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GOP wants full-fledged investigation of Louisiana election

April 16, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Senate committee chairman is calling for an all-out investigation into allegations that Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s election in November was tainted by fraud and corruption.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Rules Committee, said the allegations raised by Republican Woody Jenkins go ``to an issue that is the very bedrock of this nation, the integrity of the election process.″

``I don’t care what the cost is, I don’t care what the time is ... if we’re protecting the rights of Americans,″ Warner said Tuesday. ``We’re coming to Louisiana, and very shortly.″

But Sen. Wendell Ford of Kentucky, the committee’s top Democrat, countered: ``I think we ought to be sure when we take our step forward to launch this huge investigation that we come from a very, very strong background.″

Ford said the committee ought not to approve a full investigation until its two outside counsels _ Republican William Canfield III and Democrat Robert Bauer _ complete their own, limited probe to determine the legitimacy of three allegations: vote buying, multiple voting and fraudulent voter registrations.

``Then we’ll be on more solid ground,″ he told a hearing where Jenkins and attorneys for Landrieu testified.

The committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on the scope of the investigation, if any, and who would handle it.

Jenkins, who has been trying to unseat Landrieu from the day he lost by 5,788 votes out of 1.8 million cast, told Ford that if he knew what Jenkins knew, ``You would be in total accord because you’d know this election was stolen.″

Jenkins said he has uncovered at least 7,454 illegal votes and contends that there was ``a well-organized, well-funded conspiracy″ involving 2,000 or more people to steal the election.

That’s ``preposterous,″ said Anthony Gelderman III, a Landrieu attorney. ``The only person who seems to know about the conspiracy is Mr. Jenkins.″

Jenkins said the committee should investigate all of his allegations, including those that the counsels recommended the committee not actively pursue, such as phantom voting, improper campaign financing, political machine corruption and mismatched voter signatures. Jenkins has not accused Landrieu of wrongdoing.

The Democrats, including Landrieu’s lawyers _ citing a report by Canfield and Bauer _ contended repeatedly that Jenkins had failed to provide sufficient proof to warrant a full investigation. They supported only the limited counsel’s investigation.

``Before we spend the taxpayers’ money profusely, wildly ... we need to have more than we have thus far from you,″ said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.

It takes 51 votes to unseat a senator over election irregularities, but it would take 60 votes to overcome the likely filibuster by the 45 Democrats in the full Senate.

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