Rep. John W. Jenrette Jr. (D-S.C.) has denied published reports that a federal grand jury is investigating his alleged connection with a drug-smuggling ring in South Carolina.
Jenrette also criticized as premature a newspaper report that an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the smuggling has been expanded to include possible payroll and travel voucher irregularities in his office.
Reporters who wait until the investigation is completed will "have an accurate story which shows that I am totally innocent of any alleged wrongdoing," Jenrette said in a statement Wednesday.
He said the Justice Department investigation - begun last winter after his name reportedly was mentioned by a suspect after a Darlington County drug raid - is being "expedited," not expanded.
The congressman said he requested the investigation Jan. 31 to clear his name of suspicion.
A political ally of Jenrette, John Etheridge, was charged in connection with the landing of a planeload of marijuana at an airstrip near Dovesville.
The Washington Star has reported that Jenrette is the subject of a federal grand jury investigation in South Carolina.
The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., reported today that Justice Department sources had denied the Star account of a grand jury probe.
However, the State also reported that the Justice Department investigation into the drug smuggling had been expanded and could take another two months.
Wednesday's editions of the State quoted a Jenrette acquaintance as saying FBI agents were looking into "fluctuating payrolls" among persons who work for him.
Jenrette criticized "the press" for relying on unnamed sources and "dragging John Jenrette through the same old mud."
The State said congressional staffers and other Jenrette associates have been questioned by the FBI in connection with the investigation.
One of Jenrette's associates acknowledged that his salary "jumped back and forth" in 1978, according to the newspaper's informed sources.
But the source said the man replied, "I didn't kick back any of it. I made some political contributions [to Jenrette], but that was the extent of it."