September 22, 1997 in Nation/World

Clinton Phone List Extensive President Urged To Make 40 Calls From White House, Documents Show

Don Van Natta Jr. New York Times
 
Tags:ethics

Justice Department investigators have obtained documents showing that President Clinton was urged to make as many as 40 fund-raising phone calls to wealthy contributors from the White House, nearly three times as many requests for solicitations than was previously known, officials said on Sunday.

Although it was unclear how many calls the president actually made, most of those on the lists made large donations to the Democrats. And in at least several cases, portions of those donations were improperly transferred to an account that directly benefited Clinton’s re-election campaign, a possible violation of federal election law, the officials said.

The findings contributed to Attorney General Janet Reno’s decision last week to open a formal inquiry into whether Clinton illegally solicited donations from the White House, said investigators on Sunday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The inquiry, like one recently begun for Vice President Al Gore, who has acknowledged making calls from the White House to solicit donations, could be the first step toward the appointment of an independent counsel.

Clinton has repeatedly said that he does not recall making any fund-raising calls from the White House, but he has left open the possibility that he might have done so.

As he flew back to Washington on Sunday morning from San Francisco aboard Air Force One, Clinton appeared to shrug off the attorney general’s action. “I don’t know anything about it,” he told reporters. But Republicans were exercised about the timing of the decision, saying that Reno should have ordered such an investigation long ago.

The records of the requests for fund-raising phone calls are contained in Democratic Party memos under scrutiny by the Justice Department. They appear to contradict the image of Clinton as playing only a peripheral role in soliciting money.

The records show that as early as October 1994, senior White House aides and top Democratic Party officials had regarded the president as an active participant whose direct telephone solicitations could compel a reluctant donor to give as much as $100,000.

In particular, investigators have turned their attention to documents given to Clinton that included “call sheets” prepared by Democratic fund-raisers that listed potential donors with their telephone numbers and hoped-for donations.

One co-written on Oct. 21, 1994, by Terence McAuliffe, the finance chairman of the Clinton-Gore campaign, and Laura Hartigan, a fund-raising official for the campaign, lists 12 contributors for Clinton to call. It is not known whether Clinton made any of the calls. On the memo are the words: “Note: POTUS calls.” POTUS is a commonly used acronym for President of the United States.

Even without the new information, momentum to review Clinton’s fund-raising efforts has been building at the Justice Department since early this month, when Reno ordered a preliminary review of Gore’s telephone solicitations. Some officials said they could not examine Gore’s telephone solicitations without also trying to determine whether Clinton had placed fund-raising calls.

After being prodded by Republicans on Capitol Hill to appoint an independent prosecutor, Reno argued that no laws would have been broken if the solicitation calls, by either the president or vice president, had resulted in contributions spent on generic party-building activities, the unregulated donations known as “soft money.”

But the inquiry into Clinton’s and Gore’s activities has centered on whether the money was deposited by party officials to benefit the Clinton-Gore campaign, and who at the White House had any knowledge of such money transfers.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that at least $120,000 given by donors that were solicited by Gore was transferred to the Democrats’ “hard money” account that benefitted the Clinton-Gore campaign and other individual candidates.

According to Federal Election Commission records, a Democratic supporter whom Clinton was asked to call in March 1996 later gave a contribution that directly benefited the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign and that of other individual candidates.

On March 7, 1997, Clinton was asked to call that donor, Dirk Ziff, the co-chairman of Ziff Brothers Investments, a New York firm, and ask for $100,000. Three months later, Ziff gave $20,000 to a Democratic hard money account. But in a recent interview, Ziff denied ever receiving a solicitation call from Clinton.

Gail Zappa, widow of the entertainer Frank Zappa, was also listed on a call sheet for Clinton prepared on Feb. 6, 1996. Six months later, on Aug. 14, 1996, the Democrats split a $30,000 contribution into two pieces - one was $10,000 intended to directly benefit the Clinton-Gore campaign. Zappa, however, denied that she had received a presidential call.

