By Toni Locy
The GAO said yesterday in a new report that Starr spent $3,967,888 on his Whitewater investigation from April 1 to Sept. 30, 1997, which brings total spending for the first three years of his probe to $29,599,059. Clinton's allies have attacked Starr's spending in recent months, citing estimates as high as $40 million, but the GAO's figures -- which are six months behind -- are the only official accounting.
James Carville, a Clinton adviser and leading Starr critic, continued to question the investigation's cost yesterday. "Starr has spent twice as much to investigate the president than the FBI spent investigating the crash of TWA Flight 800, which killed 232 people," he said. "It's nutty, to put it mildly."
Carville said he includes the expenses of Starr's predecessor when he attacks the cost of the Clinton investigation. Former Whitewater special prosecutor Robert B. Fiske spent slightly more than $6 million before an appeals court panel replaced him with Starr in August 1994. In all, taxpayers have spent $35,672,341 on the Fiske and Starr probes, according to the GAO.
Because the GAO tabulations are six months behind, yesterday's report does not include the costs of Starr's recent investigation of allegations involving the president and former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky.
According to the GAO, the four independent counsels appointed to investigate Clinton and top-level officials in his administration spent $8,576,816 during the six-month period that ended Sept. 30, 1997. Altogether, the four have spent $53,135,650.
The spending figures include operating costs and expenses of law enforcement agencies, like the FBI, that supply agents to the prosecutors. But Sen. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.) has asked the GAO and Attorney General Janet Reno for a more detailed accounting of Starr's spending.
Spending by independent counsels has been a flash point for criticism of the controversial law that was passed by Congress in the aftermath of Watergate.
Independent counsel Donald C. Smaltz spent $2,952,050 in the six-month period, bringing his total spending to $14,810,188 on his investigation of former agriculture secretary Mike Espy. Smaltz was appointed in September 1994 to investigate Espy's acceptance of gifts from companies he was supposed to regulate. Espy was indicted last August and is awaiting trial.
David M. Barrett, the independent counsel appointed in May 1995 to investigate former housing secretary Henry Cisneros, spent $1,646,506 during the six-month period. His total spending is $5,468,096. Cisneros was indicted in December and is awaiting trial on charges that he lied to the FBI about payments he made to his former mistress.
Independent counsel Curtis E. Von Kann spent $196,038 during the period investigating whether former AmeriCorps official Eli J. Segal violated conflict-of-interest laws by creating a nonprofit group. Von Kann declined to pursue criminal charges; he spent a total of $244,822.
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