November 1, 1996 in Nation/World

Gop Hammers Away At Ethics Clinton Ignores Charges Of Fund-Raising Improprieties

The Boston Globe

Republicans Thursday issued a blistering assessment of Democratic star fund-raiser John Huang’s five dozen White House visits this year, even alluding to possible broken laws, as Clinton aides continued a well-rehearsed stall they hope will guide them through Election Day.

On the campaign trail, Clinton ignored the swirl of controversy over the Democratic National Committee’s fund-raising practices.

Aides said Huang’s repeated visits during the time he was a Commerce Department official and later a fundraiser were mostly to meet friends for lunch or to help the White House in its efforts to reach out to the Asian-American community.

Republicans, though, continued to hammer away at the issue in the waning days of the campaign, privately seeing it perhaps as their singular opportunity to make a final run at the White House.

“Every day there are additional revelations in the press about illegal activities, yet the administration consistently stonewalls, refuses to answer and, instead, hides information from the public,” said Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

At issue are some 65 visits that Secret Service documents indicate Huang made to the White House in 1996 while he was a senior fund-raiser for the DNC. Prior to the release of the documents, it was known only that Huang had three Oval Office meetings with Clinton during the last four years - all visits characterized by White House lawyers as “social.”

Such visits could be illegal if Huang was conveying messages or commitments between contributors and White House officials. Federal election laws prohibit the use of party organization money from being coordinated with candidate campaign spending. And those laws bar campaign officials from being involved in governing and most government officials from being active in political campaigns while serving in their official capacity.

“This certainly raises some fundamental questions about the relationship, that’s fair to say,” said Bill Wagner, a spokesman for Public Citizen, a government watchdog group. “But we have no knowledge of what he was doing there. It’s going to take some time to sort through all of this.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General Janet Reno said she plans to review requests by five congressional Republicans to order an independent counsel to investigate the Democrats’ fund-raising practices.

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