The chief of staff to Hillary Rodham Clinton accepted a $50,000 donation to the Democratic Party in 1995 in the White House from a California businessman who is a central figure in criminal and congressional investigations into improper fund-raising activities by Democrats, administration officials said.
The donation by Johnny Chung through Margaret Williams to the Democratic National Committee is the first known instance in which a campaign check was handed to an administration official at the White House during the last four years. It is sure to fuel criticism that the administration had inadequate safeguards for separating politics and fund raising from the work of governing.
White House aides defended Williams, saying that she had simply passed along a check she had been given by a frequent White House guest and fan of Hillary Clinton.
“This was legal and proper and she was following established procedures,” said Ann Lewis, deputy White House communications director. It was unclear why Williams did not direct Chung to give the check directly to the DNC. Other lawyers outside the administration disagreed, and questioned why Chung was giving a payment to a top aide to Hillary Clinton rather than simply giving the check to officials at the DNC.
“It is totally improper,” said Joseph E. diGenova, a Republican and former U.S. attorney in Washington. “It is illegal to receive federal campaign funds on property at the White House or at the Executive Office Building.”