WASHINGTON - Lawmakers demanded on Thursday the names of people who got special approval to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, amid allegations that the Clinton administration rewarded political contributors with the privilege.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., urged President Clinton to "respond personally to the public" about the growing controversy. Specter said his office had been "inundated" by demands for an investigation.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich urged Clinton to make public the names of those granted waivers and said, "The public deserves to know. . . . If they refuse to release the names, we will subpoena them."
The White House called the reports untrue and said they are the work of conservative political enemies.
The controversy grew from an Insight magazine report accusing "top brass," including Secretary of the Army Togo West, of granting waivers to "dozens of big-time political donors" so they or family members could be buried at Arlington. Insight, a weekly publication of The Washington Times, did not name its sources.
The Army oversees Arlington, across the Potomac River from Washington.
A House of Representatives subcommittee is investigating, focusing on nine or 10 of about 60 cases in which Arlington Superintendent Jack Metzler turned down waivers and was overruled by West. The Army has not released names, citing privacy reasons.
The waivers include four granted by Clinton. The White House said they include a Supreme Court justice, the wife of another Supreme Court justice, an Army veteran Drug Enforcement Administration agent killed on a mission in Peru and a Washington police officer and Marine Corps veteran killed in the line of duty.
Three names have been reported: Joseph Kruzel and Robert Frasure, diplomats killed on a peace mission to Bosnia in 1995; and Larry Lawrence, U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, who died last year.
Republicans have raised questions about about Lawrence, a major Democratic Party contributor who was injured during World War II while serving in the Merchant Marine.
West said at a Pentagon briefing that neither he nor his staff knew Lawrence was a contributor to the Democratic Party.
Burial at Arlington has been tightly restricted since President Kennedy was interred there in 1963, increasing demand for plots. Only service members killed on active duty, highly decorated or long-serving veterans and a few top-ranking government officials are eligible.
The controversy could hurt West, believed to be Clinton's top choice for secretary of Veteran's Affairs.
By Andrea Stone, USA TODAY