- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 3, 2002

The Senate ethics committee has refused the request of top Senate Republicans to release the transcripts and other documents in the reprimand of embattled Democratic Sen. Robert G. Torricelli of New Jersey.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said yesterday that he sought the release of the material but that a Republican on the panel, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, told him the committee will not divulge the documents from the closed hearings.
"I think you should always err on the side of releasing documents overall but particularly from the ethics committee," Mr. Lott, said. "They feel like they've looked at it and made the decision that was appropriate."
Mr. Roberts has said the three Democrats and three Republicans on the panel agreed not to release the information because some documents were sealed by a federal judge. A federal investigation into the case ended without charges being filed. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat, who chaired the hearing, said he won't discuss the issue further.
Mr. Torricelli testified before the panel last week, which led to the committee issuing a rare letter of "severe admonishment" and directing him to repay a campaign donor as much as $2,000 for the fair market value of gifts Mr. Torricelli received.
A leading Democrat, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, also recommended releasing the documents.
"Would it be better if it was out? Sure it would be," Mr. Lieberman said on the Don Imus radio show.
Mr. Torricelli, who is running for re-election in November, is airing campaign ads this weekend that tell voters he "broke no laws."
"I'm a fighter, and frankly the hardest thing for a fighter to do is admit mistakes," he says in the 60-second television ad that cost about $1 million. "Although I broke no laws, it's clear to me that I did exercise poor judgment in my associations and actions, which I deeply regret, and for which I take full responsibility.
"A United States senator should hold himself to a higher standard. Ultimately, you, my neighbors, will decide whether the battles I've fought and won for New Jersey outweigh these lapses of judgment."
The campaign of Republican challenger Doug Forrester immediately criticized the ad as "propaganda" and called on Mr. Torricelli to stop running it. Forrester campaign manager Bill Pascoe noted that the ethics committee ruled that Mr. Torricelli did violate the Ethics in Goverment Act.
"If that has any obscure relation to the truth, what are you waiting for, senator?" Mr. Pascoe said. "You have the power under the Rules of the Senate to ask that the Chairman of the ethics committee give you an official transcript of the sworn, secret testimony you were required to give. Why don't you just call him up, get the transcript and then put it out. Put it out now."
A Torricelli campaign spokesman did not return phone messages.
On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, called for the release of the committee's transcripts, saying information that led to the reprimand should be public record.
"It's information that led to the decision, just as it was during the Keating Five. I think it was probably the appropriate way to do it," said Mr. McCain, who was admonished in 1990 for his role in the savings-and-loan scandal involving California's Charles Keating.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lott criticized a letter from the ethics committee to senators warning them not to use a list compiled by a conservative group to grant or deny access to lobbyists.
The panel said the effort by Americans for Tax Reform, which is compiling the list of lobbyists in an attempt to place more Republicans at trade associations, "tends to adversely affect public confidence in the Senate."
Mr. Lott said the committee's warning "agitates" him.
"I think that is about as near to nothing as you could possibly find," he said. "I make decisions about who I see in my office, and I don't need a lot of advice from the ethics committee."

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