How It Came to This

By David Finkel
Sunday, December 13, 1998


September 13, 1993 PROLOGUE

"I'll tell you what happened," Walter Kaye would tell the grand jury. He was talking about the events leading up to September 13, 1993, when he was 70 years old, and recently retired, and rich, and living in New York, and feeling somewhat adrift. "I was going through a very, very difficult emotional period," he said. "I had suffered a heart attack, and they sold the business, and I was pushed out right away. A very emotional thing, you know. You start a business from scratch, and I don't want to brag, but we did have a very nice business. And I was in bad shape.

"And one day," he continued, ". . . I'm having breakfast at a hotel in New York, and this young woman comes up to me and says to me, 'Aren't you Walter Kaye?' I said, 'I'm Walter Kaye.'

"She said to me, 'You know, I'd like to talk to you.' I said, 'If you're looking for money, I've given it away for the whole year. I'm involved with a lot of charities.'

"She said, 'No, I want to talk to you about becoming active in politics.' I said, 'I want to tell you, if there's anything I'm not interested in it's politics. Just leave me alone.'

"So she says, 'Can't you be polite and listen?' "

So he was polite, he said, and he listened, and soon after that he found himself talking to another woman who came up from Washington to see him.

"I don't even really remember her name," he said, "Kathy something, and she starts to give me the reasons why I should become active in politics, or make a contribution, excuse me, to the Democratic National Committee.

". . . I said, 'Listen, I'm an excitement nut. I like excitement. You offer me some exciting times, I will give you a contribution.' And what do you think happens? She said, 'If you like excitement, Mrs. Clinton is speaking at the Mayflower Hotel . . . Why don't you come as our guest?'

"So I go down to the Mayflower Hotel," he said, ". . . and as soon as I get there, I know, boy, they're really working on me. They put me in the first row for the lecture . . . And then at about 10:30 I go out to get a cup of coffee, and one of the people from the Democratic Party, a young lady, says, 'Mr. Kaye, we'd like to invite you to meet Mrs. Clinton' . . . And I said, 'No, I really don't -- ' She said, 'Don't be silly. You're here. Why don't you meet me back here at 11:30? We'll take you back to meet Mrs. Clinton.'

"So I go. And again, I'm telling you . . . I never saw this before. You know, the dogs sniffing out the place, the Secret Service all over the place . . . We went to a private suite at the Mayflower, and sure enough, she came in, and I'm very, very excited, you know, and we chatted for a minute, and I was really overwhelmed. I'm telling you the truth. And then when I walked into the luncheon, what do you think they do? They seat me at her table.

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 1998 The Washington Post Company