Thornburgh Ties Aide to Rep. Gray Leak
Atty. Gen. Dick Thornburgh confirmed today that his personal spokesman, David Runkel, played a role in spreading a politically embarrassing and misleading report about Rep. William H. Gray III (D-Pa.).
Thornburgh issued a statement after The New York Times reported that a criminal investigation he ordered had identified Runkel as assisting CBS News in a report that Gray’s personal finances were under scrutiny.
Gray insisted at the time he was not aware of any such investigation and although the Justice Department later publicly confirmed the probe, it said Gray was not a target.
Runkel, who appeared before a federal grand jury investigating the news leak, volunteered to take a polygraph test and failed it, the Times said today.
Both Thornburgh and Runkel were in Mexico today.
Gray, a former House Budget Committee chairman, was elected as House Democratic whip, the No. 3 party post, after the report surfaced last spring. He is the top black in the congressional leadership.
The investigation of the leak is sensitive on Capitol Hill because Democrats suspect Republicans were orchestrating a campaign to undermine Democratic leaders. The story about Gray followed disclosures that forced the resignations of House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas and Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Merced), whose party post Gray assumed.
The initial CBS report, which other media repeated, suggested Gray was being investigated by FBI agents interested in his financial dealings. Subsequent stories said the investigation involved an accountant who once worked for Gray.
Thornburgh, expressing anger over the CBS report, escalated a highly visible campaign to halt unauthorized Justice Department disclosures.