WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is investigating news leaks of information on government probes involving prominent Democratic politicians, a spokesman said today.
Spokesman David Runkel said the news leak inquiry, ordered by Atty. Gen. Dick Thornburgh, began last week and has been broadened to include reports that the FBI was investigating personnel practices in the office of Rep. William H. Gray III of Pennsylvania, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House.
Gray, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, questioned the timing of the reports and the motives of the unidentified sources in view of the fact that he may soon be competing for higher position in the House Democratic hierarchy. He demanded in a letter that Thornburgh look into the matter.
Runkel said the investigation was prompted after widespread news reports last week that the Justice Department was probing financial dealings of Rep. Tony Coelho of Merced, third-ranking House Democrat as the party's whip, and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, also a Democrat.
Coelho subsequently announced that he will resign from Congress. Gray hopes to replace him as House majority whip.
Runkel denied that the Justice Department in a Republican Administration was trying to interfere with the expected efforts by House Democrats to select new leaders.
"If there is some attempt at interference here in the activities of the House Democratic Caucus, then it is a concern of us," Runkel told reporters.