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Whitewater probe may include team owner

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 -- A congressional probe into the Whitewater affair could include a land deal involving Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys professional football team, a House Banking Committee spokesman said Thursday. Jones and business partner Sheffield Nelson were linked to the politically charged probe by Jean Lewis, the Resolution Trust Corp. investigator touted as the star witness at last week's hearings by the Republican-led committee. Lewis said that Jones and Nelson, investors in the Campobello real estate project in New Brunswick, Canada, in the 1980s, were listed in criminal referrals she sent to the Justice Department in 1993. Jones and Nelson were partners in Campobello with Madison Guaranty, the failed Arkansas savings and loan at the center of the Whitewater controversy. Madison Guaranty paid Jones and Nelson $725,000 in 1988 to buy out their stake in Campobello after the partners charged Madison with mismanaging the Canadian property, according to congressional records. Campobello's failure was one of several costly ventures involving Madison Guaranty, which was eventually bailed out at a cost of $73 million. House Banking Committee spokesman David Runkel said Thursday that while the main focus of the House investigation was still the Whitewater real estate deal, the costly failure of the Campobello properties and the huge loss to Madison Guaranty could be investigated further. 'The indication is that Campobello cost taxpayers $5.5 million,' Runkel said. Debbie Gershman, a spokeswoman for special counsel Kenneth Starr, said Thursday she could not comment on any aspect of Starr's ongoing criminal investigation into Whitewater.

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Jones, meanwhile, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that any criminal probe into his investment in Campobello was unjustified. 'It looks like anybody who had done business with Madison Guaranty is a subject of investigation,' he told the newspaper. 'I can't view it too serious at all. It's only logical that if it had been an issue with me, I would've heard by now.' Congressional Republican had no immediate plans to call either Jones or Nelson before the House panel, Runkel said, although that could change as the investigation continues. The House Banking Committee's high-profile hearings last week focused specifically on the role of the Whitewater Development Corp. in Madison's failure. Republicans attempted to establish a link between Madison and Whitewater, a failed Arkansas real estate project co-owned by Bill and Hillary Clinton and Madison owner James McDougal and his wife. Democrats on the panel charged the hearings were politically motivated to target President Clinton and his wife. Freshman Rep. Ken Bentsen, D-Texas, said at the hearings that the panel was unfairly going after the Clintons, while failing to investigate Jones, the millionaire owner of the Cowboys. To counter the GOP's probe of the Clintons, Bentsen and other Democrats entered documents about the Campobello deal into the record, and threatened to expand the investigation to include Jones and Nelson.

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