Senators Hear Tale of Offer to DNCBy Edward Walsh
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 20, 1997;
A bizarre story involving a shadowy Texas businessman, an offer to donate up to $55 million to the Democratic Party and an alleged request to shred a White House document unfolded yesterday before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, where it was greeted with incredulity and growing hostility by most committee Democrats.
The allegations, which he made earlier this year to news organizations, were related by R. Warren Meddoff, who last July was fired from his job with the U.S. subsidiary of a Danish vehicle and parts supply firm.
According to Meddoff, he approached President Clinton at a October 1996 fund-raising dinner in Florida and gave him a business card saying that he had "an associate" who was interested in donating $5 million to the president's campaign.
The "associate" was William R. Morgan of Richardson, Tex., a Dallas suburb. Meddoff said Morgan also was prepared to contribute another $5 million a month for 10 months to the Democratic Party in a "tax favorable" way that would eliminate any tax liability on a business deal he hoped to close around then.
Meddoff said his encounter with Clinton soon led to his being contacted by then-White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes, who on Oct. 31, 1996, faxed a memo to Meddoff from the White House asking him to contribute more than $1 million to the Democratic National Committee and three other Democratic-affiliated, tax-exempt organizations. Shortly thereafter, Meddoff said, Ickes asked him to shred the memo. Ickes has denied making the shredding request.
Committee Democrats reacted to Meddoff's charges with an attack on his credibility and by raising questions about the mysterious Morgan. But one Democrat, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), said the Ickes memo was "outrageous."
"You're telling a story which, if true, is hair-raising," Lieberman said. "This is on its face possibly a violation of the law. It amounted to a conscious attempt to circumvent what people are allowed to contribute to campaigns. This document alone, whether anyone asked you to shred it or not, ought to outrage us."
Other Democrats, however, concentrated their fire on Meddoff. Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) produced a 1995 letter in which Meddoff offered to contribute $5 million to both the Democratic and Republican parties at the close of a business transaction that he said was being delayed by U.S. government employees. Accusing Medoff of offering the contributions in return for political intervention to help close the deal, Levin said, "That comes very, very close, Mr. Meddoff, to being a kind of bribe."
Sen. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.) produced an e-mail message that Medoff sent earlier this month to Christian Haar, chief executive officer of Bukkehave Inc., his former employer. "Tomorrow you and your company will come under international scrutiny and scorn," the message said. "Prepare to face the [w]rath of an entire country foreigner."
"This appears to be an attempt at extortion of a former employer," Torricelli told Meddoff.
Committee Democrats also questioned whether Morgan had the financial resources to make the contributions that Meddoff promised. They said Morgan, who has said he collects and sells historical bonds, operates his businesses out of his home, which he rents. According to Democratic documents, Morgan has been the subject of two federal tax liens totaling more than $26,000 and has been "repeatedly sued for failing to pay bills."
Under questioning, Meddoff said he has been associated with Morgan for about four years but has never met him or been paid anything by him. Instead, he said, he has an arrangement to share in the proceeds of Morgan's business deals should they come to fruition.
More recently, he added: "I made a commitment to walk away from these deals. They keep following me."
"Have you ever seen that movie 'The Sting'?" Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), asked Meddoff, referring to a popular early 1970s film about an elaborate con game. "This is better than that."
Committee Chairman Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) told Meddoff, "The worse it looks for you, the worse it looks for those who were dealing with you."
"Mr. Morgan is, indeed, a bizarre and questionable individual who needs checking out," Thompson added. "You show up out of nowhere with a card, and that sets in motion calls, apparently from Air Force One, and you're dealing with someone at the right hand of the president. The most bizarre part is the part concerning Mr. Ickes."
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company