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Clinton Joins DNC Donors At 2 EventsBy John F. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 8, 1997; Page A15
President Clinton said Wednesday he was proud of his controversial Democratic fund-raising, and last night he drove the point home to the tune of $650,000.
That was the total the Democratic National Committee thought it would take in from about 100 contributors at two fund-raisers held simultaneously last night at one hotel, with Clinton the star attraction at both events.
Over gazpacho and swordfish at the Mayflower Hotel, Clinton was expected to raise some $350,000 from members of the Democratic Business Council, DNC spokeswoman Melissa Bonney said. Business and union leaders pay $10,000 to join the group, or $15,000 to enroll their political action committees. For this price, donors got to dine and mingle with such senior administration officials as Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, Transportation Secretary Rodney G. Slater and Cabinet Secretary Thurgood Marshall Jr.
Later, Clinton moved to a nearby salon for a couscous and beef tenderloin dinner for DNC supporters who contribute $25,000, an event that was to raise some $300,000 for the party, which is reeling from debt in large measure because of the refunds and legal bills it has had to pay during the fund-raising investigation. The DNC is dedicating 15 percent of the money it raises to retiring its $16.9 million debt and 85 percent to current races.
At a news conference this week, Clinton said that despite his call for an end to unlimited "soft-money" political contributions, he planned to keep raising them as long as they were legal and the Republicans continue to do so. "I certainly do, and I'm proud of it," he said. "I don't believe in unilateral disarmament."
But Clinton drew derisive howls yesterday for other assertions about fund-raising. His remarks included a suggestion that Democratic donors had more selfless motives for contributing money than GOP givers and an unsubstantiated claim that Republicans collected more money from foreign sources than the Democrats.
Yesterday, White House press secretary Michael McCurry had to pull back some of Clinton's remarks. He said he could point to no evidence supporting Clinton's claim that the GOP raises "more money from noncitizens than the Democrats do."
Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson earlier called Clinton's comment "patently false."
The GOP, as well as some independent critics, scoffed at Clinton's Wednesday suggestion that Democratic donors tend to be more altruistic.
"The people that contributed money to us, by and large, were people that could have made a lot more money contributing to the Republicans . . . because they were the party for the capital gains tax, the estate tax relief and all of that," Clinton said, adding that Democrats "did it because they believed in what we were doing."
RNC spokesman Clifford May said Clinton's comments revealed a "certain smugness" that was not justified given the number of contributions from illegal or improper sources the Democratic Party has already returned, including some contributions from people who apparently were seeking special White House influence to aid their business interests.
Bill Hogan, an investigator with the watchdog group Center for Public Integrity, said it is clear that contributors to both parties are "buying access."
"You can go down a list in either party of big soft-money givers and show what they wanted and in many cases what they got," he said.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company