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Dash, Notable Democrat, Joins Whitewater Probers

October 06, 1994|ROBERT L. JACKSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, apparently in an effort to deflect criticism that he is a partisan Republican, Wednesday added prominent Democratic lawyer Samuel Dash to a top position on the legal staff investigating Whitewater.

Dash, 69, was chief counsel of the Senate Watergate Committee during its investigation and televised hearings into the 1970s scandal that forced President Richard Nixon from office. Starr said that he will furnish "ethical and professional advice" and will hold the title of ethics counsel.

A professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center, Dash is "a recognized scholar in the administration of criminal justice and professional responsibility," Starr said.

Dash's face became known to millions of television viewers because he was active in questioning many of Nixon's White House aides during the Watergate hearings. He developed many other questions asked by Committee Chairman Sen. Sam J. Ervin Jr. (D-N.C.) and other Democratic panel members.

Mark Tuohey, an aide to Starr, said that Dash would help ensure the staff's commitment "to the highest standards of professional conduct and prosecution" as the office pursues its inquiry into a series of financial transactions involving the President and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the failure of an Arkansas savings and loan owned by a partner of the Clintons in the Whitewater real estate venture.

Among Dash's books are "The Eavesdroppers," published in 1959, which reports on a study he conducted of wiretapping and electronic surveillance, and the 1975 book "Chief Counsel," his first-person account of the Senate's Watergate investigation.

In August, a special three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals named Starr, a conservative lawyer who was a Justice Department official in the last two Republican administrations, to take over the politically sensitive Whitewater investigation. Starr previously co-chaired a Virginia Republican's congressional campaign, helped raise funds for GOP candidates and opposed Clinton's claim that he was immune from a sexual harassment lawsuit.

In rejecting demands that he step down, Starr noted that he also had been a federal appeals court judge and pledged that he would be "fair, just, thorough and prompt" in completing his investigation.

Dash's appointment occurred on the same day that a key member from the staff of Starr's predecessor, Robert B. Fiske Jr., announced his departure. The lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said that he was returning to his law practice in Houston. Earlier, he had indicated that he would remain on the staff.

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