Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's office paid $1.5 million to private investigators and spent $843,000 for advice on legal and ethical issues, a new accounting of his five-year investigation of the Clintons and their associates shows.
Starr's office listed $4.2 million in contract work in response to questions from Democratic Sens. Byron L. Dorgan (N.D.) and Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.). The investigation's total cost has topped $40 million.
Payments ranged from $591,915 for computer support to $263 to the appraiser who put a value on President Clinton's gifts to Monica S. Lewinsky, the General Accounting Office said this week.
A single contract for investigative work was $341,703. In all, Starr's office reported 10 contracts with outside investigators who interviewed witnesses, analyzed evidence and handled other tasks. No other details were provided, and the investigators' names were withheld for "security reasons," the GAO said in letters to Dorgan and Leahy.
"There is no conceivable way to justify these types of expenditures," Leahy said yesterday. "This is after he tied up 78 FBI agents" assigned to his office.
Leahy complained that Starr gave incomplete answers to auditors for the congressional watchdog agency and said he would press for more details. The senator said accountability was a long-standing problem with the independent counsel law under which Starr was appointed. The law expired June 30, but the work of existing independent counsels continues.
Elizabeth Ray, a spokeswoman for Starr's office, said the office's mandate involved a "monumental effort" that "required unusual commitments of resources."
"We have conducted ourselves entirely properly and in full compliance with existing laws and regulations," Ray said. "This office has internal and management controls that meet the federal financial accounting standards and we certify this every six months to the GAO and every year to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House."
In a letter to the GAO, deputy independent counsel Jay Apperson said, "We are confident that the expenditures catalogued in the report were all consistent with applicable laws and regulations."
Starr estimated his office spent $4.4 million on its investigation of Clinton's affair with Lewinsky and cover-up efforts afterward, which led to the president's Senate impeachment trial, in which he was acquitted.
Starr also investigated the Clintons' Whitewater business dealings; the suicide of deputy White House counsel Vincent W. Foster; over-billing by lawyer Webster L. Hubbell, a Clinton confidant; the firing of White House travel office workers; and allegations that White House officials misused FBI files. His probe has led to convictions of 14 people.
Among the office's 57 contractors were jury consultants paid $147,311 for trial work and lawyers who made $373,700 representing Starr's office in court matters, including allegations that the independent counsel's office illegally leaked grand jury secrets.
Starr paid $7,500 to a communications consultant for help in preparing his testimony before a House committee considering impeachment.
And he paid $300,000 to Samuel Dash, the ethics adviser who resigned over that congressional appearance. Dash felt Starr erred by becoming an aggressive advocate for his impeachment report.
Starr's office paid $66,067 to medical consultants who helped with the Foster investigation and evaluated the health of Susan McDougal and former Arkansas governor Jim Guy Tucker when the defendants were arguing that their medical conditions should limit their prison time.
Starr's salary is set by law at $118,400, and no one in his office is paid more. But the office has granted 82 performance bonuses of up to $8,000. None went to Starr.