GAO: Political Contributions Not A Factor In Arlington Waivers

Congressional investigators have found no evidence that political contributions played any role in selecting people to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The General Accounting Office said in a study to be released today that it uncovered no examples of people making generous campaign contributions getting waivers to normal rules governing burial at Arlington.

While presidents and lawmakers had asked for waivers on occasion, the requests were only to help constituents or because they believed the person merited an Arlington burial, the investigative arm of Congress said.

Senior Democrats on the House Veterans Affairs Committee asked the GAO to look into the question of political contributions following unsubstantiated charges by conservatives that big donors to the Democratic Party were being buried at Arlington.

Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.), chairman of the panel's oversight subcommittee, which is to hold a hearing on the issue today, submitted a separate request for a GAO study on the entire process in which the normal qualifications for burial at Arlington are waived.

When Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr. last November released a list of those who had received waivers, the only big donor was M. Larry Lawrence, who was ambassador to Switzerland at the time of his death in 1996.

Lawrence, owner of the landmark Hotel del Coronado near San Diego, received a waiver because he claimed to have served in the Merchant Marine in 1945 and said he was wounded in action.

After congressional Republicans turned up no evidence to prove that he had served in the Merchant Marine, Lawrence's widow had his body exhumed and buried in San Diego.

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