They lavished $100,000 gifts and loans on President Clinton to help stage his first inaugural bash. Then many of these wealthy benefactors reaped their rewards, from White House dinners to government appointments.
The first complete accounting of the major donors and lenders to the 1993 inauguration, released by the White House at the request of The Associated Press, shows:
James Riady and John Huang, executives of Indonesia’s Lippo banking conglomerate who got private Oval Office audiences with the president. Riady and Huang, who have emerged as central figures in the Asian donation controversy, were listed as giving a joint donation of $100,000. Huang later got jobs at the Commerce Department and Democratic Party.
Several government appointees, including the new White House chief of staff and the chairman of the federal agency that insures securities investors from losses.
Invitees to White House state dinners, including the wife of agriculture businessman and mega-political giver Dwayne Andreas. D. Inez Andreas and her husband, the chairman of Archer-Daniels-Midland, were invited to the state dinner for Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
An oil company that recently settled a long-running price-fixing case with the Clinton administration.
Insurance giants, which on the eve of the president’s last inauguration were anxiously awaiting the details of his ill-fated overhaul of the health care system.
Critics say the mammoth fund-raising efforts for presidential inaugurations afford special interests another avenue to make large donations and be rewarded with access to the country’s leaders.
“The inaugural has sort of become a metaphor for the whole political process and how money has distorted it,” says Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based government watchdog.
“We basically have a situation with two classes here: a sort of political and economic class, intermingling with each other at their megabuckslevel inaugural galas, and the average citizens, who at best get to watch the inaugural from hundreds of yards away,” he said.
In all, the organizers of Clinton’s last inauguration collected more than $2.5 million in donations and an additional $17 million in interest-free loans as seed money for the January 1993 celebration, the documents show.
Major givers were rewarded with hard-to-get tickets to inaugural events.
The loans were later paid back with proceeds from memorabilia sales and television revenues. Outright donations offered an added bonus: They were tax deductible because they went to a non-profit foundation set up to pay for free inaugural events for the public.
In all, there were 14 donors who gave $100,000 or more and did not ask to be repaid. Seven of those donations came from companies and four from unions.
Individuals who gave that much were Mrs. Andreas, Riady and Huang jointly and Richard Park, president of U.S. Woopon Co., who donated $100,000 and later attended the state dinner for South Korea’s president.
The largest donor was the Wall Street brokerage firm Merrill Lynch, which prior to Clinton’s election favored Republicans by a 10-to-1 margin in its political donations. For the new president’s inauguration, Merrill Lynch donated $250,000 and loaned an additional $100,000.
Guess Inc., The Limited, Anheuser-Busch, Federal Express, Union Pacific Corp. and Panhandle Eastern Corp. were the corporate donors of $100,000 each.
The unions giving that much: the American Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Communication Workers of America and the United Food and Commercial Workers International.
The list of inaugural lenders is an equally impressive Who’s Who of Corporate America.
The health and insurance industries, among the president’s earliest legislative targets, were particularly well represented.
Insurers Aetna, Metropolitan Life, New York Life, Beneficial, Primerica and Blue Cross-Blue Shield as well as drug makers Genentech and Merck and Co. all lent $100,000 each to the effort.
Oil giants accounted for nearly $1 million of the loans, including California-based Occidental Petroleum, which at the time of its $100,000 loan was facing an Energy Department price-fixing case.
The company settled that case a year ago for $275 million. Gerald Stern, the company lawyer who handled that case through 1992 and was a major fund-raiser for Clinton, also got a senior Justice Department appointment.
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