The $21 Million Report

Remember Henry Cisneros? He served on Bill Clinton’s Cabinet until 1999, when he pled guilty to lying to FBI investigators about paying off his mistress. Cisneros coughed up a $10,000 fine for the crime and left politics. However, the independent-counsel investigation his corruption touched off still continues to this day, and has racked up over $21 million in costs — over a million of which was spent in the last half of 2004:

Nearly a decade after he was appointed to investigate then-Housing Secretary Henry G. Cisneros, independent counsel David M. Barrett spent more than $1.26 million of federal money in the last six months of fiscal 2004, the Government Accountability Office reported yesterday.
Since its inception, the Cisneros investigation has cost nearly $21 million, a total rivaling some of the largest independent counsel investigations in history. Much of the money has gone for pay and benefits, travel, rent and contractors. …
Barrett stayed in business to investigate whether anyone in the Clinton administration had attempted to obstruct justice during the probe. In July 2001, the three-judge panel gave Barrett permission to continue, but Judge Richard D. Cudahy questioned the expense.
“Whether a cost-benefit analysis at this point would support Mr. Barrett’s effort is a question to which I have no answer,” Cudahy wrote, noting that Barrett had been spending about $1 million every six months.

Despite spending more than half the total money after Cisneros’ resignation and guilty plea, Barrett’s investigation has resulted in no other convictions or even indictments. Barrett has informed Congress that the final report has already been written this past August, and that it should be released “soon”, but no explanation has been given as to why the investigation continues to spend money like a drunken sailor if it is complete. The total for the last half of 2004 was the highest six-month spending level for Barrett’s investigation since 2001, suggesting that Barrett might be squeezing the goose for as many golden eggs as possible in the investigation’s final days.
This investigation is a costly joke. Other than Cisneros himself, whose conviction cost $10 million and resulted in a $10,000 fine, it produced no indictments and ate up an additional $11 million and five years to write a 400-page report on its own uselessness. Even the report’s release is a joke; it’s purportedly already written, but more than seven months have passed and it has yet to see the light of day. I suggest that the GAO immediately commence an audit of Barrett’s books to find out where all the money went.