A central issue in the inquiry is the question of what room Clinton was in when he made fund-raising calls. White House lawyers have argued that it is not illegal to solicit money, either in phone calls or at coffees, from the residence portion of the White House. For example, the Map Room, where 103 coffees were held in 1995 and 1996, is part of the residence.

In his deposition in June, Harold Ickes, the former White House deputy chief of staff, said that the legality of Clinton’s calls had been cleared by Lloyd Cutler, who was the White House counsel. He also said that Cutler had made it clear that he “preferred” Clinton to make fund-raising calls from the residence, instead of the Oval Office.

MEMO: Cut in Spokane edition

This longer version of the sidebar appeared with the story in the Spokane edition:

WHICH PHONE WAS USED?

WASHINGTON - President Clinton raised $950,000 for the Democratic Party on Saturday by appearing at a lunch, a reception and a dinner in California. It was all well publicized, perfectly legal and in keeping with the long tradition of presidents who considered fund raising to be part of their political duties.

But if Clinton made a fund-raising call from the Oval Office, and if the money it brought in was used by his re-election campaign rather than for general use by the party, then he might have violated a 19th century law and could face investigation by a special prosecutor and criminal prosecution. (If he made the call from the White House residence, it would be permissible.)

These distinctions might be viewed as technical, or even arbitrary, and even among prosecutors, there is debate about how literally to regard them. But they are at the heart of the Justice Department’s investigations into the fund-raising activities of both Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

A federal law written in 1883 and amended in 1980 bars soliciting or receiving contributions in government offices, a prohibition originally put in place to stop elected officials from dunning their subordinates for political donations.

Lawyers said there did not appear to have been any case in which the law had been used to prosecute someone for the type of fund raising undertaken by Gore and perhaps Clinton: using a federal office to solicit a contribution from someone not on federal property.

As interpreted in current Justice Department guidelines - which in turn rely on interpretations of a 1971 federal election law - the prohibition on the use of government offices for fund raising applies only to money intended for the political campaigns of specific candidates, not to money raised for general party purposes.

It was this distinction, in fact, that Attorney General Janet Reno used initially to resist calls to seek an independent prosecutor. She contended that because only soft money had been raised in any telephone calls from the White House, no laws had been violated.

But Reno re-evaluated her decision after recent disclosures showed that some of the money donated after solicitations from the White House had been transferred into “hard money” accounts, those used to aid the Clinton-Gore re-election effort.

Cut in Spokane edition

This longer version of the sidebar appeared with the story in the Spokane edition: WHICH PHONE WAS USED? WASHINGTON - President Clinton raised $950,000 for the Democratic Party on Saturday by appearing at a lunch, a reception and a dinner in California. It was all well publicized, perfectly legal and in keeping with the long tradition of presidents who considered fund raising to be part of their political duties. But if Clinton made a fund-raising call from the Oval Office, and if the money it brought in was used by his re-election campaign rather than for general use by the party, then he might have violated a 19th century law and could face investigation by a special prosecutor and criminal prosecution. (If he made the call from the White House residence, it would be permissible.) These distinctions might be viewed as technical, or even arbitrary, and even among prosecutors, there is debate about how literally to regard them. But they are at the heart of the Justice Department’s investigations into the fund-raising activities of both Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. A federal law written in 1883 and amended in 1980 bars soliciting or receiving contributions in government offices, a prohibition originally put in place to stop elected officials from dunning their subordinates for political donations. Lawyers said there did not appear to have been any case in which the law had been used to prosecute someone for the type of fund raising undertaken by Gore and perhaps Clinton: using a federal office to solicit a contribution from someone not on federal property. As interpreted in current Justice Department guidelines - which in turn rely on interpretations of a 1971 federal election law - the prohibition on the use of government offices for fund raising applies only to money intended for the political campaigns of specific candidates, not to money raised for general party purposes. It was this distinction, in fact, that Attorney General Janet Reno used initially to resist calls to seek an independent prosecutor. She contended that because only soft money had been raised in any telephone calls from the White House, no laws had been violated. But Reno re-evaluated her decision after recent disclosures showed that some of the money donated after solicitations from the White House had been transferred into “hard money” accounts, those used to aid the Clinton-Gore re-election effort.


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