Rep. Donald J. Albosta (D-Mich.) is seeking White House counselor Edwin Meese III's records from the 1980 presidential campaign after learning that an archivist's index of the Meese file contains a reference to "briefing books," according to sources close to the investigation.
Albosta's subcommittee, which is investigating how Ronald Reagan's campaign obtained debate briefing books and other documents from the Carter White House, has completed an initial review of the Reagan campaign files stored at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. The White House granted Albosta access to much of the archives, but the compromise agreement did not include access to Meese's campaign file.
The Albosta panel has been given an index of all the Hoover materials, however, and sources said a detailed index of Meese's file contains such titles as "briefing books," "hostages," "domestic issues" and "Carter topics".
Albosta's Post Office and Civil Service subcommittee will ask the trustees of the Hoover Institution's Reagan collection--Meese, President Reagan and White House deputy chief of staff Michael K. Deaver--for access to the Meese file.
Albosta told reporters in Midland, Mich., yesterday that after reviewing the Hoover records, "We have found documents that we believe are related to the removal of material from the Carter White House." He said some of these documents "also relate to national security."
But Albosta said the files of most former Reagan campaign aides, including that of CIA Director William J. Casey, were not found at Hoover. He said it has become obvious that the Hoover materials "represent only a portion of the total Reagan-Bush campaign files" and that most of the campaign records "are in the possession of the individual campaign officials."
As a result, Albosta said, he has sent letters asking several former Reagan campaign aides to turn over their 1980 campaign files. They include Casey, White House chief of staff James A. Baker III, White House communications director David R. Gergen, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Frank Hodsoll and public relations executive Robert K. Gray.
Administration sources have said that Baker's papers at Hoover contain a file of exotic campaign proposals labeled "Ed Meese." They said the contents include an Oct. 21, 1980, memo to Baker from Reagan campaign volunteer Wayne H. Valis that claimed to report details of a Carter staff meeting "from a source intimately connected to a Carter debate staff member."
Meese, who was Reagan's campaign chief of staff, has told Albosta that he did not know about or participate in "any transactions involving material produced for President Carter."
Albosta said later that his staff is reviewing more than 50 separate documents from Hoover. "I think the material is relevant and most of it is important to our investigation," he said.
Sources said it is unlikely that the panel will obtain the Meese file without further negotiations with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding, who helped devise the compromise that allowed the General Accounting Office to identify which Hoover records were relevant to the House probe.
It is not clear whether Albosta's request for other Reagan aides' files will be granted unless he agrees to a similar screening arrangement.
A White House spokesman said that Reagan plans continued cooperation with Albosta but that administration officials have not seen the latest requests and would have no comment.
Albosta, who hopes to begin hearings in September, also said he has reached agreement with the Justice Department on obtaining all evidence uncovered in its criminal probe of the 1980 campaign.
Associate Attorney General D. Lowell Jensen agreed to provide Albosta with summaries of FBI interviews with witnesses in the case, but not until the FBI completes its investigation.
Jensen formally agreed to give Albosta all evidence gathered during the probe, including "all documents provided by the White House . . . after any follow-up FBI interviews." Jensen said he would respond to future subcommittee requests "on a cooperative and expeditious basis."