Past Clouds Candidates' Donor Lists

By John Solomon and Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 20, 2007

A list of the donors who have "bundled" large sums from dozens of individuals to give to Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign includes several figures who were involved in the 1990s Democratic Party fundraising scandal that tarnished her husband's record.

Among them is an Oklahoma oilman who testified in the mid-1990s that the firm he worked for, owned by Democratic fundraisers, sought to curry favor with Bill Clinton's administration by providing payments and a golf club membership to a Cabinet secretary's son.

Democrat John Edwards's list of bundlers includes well-known fellow trial lawyer William S. Lerach, who raised $80,000 from his family and law firm partners for the candidate after a government probe had begun of Lerach's wrongdoing, campaign aides confirmed yesterday. Lerach pleaded guilty this week to a conspiracy charge, prompting Edwards to announce that he will give back Lerach's personal donations but not the money Lerach raised from others.

A close look at donors who have collected large sums from hundreds of people to give to the presidential candidates makes it clear that Norman Hsu, the convicted thief who attracted attention last month for donating $850,000 to Hillary Clinton, is far from the only controversial figure to play a major fundraising role in campaigns.

Republican Mitt Romney's list of bundlers until recently included Alan Fabian, who was charged in a 23-count indictment last month alleging mail fraud, money laundering, bankruptcy fraud, perjury and obstruction of justice, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore. Fabian's lawyer, David B. Irwin, has declined to comment about the merits of the case but told The Post last month: "We are hoping for an early resolution of the matter."

Most other candidates have not yet released lists of bundlers, although virtually all have pledged to inspect fundraisers' backgrounds more closely than in past presidential races.

They face competing pressures, however. With more than a quarter of a billion dollars raised already, the current race is the most costly in U.S. history, and fundraising prowess has been seen as a mark of a candidate's credibility.

"Candidates, particularly at the presidential level, are primarily driven by one overarching imperative, which is to raise money," said Donald J. Simon, a campaign finance lawyer who has worked with Democratic candidates and with Common Cause. "They don't want to believe there is a problem with their fundraisers because they want to maximize the amount of money they generate. At the end of the day, vetting bundlers and tossing bundlers overboard works against their self-interest."

Clinton includes on her list of "Hillraisers" -- those who have committed to raising more than $100,000 for her White House bid -- several financiers linked to past troubles. They include Marvin Rosen, the former Democratic National Committee finance chairman whose efforts to reward six-figure party donors with attendance at White House coffees and overnight stays in the Lincoln Bedroom became the focal point of Senate hearings into fundraising abuses. Rosen did not return messages left at his offices in Florida and New York.

William Stuart Price, the Oklahoma oilman also on the "Hillraiser" list, stunned a courtroom in 1995 when he detailed how his former gas company had tried to "gain influence" with the Clinton administration by providing $160,000 in money and membership in a ritzy Washington golf club to the son of a Cabinet secretary. Price, who was never accused of wrongdoing, did not return calls seeking comment.

Price's testimony became the focal point of a criminal investigation of Ron Brown, then commerce secretary and a former chairman of the Democratic Party. The inquiry ended with the conviction of Price's former bosses, Nora and Gene Lum, for making illegal donations.

Also on the list is former senator Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.), who withdrew from a 2002 reelection campaign after being "severely admonished" by the Senate for taking lavish gifts from a businessman and contributor, David Chang. Torricelli did not return messages left at his office yesterday.

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