The special counsel for the House ethics committee has criticized the pace of the committee's investigation of South Korean influence-buying in Congress.
In two memos written just before the July Fourth congressional recess, Phillip A. Lacovara complained that a lack of regular meetings was hindering the progress of the investigation, several committee sources said yesterday.
The dispute apparently was triggered when chairman John J. Flynt (D-Ga.) couldn't get enough members together to hold a meeting in the week before the recess. The committee has not met since June 8, and has met less than a dozen times all year.
On June 28, one committee member said, Lacovara wrote a memo outlining his reason why a meeting should be called promptly. The counsel noted that the committee had to consider a still unsigned agreement with the Central Intelligence Agency with the Central Intelligence Agency for access to sensitive documents, a batch of new subpoenas for witnesses and records, and the progress of talks with the Justice Department over access to other investigative files.
Flynt tried to schedule an emergency meeting for the evening of June 29, but couldn't round up quodrum, several sources said.
Congress recessed the next day, and on July 1 Lacovara wrote another memo entitled "Delays in holding committee meetings," one member said.
The second memo repeated Lacovara's concern that "the failure to take effective steps to hold regular meetings is impeding the progress of the Korean investigation," the member said.
Lacovara himself left on a two-week European vacation last weekend.
Lacovara, who was a member of the Watergate special prosecution force, was hired by the often-criticized committee as a signal that it meant business in its investigation of the allegations of Korean influence-buying.
Several members of the committee expressed concern yesterday that Lacovara's criticism might be construed by the Public as a sign that the committee was stalling and thus that Congress was incapable of investigating.
Of the committee members up to now only freshman Bruce J. Coputo (R.N.Y.) has punlicly criticized the pace of the inquiry. A group of more than 20 freshman has also expressed concern about what they view as the slowness of the investigation.
Several members of the committee said yesterday they plan to call for regularly scheduled weekly meetings when it meets - for the first time in more than a month - on Wednesday.
Flynt couldn't not be reached for comment yesterday but has said in the past that the members' schedules on other busy committees have sometimes made it difficult for the ethics panels to get together.
Millicent Fenwick (R.N.J.) said yesterday. "We think we can move a little more expeditiously. All of us have been frustrated (by the lack of regular meetings). And it has hampered our work."
Rep. Floyd Spence (R.S.C.), the ranking minority member of the committee, said he felt the other members would work to patch up what he termed "the misunderstanding" between Flynt and Lacovara.
"This thing isn't going to hamper our work because we aren't going to let it," Spence said.
In a related development yesterday, three senior House Democrats reported that they had accepted campaign contributions from South Korean businessman Tongusn Park in 1970.
Reps. Melvin Price of Illinois, Thomas Foley of Washington, and Morris Udall of Arizona all said they did not consider Park an agent of the South Korea government.
Park is a key figure in current congressional and Justice Department investigations because he has been named in U.S. intelligence reports as being part of a Korean CIA attempt to influence public officials through cash, gifts and entertainment.
Price and Foley said they received $500 election-campaign donations from Park in 1970. Udall said he got $300. The contributions were legal at the time.