House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) got down to business yesterday in his search for a person and a procedure to fulfill his pledge of an aggressive, independent investigation of Congress' Korean connection.
O'Neill and other members of the Democratic leadership placed calls to had a dozen prominent lawyers including former Watergate special prprosecutors Archibald dCox and dd Leon Jaworskski - in an effort to find a new chieef investigator who can establish credibility for the troubled project. Jaworski reportedly expressed interest, but asked for a day to consider.
And the Speaker met with various elements of his House constitunecy to work out specific regulations that would assure a new investigator independence - "with no strings atached," O'Neill said.
In effect, O'Neill was seeking a way to circumvent House ethics committee Chariman John J. Fiynt Jr. (D-Ga.) without taking away Fiynt's titular authority as head of the committee investigating the Korean matter.
The committee's former chied investigator, Philip A.Lacovara, resigned abrupty on Friday after several bitter disagreements with Flynt. That prompted an angry respone from Republicans and junior Democrats in the House who blamed the majority leadership for the fitful, slow-moving progress of the probe.
In an effort to calm the aura of crisis that has come over the House since Lacovara's resignation, O'Neill met yesterday with Republican and Democratic leaders, with Flynt and other members of the ethics committee, and with the investigation.
He said that within a few days he could hire 'an minent person of impeccable reputation" to replace La covara.
Neither Cox nor Jaworski would confirm that he had been called about the position.
Cox, now teaching law at Harvard University, said, however that he is "very happy at Harvard and not looking for another job."
Jaworski is senoir partner in a Houston law firm.
Another widely Mentioned candidate for the position. New York attorney for the John Doar, who directed the House Watergate investigation in 1974, said he had not been contacted. Doar said he just began a major antitrust trial that should keep him busy for six months.
The investigation concers allegations that present and former members of Congress accepted cash, gifts South Korean government who were and entertainment from agents of the seeking to gain influence in the U.S. government.
Discussion of the Korean matter [WORD ILLEGIBLE] on a more political tone yesterday.
For several weeks, debate in the House on the issue has been generational, with younger members from each parties complaining that their [WORD ILLEGIBLE] collegues were not pushing [WORD ILLEGIBLE] investigation forcefully.
Yesterday, junior Democtrats began - publicly, at least - to rally around O'Neill and accept his assurances that faster progress would be made.
Republicans continued sniping at the Democtratic leadership, however, suggesting that the Democtrats were delaying the probe to protect fellow party members.
"I wish they'd find a Republican who had taken Korean money." said rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Calif.). "Then maybe the Democrats would get an adequate investigation."
Political considerations also were evident Monday when president carter rekected Republicans demadnds for a special prosecutor for the korean affair. Carter noted that members of Congress form both parties were allegedly involved. He also stated that none of the charges touched his administration.
O'Neill acknowledge that it might be difficult to cinvince a top attorney to take the position after lacovara's public complains that Flynt had hampered his work.
But the Speaker said "a sense of public duty" should induce someone to accept it.
Moreovtr. O'Neill promised yesterday, the new investigator could be assured that Flynt would not interfere with the probe. "The Speaker's office will be watching," O'Neill said, and will artitrade any differences between Flynt and the chieg investigator.
After his meeting with O'Neill yesterday. Flynt said the new investigator would have "total independenct" the same pharse he used regularly to described Lacovara's authority.
But O'Neill said the situation would be differnt in the future because the ethics committee would adopt a writen set of rules of guarantee independence to tis investigative staff.
Reo. Albert H. Quie (R-Minn.). a member of the ethich panel, said he still intend to introduced a motion when the committee meets today urging it to try to get Lacovara back.
But Quie did not seem to have enough votes to pass the motion.Lacovara had said it is unlikele he would change hismind.
If Quie's motion fails, the committee presumably will move on to the task its staff's independence.
O'Neill's promise to keep a close eye on the investigation places the speaker in a delicate position. To date he has maintained an arm's length relationship because of reports that he was a recipient of South Korean largesse.
The Speaker has admitted that he was guest of honor at twoparties paid for by South Korean busineaaman Tongsu Park. O'Neill said he had no other connection with the Koreans.
In a meeting late yesterday, Rep. Berkley W. Bedell, a soft-spoken second-term Democrat from lowa, asked O'Neill directly about the rumors.
The question provoked an angry desk-slamming tirade from Majority Leader Jim Wright ;D-Tex.). who insisted that O'Neill was an innocent victim of rumor-mongering by an irresponsible press.