WASHINGTON -- The Senate has voted to spend $500,000 on a formal investigation of charges Republican party functionaries conducted political espionage and sabotage against the Democrats in last year's presidential campaign.
A special committee of four Democrats and three Republicans to conduct the probe was created in a 77-0 Senate vote late Wednesday. The Republicans lost a battle for equal membership on the committee, and took an "it remains to be seen" attitude toward whether the inquiry would be fair.
The Democrats also knocked down Republican attempts to extend the investigation to the 1968 and 1964 presidential campaigns, despite a charge by Republican leader Hugh Scott that there was evidence of "wholesale wiretapping" against Richard Nixon's 1968 campaign.
The resolution directs the select committee to investigate any illegal, improper or unethical activities in the 1972 campaign and mentions specifically the break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex in Washington. Five men pleaded guilty to charges of burglarizing and wiretapping the Democratic offices and two others were convicted. Two of the seven were staff members of the Nixon re-election committee.
The Senate leadership did not immediately name the committee members, but they may be picked before Congress adjourns for a Lincoln Day holiday. The committee is to make its report to the Senate by Feb. 28, 1974.
Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., R-Tenn., served as floor manager for the amendments Republicans tried to attach to the resolution creating the committee, and he said the debate had cleared the air.
"No, I'm not satisfied, but we're better off now," Baker told a reporter. "We cleared the air on our respective attitudes."
Sen. Sam J. Ervin Jr., D-N.C., whom the Democrats designated last month to head the inquiry in any forum of his choosing, said that establishing a committee and staff might take much of February.