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SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, South Carolina, Chairman ALLEN J. ELLENDER, Louisiana
NORRIS COTTON, New Hampshire DANIEL K. INOUYE, Hawaii
EDWARD W. BROOKE, Massachusetts
LEGISLATIVE BRANCH APPROPRIATIONS FOR
FISCAL YEAR 1972
MONDAY, JUNE 7, 1971
GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
STATEMENT OF ELMER B. STAATS, COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF
THE UNITED STATES
ROBERT F. KELLER, ASSISTANT COMPTROLLER GENERAL
Senator HOLLINGS. Today we commence the hearings on the budget estimate submitted for the legislative branch of the Government for fiscal
year 1972. These hearings will concern themselves with a funding request for the Senate, joint items disbursed by the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Architect of the Capitol, the Botanical Garden, the Printing Office and the Cost Accounting Standards Board.
The first team we will hear is that in behalf of the budget estimate submitted for the General Accounting Office. We are pleased to have with us the Comptroller General of the United States, the Honorable Elmer B. Staats.
INTRODUCTION OF ASSOCIATES
Will you introduce your associates here for the purposes of the record, and then proceed with your statement.
Mr. Staats. Immediately to my right is Robert Keller, Assistant Comptroller General; to his right, Herschel Simmons, Director of Office of Administrative Services; Mr. Sanford Cornett, Chief, Budget and Finance Branch is next to him; and Mr. Ellsworth Morse over here is head of our Office of Policy and Special Studies.
The other witnesses will be recognized if we need to call on them.
Senator HOLLINGS. Mr. Chairman, we have a long prepared statement which is lengthy and detailed. Is there some matter you want to touch on now!
Chairman ELLENDER. No; I just wanted to come in and greet them. We want to get this bill passed as soon as we can. You people need the money before June 30.
Senator HOLLINGS. They need the additional personnel. The House cut you back from 177 to 93, about a half?
Mr. STAATS. Yes.
Chairman ELLENDER. As I said, I regret that I won't be able to stay throughout the hearing. I have to go to a very important meeting on agriculture, and I will try to be back.
KEEPING RECORDS AND AUDITING
Senator HOLLINGS. Mr. Staats, relative to the proposal of submitting the campaign expenditures to the authority, or the general responsi; bility, I should say, of the General Accounting Office, do you mind addressing that particular subject at this time?
Mr. Staats. We were not aware that this matter was under serious consideration insofar as GAO was concerned until we read in the papers about it last week. The provision that you refer to, the provision in the bill, as we understand, has been agreed to by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee would give our office the responsibility for keeping the records and auditing the statements that are submitted in connection with the campaign financing.
We have never felt that this was an appropriate function for the General Accounting Office. We are a part of the Congress, an arm of the Congress, and we feel that it would be much better to have an independent Federal Elections Commission take on that responsibility, a bipartisan group that obviously would reflect the interests and thinking of both of the major political parties.
Chairman ELLENDER. Has that bill been enacted ?
Mr. Staats. We are sorry to have to be opposed to this, but we believe it would not be in the long-range interests of the Congress itself to place this responsibility on the General Accounting Office, which the
Congress looks to as its oversight agency of the executive branch.
It is not the same as if we were auditing a third party. Under the Lobby Disclosure Act, we do not take the same view because we would be auditing third parties. We could not, in connection with campaign finances, as we see it, exercise our responsibility without, in effect, auditing congressional campaign expenditures.
Chairman ELLENDER. Will that bill come up for hearings? Senator HOLLINGS. Hearings have been completed in the Rules Committee. This is a Rules Committee report. It changed the Commerce Committee Report. The Commerce Committee wanted it to be the responsibility of the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House.
GAO NOT CALLED TO TESTIFY ON PROPOSED LEGISLATION
Mr. Staats. The Deputy Attorney General, Mr. Kleindienst, in testimony before the Senate committee according to press reports, did indicate in response to questions that they would look with favor or raise no objection to the General Accounting Office having this responsibility. We have not been heard on the bill.
Chairman ELLENDER. That is what I was going to ask. That bill has,
Senator HOLLINGS. It is being printed right now from the Commerce Committee, but not the Rules Committee, because they just completed it.
Chairman ELLENDER. Suppose you prepare a brief for the Chairman, and when the bill comes up, we can use that.
Senator HOLLINGS. What you are saying is that it is bipartisan. That is one of the salutary features of GAO: that it is considered nonpartisan. Mr. Staats. We think we are. Senator HOLLINGS. You feel this would interfere with it. This would have you involved in a partisan manner.
Mr. Staats. Not that we would do it deliberately, but we could not exercise it without some people saying that we are exercising this function in a partisan manner. I don't see how we could avoid it.
BIPARTISAN ELECTIONS COMMISSION
A much better approach, to us, would be to have a bipartisan elec-
We are greatly concerned that placing this responsibility in GAO
were not invited to testify?
Chairman ELLENDER. Mr. Scott, could you check as to the printing of these hearings and see if we would be able to put a statement in the record from Mr. Staats.
Mr. Scott. Very good.
Chairman ELLENDER. We might still be able to do it. Talk to Senator Jordan. I will see him today if I can.
How long would it take you to prepare a statement ?
Senator HOLLINGS. What you are saying is that you can do it, that you have the capability. You are as nonpartisan or bipartisan as any particular agency of the Government that I know. But if you have to do it, you are going to destroy your nonpartisan nature and the respect and esteem of your agency of Government in that it is going to have to be involved with national political parties and national politics.
Mr. STAATS. And the congressional candidates.
Senator HOLLINGS. It would immediately take GAO and put it into something that will in a sense destroy its general capability and general responsibility?
Mr. Staats. That's our concern.
Senator HOLLINGS. We have quite a statement here this morning, Senator Cotton. The Rules Committee recommended that the General Accounting Office be assigned the function of overseeing campaign financing by making audits and reports. I brought that subject up so that he might make a comment. He has, and I think generally in my questioning and his answers, that sums it up.
GAO could do it, but it really would set them back quite a bit from their normally assigned and also increasing functions and responsibilities.
Mr. Staats. If the function, Mr. Chairman, were completely a ministerial function, which is to say to keep the records and release them to the public and so on, this would present no problem. But if it is purely a ministerial function, then by the same token, the question is why can't the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate perform that adequately?
I think the real purpose here in giving it to our office is to audit, to go behind these statements and to check them, and bring out any evi dences of failure to disclose or failure to comply with the limits set forth in the law.
Chairman ELLENDER. That would be a stupendous job in itself.
Mr. Staats. This is a very long statement, Mr. Chairman, and if I may suggest, I could brief this statement, with the whole statement going into the record, if you prefer to proceed that way.
Senator Hollings. The entire statement will be included in the record, but let's have a thorough briefing on it, not just skip over it.