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Bruce Babbitt
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt (Bill O'Leary for The Washington Post)
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Reno Requests Independent Counsel Probe on Babbitt (Washington Post, Feb. 12)

Casino Investigation Would Reach Beyond Babbitt, Officials Say (Washington Post, Feb. 11)

More Key Stories on the Babbitt Probe

Administration Profile: Bruce Babbitt, Interior Secretary


Carol Elder Bruce

Firm: Tighe, Patton, Tabackman & Babbin, Washington, D.C.
Practice Areas: White collar crime, civil litigation
Born: June 7, 1949, East Orange, New Jersey
Education: George Washington University (B.A., J.D.)
Career: Admitted to the bar in Washington, D.C., 1975; assistant U.S. attorney, District of Columbia, 1975-1985; associate and deputy independent counsel in the investigation of Ed Meese, 1987-1988; Covington & Burling law firm, 1988-1997; Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal law firm, 1997
Source: Martindale- Hubbell Law Directory; Tighe, Patton, Tabackman & Babbin
Independent Counsel Named for Babbitt Probe

By George Lardner Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 20, 1998; Page A23

A three-judge federal court panel appointed a veteran Washington trial lawyer, Carol Elder Bruce, as independent counsel yesterday to determine whether Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt lied to Congress about his department's 1995 rejection of a proposed Indian gambling casino in Hudson, Wis.

It was the first such appointment stemming from congressional and Justice Department investigations of alleged campaign financing abuses in the 1996 Democratic presidential campaign. Tribes opposed to the casino as a threat to their own gambling profits gave more than $350,000 to Democrats for the 1996 campaign, most of it after the casino application was denied.

Sworn in yesterday at a closed ceremony in the U. S. courthouse here, Bruce said in a brief statement that she was honored by the assignment and would begin work immediately "with the goal of thoughtfully and expeditiously" discharging her responsibilities.

Babbitt said in a written statement that Bruce "can expect full cooperation from me."

A former federal prosecutor once targeted for assassination in the case of a renegade ex-CIA officer, Bruce added that she did not anticipate making any further public comment until the investigation is completed.

Bruce, 48, has been in private practice for the past 10 years – she joined the D.C. firm of Tighe, Patton, Tabackman & Babbin in January. She served in 1987 and 1988 as deputy independent counsel in a 14-month investigation of then-Attorney General Edwin Meese III. That inquiry concluded with a report stating that Meese "probably violated the criminal law" on four occasions, but that prosecution was not warranted because of extenuating circumstances.

The three appeals court judges who made the appointment – David B. Sentelle of Washington, John D. Butzner Jr. of Richmond and Peter T. Fay of Miami – set out Bruce's jurisdiction in a three-page order giving her authority to determine whether Babbitt perjured himself or violated the false statement law in Senate testimony Oct. 30 about the casino decision.

Patterned on the Feb. 11 recommendation of Attorney General Janet Reno, the order also authorizes Bruce, in resolving the allegations against Babbitt, to conduct a wider investigation of charges that the White House or the Democratic National Committee improperly influenced the casino decision.

Babbitt has said he was "out of the loop" during the decision-making process, but that the project was rejected on the recommendation of career officials at Interior unaffected by the intense lobbying on both sides of the dispute.

The controversy grew out of a proposal by the owner of a money-losing dog track in Hudson and three poor Wisconsin Chippewa bands to install an off-reservation casino at the track. Approval was recommended in 1994 by regional Bureau of Indian Affairs officials. Anti-casino forces then intensified their efforts, contacting President Clinton, presidential adviser Bruce Lindsey, then-White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes, then-DNC chairman Donald Fowler, and others.

Babbitt became involved in the subsequent investigations because of a conversation he had with a pro-casino lobbyist and friend, Paul Eckstein, on July 14, 1995, the day the application was rejected. Eckstein said when he asked for a delay, Babbitt said Ickes had called and directed him to make a decision that day.

In his Senate testimony, Babbitt acknowledged having invoked Ickes's name, but said he did so in an "awkward" effort to end the discussion and not because Ickes had directed him to issue the decision.

Bruce, a member of the D.C. Bar's Board of Governors, served in the U. S. attorney's office here for 10 years, prosecuting, among others, former CIA agent Edwin Wilson for his role in setting up a terrorist training program in Libya.

At one point in that inquiry, Wilson was taped trying to arrange from his jail cell the murders of Bruce and fellow prosecutor E. Lawrence Barcella Jr.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post

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