The Justice Department agreed yesterday to turn over to a House investigating committee a list that details alleged payments from South Korean businessman Tongsun Park to more than 20 members of Congress and some executive branch officials.
The decision averts a potential confrontation between the department and the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct which had threatened to subpoena the list and some supporting documents if necessary for its inquiry into charges of South Korean influence buying in Congress.
Jay [WORD ILLEGIBLE], a former Park employee who furnished the docoments to the Justice Department, began telling committee attorneys about the list yesterday. He is known to have delivered a cash payment to a member of Congress in Chicago on at least one occasion.
Sources familiar with the list, which dates back to the early 1970s, say that figures indicating payments into "the thousands of dollars" are written next to the names of public officials Park claimed to be paying.
Meanwhile, the House last night was preparing to take up a bill that includes a provision that members of the committee feared would impair their investigation of colleagues who took cash and gifts from Park and other South Koreans.
The provision would allow members and their staffs to accept trips, food and lodging from foreign governments, something that is now prohibited by the Senate vesion of the foreign aid bill to permit travel to countries such as the People's Republic of China, which insists on paying guests' expenses.
Rep. Bruce J. Caputo (R.N.Y.) said at yesterday's meeting of the House investigating committee that he didn't think foreign governments should pay for anything for members.
The committee is known to be checking allegations that several members of the House accepted free trips to South Korea and then were lavishly entertained and given valuable gifts during the visits. Making such conduct legal now would make it difficult to discipline members who accepted such hospitality in past years. Caputo and some other committee members reason.
The committee's agreement with the Justice Department was referred to obliquely after yesterday's session by Chairman John J. Flynt Jr. (D-Ga.). He said "there have been some extremely significant developments" in the investigation, but refused to claborate.
Last evening, however, Peter A. White, deputy to committee special counsel Leon Jaworski, issued a brief statement saying the committee and the Justice Department had "reached mutual agreement with respect to a number of pending matters."
He added that it would be "inappropriate" to discuss them further, saying only that the committee's investigating staff was "optimistic" about the "atmosphere of cooperation" with the department.
Other sources confirmed that the agreement meant that Justice officials would soon turn over the list and supporting documents they had obtained from Ryu.
The Justice Department had feared that giving the documents to the committee might hamper their parallel, but separate, criminal investigation of the allegations of South Korean influence-buying.
Jaworski wrote Attorney General Griffin B. Bell last week promising to subpoena the documents if necessary because they were considered crucial to the House investigation.
Both the Justice and House investigations have been hampered by difficulties in tracing cash payments to members and by missing witnesses.
Tongsun Park, a key figure in the inquiries, kept several lists of members of Congress he claimed to "associate" with, but few contained numbers that indicated payments.
Even documents such as the Ryu list would not prove the payments were actually made.
And neither investigation has been able to obtain testimony from Park, the flamboyant Washington party-giver who left suddenly for London last fall when Justice pressed him for information.
In an effort to assist the House investigation, Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) was considering offering an amendment to the military assistance bill cutting off all aid to South Korean unless Park returns to the United States.
The Carter administration has asked the Seoul government to ry to make Park return to Washington for questioning in the investigation.
The foreign military aid bill includes $276 million in arms sales credits for South Korea.
Yesterday's activites, both public and private within the House investigating committee, made it clear that the committee members have almost no role in the conduct of the investigation.
Jaworski and White, acting under a broad grant of authority Jaworski extrated as a condition for accepting the job, apparently acted without consulting committee members in pressuring the Justice Department for Ryu's material.
At yesterday's session, committee members asked plaintively of White if they were not to be given some information about Jaworski's arrangements with the Justice Department.
"Since it's all been in the newspapers, couldn't we be told something about it?" asked Rep. Milicent Fenwick (R-N.J.)
When Congress recesses Friday, the committee will not meet again until Aug. 24.