[I]t's not that the Republicans who run today's Congress object to serious investigations, of course. They just object to serious investigations of Republicans. When the GOP regained control of Congress after the '94 midterms, it launched an aggressive effort—about which it was largely open—to use congressional committees and investigations as a partisan political tool, designed to thwart the Clinton administration's agenda and damage the president politically. A memo sent “on behalf of the House leadership” by two Republican congressional power-brokers, Reps Jim Nussle and Bob Walker, directed committee chairs to search their investigative files for “examples of dishonest [sic] or ethical lapses in the Clinton administration,” and to forward them to Virginia Thomas's office “for determining the agenda.” Defending the decision to task Thomas, a top leadership aide, with compiling politically-damaging information on the opposing party, one House committee staffer told Roll Call: “It takes a full-time person to make sure we get all the Clinton scandals exposed.”
The Clinton administration provided Congress with more than a million pages of documents in response to investigative inquiries—including, at one point, the White House Christmas-card list. But voters quickly came to see the effort, which culminated with the impeachment of the president, as partisan and vindictive, and it backfired. House speaker Newt Gingrich left office in disgrace, while Clinton finished his second term with lofty approval ratings.