In a video stored in his presidential archives, Ronald Reagan is shown hosting $10,000-plus Republican donors inside the White House in 1987 and asking, “Can I count on you to help?”
Democrats immediately seized on the disclosure Thursday, suggesting the video shows a solicitation within the White House. Federal law prohibits fund-raising solicitations on government property.
The video is the latest piece of evidence to be unearthed at Reagan’s library in California suggesting that long before President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore made fund-raising calls from the mansion, Republicans also may have used the building to generate money.
The Associated Press reported last month that documents it had obtained from the Reagan library showed Reagan had made telephone calls to fund-raising events from the White House and Camp David and had promised donors on one occasion they’d be visiting the White House “quite often.”
On Wednesday, video footage emerged of a Republican Eagles event on Sept. 30, 1987, in the East Room of the White House. The Associated Press obtained a copy of a written transcript of the tape from Democratic sources. Eagles are $10,000 donors to the Republican Party.
“I’ll campaign hard for the nominee of our party. And let me ask you now - I know this is silly - but can I count on you to help?” said Reagan, later adding, “I know we’ve got a lot of people here today who’ll help lead the charge.”
Democrats, weary from months of attacks about whether Clinton and Gore may have solicited donors from the White House, seized on the revelation.
“We are not going to comment on anything pertaining to President Reagan, but we will reiterate that no solicitation or request for funds or financial support occurred at any White house coffees so far as we are aware, and certainly, no solicitation for funds was ever made by the president,” White House special counsel Lanny Davis said.
Jan Baran, a Republican campaign finance attorney, acknowledged on ABC-TV that Reagan’s appeal may have violated the law.
“President Reagan may have made a solicitation, although very indirectly,” he said.
A spokesman from Reagan’s office in Los Angeles was not available for comment Thursday.
Last month, AP reported that other Reagan presidential documents showed his then-political director, Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., recommended the president make calls to congressional fund-raising events. “It’s a good idea and we’re eager to cooperate,” Daniels wrote in a 1986 memo.
Reagan’s fund-raising call sheets were prepared on official White House stationery by presidential aides who sometimes noted the exact amount of money to be raised at the event.
Reagan was assured by lawyers the calls were legal.
The documents do not indicate Reagan ever made a call directly to individual donors from the White House to solicit a specific amount of money - like Vice President Al Gore has admitted. President Clinton has said it is possible he, too, may have made direct telephone solicitations.
Those admissions have embroiled the current White House in questions of whether the president or vice president violated a federal law prohibiting solicitations on federal property.