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Role of Independent Counsel May Be Too Broad

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RALEIGH — From Whitewater to the White House, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation keeps growing. So, how did an investigation of a 24-year-old land deal in Arkansas turn into an investigation about a 24-year-old former White House intern?

The practice of appointing independent counsels started after Watergate. Archibald Cox was fired by President Nixon after Cox asked for the now infamous audio tapes. In order to avoid that direct impact on an investigation, Congress passed legislation to create a process by which independent counsels are named and allowed to pursue investigations. The question arising now is, how broad can those investigations become?

The long reach of Starr's investigation keeps stretching to touch more and more of the Clinton administration.

Andrew Taylor is a political scientist at North Carolina State University. He's been closely following Starr's investigation. Starr received initial jurisdiction for the Whitewater investigation from Attorney General Janet Reno, but each time Starr has wanted to expand jurisdiction he's had to go before a panel of three federal judges. Each time, those judges approved his request. Taylor says he is concerned about just how broad this investigation has become.

Starr and his staff are paid with taxpayers' money and, although it's not finished yet, his investigation will likely cost millions of dollars. Taylor says the people conducting this investigation have every financial reason to stretch it out as long as they can.

Reno has the power to call off an independent counsel investigation at any time, but it's clear she's chosen not to do that in this case.Editor's Note:

The crisis in the White House may force Starr to cancel a planned trip to Charlotte next month. Starr is scheduled to speak at the Mecklenburg Bar Foundation's annual Law and Society Lecture on Febuary 10.

He cannot discuss the current investigation if it is still in progress. The foundation says just his presence will attract more interest in the event.


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