Friday, January 20, 2006

One Decade and 26 Million Taxpayer Dollars Later...

And they got nothin'. The longest independent-counsel investigation in US History (yes, even longer than any of Kenny Starr's numerous investigations) concluded yesterday just as it began: with allegations.

These allegations started when the ex-mistress of Henry Cisneros, a former secretary of housing and urban development under Bill Clinton, accused him of lying to the FBI about money he gave her in 1995. This accusation led to further investigations into Cisneros' payment of income taxes. In all, 18 felony charges were brought against Cisneros. He ended up pleading guilty in 1999 to a misdemeanor charge of making false statements. David Barrett, the independent counsel on the case, continued his investigations for six more years in an attempt to nail Cisneros on some of the bigger felony charges.

Barrett finally released the long awaited report on this 10-year investigation yesterday. An article in the Washington Post explains:

"In a 474-page report, independent counsel David M. Barrett conceded that he was 'not able to say with certainty whether any criminal laws were broken' by government officials in his inquiry of possible tax violations by Cisneros. But he alleged that officials in the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service 'resisted our efforts to investigate' the possibilities. The report itself does not appear to include clear evidence of obstruction, however."

The right tried desperately to keep this issue alive in recent years. Congressional Republicans even went so far as to overrule a three-judge panel that recommended removing any mention of the Clinton administration from the public report. The hope of some Republicans was that Hillary Clinton, who is poised to make a run for the presidency in 2008, was in some way implicated in this matter. At least, they thought, they'd be able to get something on Bill. (After all, simply nailing Henry Cisneros doesn't exactly make good fodder for the Swift Boat Veterans.)

As it turns out, neither Hillary nor Bill were implicated at all in the nearly 500-page report. Despite being a hot topic in Republican circles in recent years, the Post reported that crickets could be heard chirping on Capital Hill after the release of Barrett's final report yesterday.

"Chirp, chirp," said the crickets, confirming the silence. (I'm told that's a direct quote.)

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