Another controversy about the diligence of the House investigation of South Korean influence-buying was touched off yesterday when a routine progress report mistakenly said that the year-long inquiry had uncovered no proof of wrongdoing by members.
The monthly status report by Rep. John Flynt (D-Ga). chairman of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, said that "the committee is unable to say at this time whether any members of Congress succumbed to the efforts to influence their actions."
But a committee spokesman and its chief investigating counsel both said later that the statement was not meant to be a comment on the evidence uncovered so far.
"The person who wrote that report didn't know what evidence we had." said John W. Nields Jr. "I can assure you nobody intended to announce that we do or do not have such evidence."
Nields declined to say whether evidence of unethical conduct by members has been established. But Rep. Bruce F. Caputo (R-N.Y.), a committee member who has criticized the pace of the investigation, quickly attacked the status report.
"I believe we have ample evidence right now of misconduct, by House members," he said. "This report looks like we're going the way of the Justice Department and preparing to blame a failure on the Korean government."
The committee report also says that the major obstacle to the investigation has been the South Korean government's refusal to cooperate in such matters as making accused agent Tongsun Park available to American investigators.
The report said the investigation "will necessarily be incomplete" without such full cooperation.
The Justice Department has indicated that no further indictments in the case are likely without the testimony on Park who has been charged with conspiring to bribe members as part of the multimillion South Korean lobbying campaign.
Caputo suggested that there were several avenues even without Korean government help, such as full questioning of former U.S. ambassadors to South Korea and of U.S. intelligence officials.