegel complained last year to an aide to the Pakistani prime minister that in 25 years in Washington, he had "never been shaken down by anyone before like Dan Burton's threats."

Burton acknowledged he asked Siegel to help raise funds in 1995 from the Pakistani American community, as reported in Wednesday's Washington Post.

But he said he didn't demand money from Siegel or threaten him. Burton said he merely mentioned "in an offhand way" Siegel's failure to follow through on his fund-raising commitment during a meeting with the ambassador to Pakistan.

Acrimony also broke out Wednesday in the Senate, where lawmakers voted along party lines to call for the appointment of an independent counsel to look into illegal fund-raising activities in the 1996 presidential race.

Democrats opposed the non-binding resolution, offered by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, on grounds that it omitted congressional fund-raising practices.

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