It's been a busy month for Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., the incoming chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee.
Assigned to chair hearings into alleged campaign finance violations during the presidential campaign, Thompson has been picking his top aides and preparing to go public with the investigation as early as February, Senate Republican sources said.
Because of new Republican Conference rules that limit subcommittee chairmanships, Thompson has decided to hold the hearings before the full committee rather than the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which, with its large staff, has been the center of many high-profile hearings in recent decades. In fact, he hasn't decided whether to retain the subcommittee at all.
With Democrats pressing for quick action on campaign finance legislation, Thompson is likely to encounter partisan pressure to bring the inquiry to a speedy conclusion.
Thompson, who will take over the chairmanship after only two years in the Senate, has said he'll also pursue a legislative agenda that includes a two-year budget proposal and regulatory reform.
Hannah Sistare, Thompson's legislative director who's expected to be the committee's staff director, has been interviewing potential aides for both the full panel and its investigations unit. Thompson's office has received more than 300 job applications, a spokeswoman said.