Clinton Fund-Raising Riles GOP
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 13, 1998; Page A6
NEW YORK, Oct. 12 With Republicans howling about "jury tampering," President Clinton came to New York tonight to raise money for Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is locked in a dead-heat race to unseat Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.). Schumer also happens be a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which will judge whether to recommend Clinton's impeachment.
The protest of the Republicans was just one of a number of competing political considerations, in Washington and in New York, that transformed the president's visit to Manhattan tonight into a curious exercise in raising money.
For one thing, Schumer wasn't here for the evening's main fund-raiser to bask in the glow of a president who remains very popular among New Yorkers, despite his admitted affair with Monica S. Lewinsky.
Schumer flew off to Washington to vote on the budget shortly before Clinton landed in New York. The Brooklyn Democrat appeared at tonight's $1,000-a-plate event at the Hilton Hotel only in a taped video.
"I wanted to be [in Washington] to make sure my vote is counted," Schumer said in the video. He later flew back to New York to attend a second fund-raising event with the president at the private home of a Wall Street investment banker.
Schumer's shuttle between New York and Washington was driven, at least in part, by his political need to respond to TV attack ads. D'Amato's ads have hammered the congressman for missing "more votes in 12 months than [D'Amato] missed in 12 years." Schumer actually has a 92 percent attendance record over his 18-year career in the House, but has missed many votes this year while campaigning.
"It's a shame that it took public pressure and outrage to get Chuck Schumer to show up for work," the delighted D'Amato campaign announced tonight, after learning that Schumer had skipped a fund-raiser this evening that raised $600,000. The second event, at the Fifth Avenue apartment of Lazard Freres & Co. executive Steven Rattner, was expected to raise $400,000.
Meanwhile, House Republican leaders in Washington fired a two-barrel barrage at Clinton for his fund-raising foray.
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said it was "quite unseemly for the president of the United States, whose fate is in the hands of the Judiciary Committee . . . to raise a lot of money for a member who sits on that committee."
Schumer voted last week against an open-ended impeachment inquiry sponsored by the GOP. Schumer has said the president deserves punishment but his offenses do not rise to the level of impeachment.
Other Republicans today accused the president of skipping out on crucial budget negotiations while acting as the "fund-raiser in chief."
In apparent response to the criticism, Clinton condensed his New York schedule and dropped a planned fund-raising trip to Florida, sending Vice President Gore in his stead.
But the political machinations that truncated the president's trip to New York to praise a semi-absent Democratic candidate seemed unlikely to alter the intriguing dynamics of the Schumer-D'Amato contest, which has emerged as the closest, most expensive and most caustically fought Senate race in the country.
Poll after poll here has shown that Schumer, 47, is well-positioned to defeat the three-term Republican incumbent in this state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 1.8 million.
Schumer's advisors say that the support of Clinton and, especially, of Hillary Rodham Clinton, could prove crucial in defeating D'Amato, who has low approval ratings among likely women voters.
In praising Schumer here tonight, Clinton soft-pedaled criticism of D'Amato. Instead, he referred to Schumer's reputation for relentlessness, saying that the congressman could easily match the zeal that has earned D'Amato the name "Senator Pothole."
"If Chuck Schumer is a senator, given his level of energy, his intensity, his aggressiveness, he will make Senator D'Amato look laid back when it comes to filling potholes," Clinton said.
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