A prominent White House official helped oversee a concerted election-year effort to boost President Clinton’s standing among Asian Americans at the same time that the Democratic Party was seeking to raise millions of dollars in campaign contributions from this community, the White House acknowledged Saturday.
Doris Matsui, deputy assistant to the president and the wife of a Sacramento, Calif., congressman, headed a working group composed of federal officials and Democratic Party aides that was to “manage and oversee all campaign activities” of the Asian Pacific American community, according to a Democratic National Committee plan written last April and released last week.
The document listed fund raising among the activities to be coordinated, but it noted that legal constraints could prevent government officials from being involved in this phase of the plan. Matsui and the White House said she had played no role in fund raising. As a government official, she legally is barred from soliciting campaign contributions.
According to the memo, dated April 1996, the DNC’s goal was to raise $7 million from Asian Americans. It urged that big donors be rewarded “by inviting them to special White House or other events” - a proposal that corresponds closely to the kinds of special access accorded to large donors both before and after the memo was written.
The 32-page page strategic DNC plan appears to shed new light on the orchestrated campaign by the Democratic Party to draw large campaign gifts from a relatively new pool of Asian American donors - an effort that subsequently resulted in the DNC returning more than $1 million in illegal or improper contributions.
In addition, the document offers further evidence of the extent to which an assortment of presidential aides oversaw - and used the White House to facilitate - the various efforts of Clinton’s re-election campaign.
White House Special Counsel Lanny J. Davis said Saturday that the document contains no suggestion of impropriety by the Clinton administration.
“It is proper and appropriate for a member of the White House staff to encourage citizens who are supporters and contributors to offer their input to the White House,” Davis said.
The administration has faced growing controversy over revelations about the extraordinary access to the president and the White House enjoyed by six-figure donors. In some cases, generous Asian-American contributors were joined at coffees or other events with the president by foreign business associates who were not eligible to make campaign donations or to vote.
Matsui, the highest-ranking Asian American at the White House and wife of Rep. Robert T. Matsui, D-Calif., said she was not consulted in drafting or approving the DNC document and that it overstated her role in coordinating administration and campaign activities.
She emphatically denied a report in The New York Times that she had helped devise a strategy to raise $7 million from Asians. “I’ve never been involved in fund raising,” Matsui said.
An administration attorney said White House employees, who routinely are assumed to work more than 40 hours a week, “are permitted to engage in political activities during the day and in federal government buildings provided they do not use government resources to assist in that activity or there is appropriate reimbursement.”
The DNC plan was written by William Kaneko, the director of the party’s Asian Pacific Outreach program. He relied on materials developed by the Asian Pacific American Working Group that Matsui chaired as well as fund-raising information developed by the DNC, apparently by former DNC fund-raiser John Huang, a senior administration official said.
Huang’s activities at the DNC and at the Commerce Department, where he previously worked, are being investigated by various federal agencies and Congress.