The Senate Select Committee on Ethics reported yesterday that its investigation into allegations of financial misconduct by Sen. Herman E. Talmadge (D-Ga.) turned up evidence of eight possible violations of federal law, including perjury.
In its final report, filed yesterday with the secretary of the Senate by committee Chairman Adlai E. Stevenson (D-Ill.), the ethics panel did not identify who might have committed the violations. It said it would leave that to the Justice Department.
The panel said that in addition to perjury it found evidence of other "serious violations of law." These included lying to the government, filing false government claims, conspiring to defraud the government, tax evasion, failure to keep adequate tax records, failure to comply with federal election laws and accepting a campaign contribution in a federal building.
Sources said that Stevenson has been in contact with Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti and that the Justice Department has begun investigating the committee's charges.
"We don't specify who may have committed the offenses," Stevenson said of the report. "We do identify offenses that may have been committed by (Senate) members, staff and additional witnesses."
The committee's vice chairman, Sen. Harrison Schmitt (R-N.M.), issued a 35-page statement of his own, saying that information gathered in the panel's 15-month investigation indicated that Talmadge was aware of illegal activities by his staff.
Schmitt told reporters yesterday that he believed the committee should have recommended censure of Talmadge. But he said he would support the unanimous resolution by the panel that the Senate "denounce" Talmadge.
Schmitt's separate statement, which was tacked on to the full committee report at the last minute on Tuesday, caught the remaining five members of the panel by surprise, according to sources.
They said Stevenson was particularly upset over the implication that the committee had not been as hard on Talmadge as it could have been.
During last month's deliberations on how to deal with Talmadge, the committee split 4 to 2 over censure, with Sens. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Robert Morgan (D-N.C.) opposed to using the word, the sources said.
To avoid a floor fight among themselves when the case reached the Senate floor, the committee members used dictionaries, a thesaurus and even on of Sen. S. I. Hayakawa's (R-Calif.) books on semantics to come up with a mutually acceptable chastisement of Talmadge, sources said.
Since then, several committee members have insisted to reporters that the language in the final recommendation was intended to be as strong as censure.
Talmadge, however, said he gained "a personal victory" when the committee didn't call for censure. Talmadge said yesterday he has not decided whether to fight the committee's resolution on the Senate floor.
The committee's resolution can be amended on the floor. Schmitt said yesterday he will introduce a censure amendment if any attempt is made to soften the denouncement resolution. Such a move could cause a prolonged floor fight, committee officials said.
According to the committee's report, Talmadge's office was reimbursed $43,435 by the Senate for nonexistent expenses between 1973 and 1978. The committee also said that more than $10,000 in unreported campaign contributions to Talmadge were deposited in a secret bank account here opened by an aide to the senator in Talmadge's name.
The report noted that two memos submitted by a former aide to the senator provided evidence that money from unreported campaign contributions was going to Talmadge.
"If authentic," the report said, "these documents would strongly suggest that Sen. Talmadge knew that campaign funds were not being reported as required by law and were being converted to his own personal use."
The committee also said Talmadge "either knew or should have known" about financial misconduct by his office.
Talmadge has denied any knowledge of financial misconduct by his staff. He repaid $37,125 to the Senate last year for overcharges, but blamed them on a staff error.