House investigators chased leads in Ireland, on tapes of a birthday party, with a subpoena to a reporter, and from an "irrational" witness who suggested a kidnap plot - all before clearing House Sepaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) of wrongdoing in his dealings with South Korean lobbyist Tongsun Park.
This exuberance in tracking down the slightest clue is disclosed in documents the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct released yesterday in charging four members and clearing nine others of misconduct involving cash or gifts they accepted from Park.
Among the findings of those cleared:
O'Neill acted with "questionable propriety" in accepting two parties and gifts, worth a total of about $8,000.
Disciplinary action against the speaker was unwarranted, the staff report said, "although, judged by today's standards it may be unwise for an important congressman to permit either a foreigner or a suspected lobbyist to give him a party."
Rep. John Brademas (D-Ind., the majority whip, techniaclly violated campaign laws by not reporting as a "loan" to one of his political funds the cost of a 1974 dinner which Park later repaid.
The staff also noted the irony of Brademas accepting $2,950 in cash from Park in September 1974, while he was particiapting in a conference committee on a bill prohibiting such large cash donations, and donations from foreign nationals. Brademas explained it was legal at the time to accept the money.
Rep. John Breaux (D-La.) is one of three persons who may have lied to the committee about handling of a $5,000 check from Park in 1972. "The evidence is compelling that one of the three has committed prejury," the report said.
The evidence is insufficient to proceed further against Breaux, according to the staff, because no one at the Crowley, La., bank remembered who cashed the check, and the pertinent banks records were said to have been destroyed in a flood in the bank's basement.
Gordon Dore, a Louisiana businessman who was the middleman in the transaction, according to Park's testimony, has been under investigation by the Justice Department for possible perjury charge. But a decision has been pending for months and an indictment is no longer considered likely, sources said.
Marion Edwards, brother of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, was the third person to testify on the $5,000 check.
The House committee also released yesterday the formal charges against Reps. John McFall, Edward Roybal, and Charles H. Wilson, all California Democrats, and Rep. Edward J. Patten (D-N.Y.). All have denied they broke Park, or, in Roybal's and Wilsons's cases, failing to tell investigators about the cash.
Roybal said he was "surprised and distressed" at the committee's charge and planned to make "a forceful presentation" of his case.
Wilson said he had "completely forgotten some of the events surrounding the hectic week when I married Mrs. Wilson." He was accused of lying about cash Park gave him as a wedding present. Wilson said he told the committee about the gift later.
Former representatives John J. Rarick (D-La.), and Nick Galifianakis (D-N.C.) were also accused of lying, sources said, in cases passed on to the Justice Department. Galifianakis declined comment yesterday. Rarick told the Associated Press: I don't know anything about this. I went to Washington and in that place, when you say anything they twist it around and turn it against you."
The 24-page staff report clearing O'Neill details the pains investigators took to check the news that the congressman's sons, Thomas P. O'Neill III, joined Tongsun Park on the board of directors of a fishing company in 1973.
McLaughlin Fisheries Ltd. was the creation of an old O'Neill family friend. Francis X. McLaughlin. But he claimed the congressman had to part in introducing him to Park. And investigators found no sign that Park invested any money in the firm that could have been passed on to the O'Neills.
The committee staff also listened to tapes Park made of an O'Neill birthday party at the Madison Hotel in 1974 and concluded a gift of golf clubs sounded like it came from congressional friends rather than Park.
Investigators also interviewed former Park financial adviser Jack Kelly about alleged payoffs to O'Neill, but they concluded that $20,000 Park took on a trip in 1971 went to "Neill" [Rep. Cornelius Gallagher (D-N.J.)] rather than "O'Neill."
The staff also subpoenaed tapes a freelance reporter claimed to have made of Kelly's charges, but the unnamed writer said he'd misplaced them. Kelly, who was described as destitute and suffering from alcoholism, suggested a plan to kidnap Park. The investigators declined, the report said.