Reelection Team Repeatedly Asked President's AidBy Ruth Marcus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 22, 1997;
After the story of Vice President Gore's fund-raising calls from the White House broke last March, President Clinton said he didn't remember making similar solicitations himself-but was careful to leave himself some wiggle room.
"I can't say, over all the hundreds and hundreds and maybe thousands of phone calls I've made in the last four years, that I never said to anybody while I was talking to them, 'Well, we need your help,' or 'I hope you'll help us,'‚" Clinton said at a news conference. He said that "once I remember in particular I was asked to do it, and I just never got around to doing it."
In the intervening months, congressional investigators have amassed evidence that suggests such calls were made, and at the very least makes clear that, whether Clinton actually did so, he repeatedly was pressed to make them as part of the intense fund-raising push by his reelection team to raise millions of dollars for a Democratic Party advertising campaign on his behalf.
Now Clinton's calls are the focus of Justice Department scrutiny as prosecutors begin the first phase of deciding whether they warrant appointment of an independent counsel. White House officials say that any such calls would be legal, and that in any case they aren't sure Clinton made any. The legal issue concerns whether the calls violated the prohibition against soliciting campaign contributions on government property.
Reno recently opened a separate probe into Gore's fund-raising calls after the disclosure that more than $120,000 of the money he raised went into the Democratic National Committee's "hard money" account, which contains strictly regulated contributions. She previously had said that the ban on soliciting contributions didn't apply to more loosely regulated "soft money" contributions, or unlimited gifts by individuals, corporations and labor unions.
Whatever the proper legal analysis, the documents and testimony compiled by Senate investigators show a long-standing effort by DNC and White House officials to enlist the president's help in calling potential donors.
An October 1994 memo by David Strauss, then Gore's deputy chief of staff, states: "BC made 15-20 calls-raised $500K/HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] making calls. Pitch: DNC purchased $2 million of air time for generic ads and we need to raise more money to stay on the air . . . make calls from residence."
Earlier in the year, the administration had been seeking millions of dollars to counter ads opposing the Clinton health care plan, which was dead by October 1994.
After that, the fund-raising requests centered on the DNC's advertising campaign, in 1995 and 1996, that was an effort to boost Clinton's reelection.
A Nov. 20, 1995, memorandum from senior DNC officials to Harold Ickes, then Clinton's deputy chief of staff, shows how calls from both Clinton and Gore were viewed as necessary to raise an extra $4 million for the advertising effort. The memo calls for "18-20 calls by POTUS," shorthand for president of the United States, and "10 calls by VPOTUS," the abbreviation for the vice president.
"This will provide us with an advantage to assure our projections and assist in raising an additional $1.2 million," said the memo, by DNC Chairman Donald L. Fowler, Finance Chairman Marvin Rosen, Treasurer R. Scott Pastrick and Finance Director Richard Sullivan.
On Nov. 24, 1995, White House Deputy Political Director Karen Hancox said in an e-mail to Gore's office, "THE POTUS and VP offered (ON THEIR OWN) to make f r [fund-raising] calls for the DNC," Hancox wrote. "Harold will be asking POTUS to carve an hour out of his schedule Monday and Tuesday for the calls. . . . "
Four days later, Ickes sent a memorandum to Clinton, Gore and an array of senior White House aides that increased the solicitation plan, envisioning about 20 calls by Clinton, 15 by Gore and 10 by Hillary Rodham Clinton. The DNC already had spent nearly $10 million on the advertising campaign, he warned, and needed help if it was to stay on the air.
In his deposition taken by Senate investigators, Ickes said he did not think Clinton made any of the November calls, though he said Clinton did make others. "He did not like to make them," Ickes said, adding that he had asked the president to make fund-raising calls no more than four times during his tenure.
Clinton "would always say 'yes,'‚" to such a request, Ickes said, "then I would bug him in a very low-keyed way as to whether he had made or was intending to make the phone calls. He always intended to make them."
Ickes added that at times he was "fortunate enough to find out that he had, in fact, made a phone call." In those cases, he said, he would inform DNC Finance Chairman Rosen "so that there could be appropriate follow-up because a phone call from the president can sometimes be quite general."
Another effort to enlist Clinton's telephone skills came in February 1996. In a memorandum for Clinton dated Feb. 7, Ickes states: "Attached, as you requested, are the names and telephone numbers of 10 individuals who Marvin Rosen thinks will respond favorably to a telephone call from you for contributions to the DNC media fund. This information was provided to me earlier today; pursuant to your request earlier this week."
The document contains Clinton's trademark backward check mark and is stamped "The President Has Seen," dated more than three months later, on May 20, 1996. "I think it's a good indication . . . of the rush he was in to make those calls," Ickes told Senate lawyers.
Two of the call sheets, for Gail Zappa, the widow of musician Frank Zappa who had contributed $160,000 the previous year, and for Arthur Goldberg, chairman of Bally's Casino Resort, also contain backward check marks.
"It certainly appears to be his check mark . . . and it would indicate to me that he at least placed the call," Ickes said.
FEC records show that Gail Zappa gave $114,500 to the DNC after the date of the memo, including $20,000 that was placed in the DNC's "hard money" account on Aug. 14, 1996. Zappa's lawyer has said he does not believe she ever received a call from Clinton, and Goldberg's secretary said her boss knew nothing about calls from Clinton.
Glenn Hutchins, senior managing director of the Blackstone Group and targeted for $100,000 in the Clinton call sheets, contributed $10,000 deposited in the hard money account on May 3, 1996. He said yesterday that he had never received a call from Clinton.
Records show that the companies of several others listed on the call sheets gave soft money after the date of the memo. Occidental Petroleum Corp. gave $100,000 on March 29, 1996; the call sheet directs Clinton to ask President Ray R. Irani to contribute $100,000. Anheuser-Busch Cos. contributed $250,000 to the DNC on March 29, 1996, and another $110,000 in the remaining months before the election; the call sheet directs Clinton to ask Anheuser-Busch Vice President August Busch IV for $100,000.
Ickes said he was "confident that I checked this with the counsel's office and I'm confident that they told me that there was no problem with the president making phone calls." A White House official said there was no indication that the counsel's office had reviewed a plan to have Clinton make fund-raising calls.
White House special counsel Lanny J. Davis said that there "certainly was an effort" to get Clinton to make calls and that such calls "may well have happened."
White House officials previously have said that a review of White House phone records of all presidential calls for 1996 found only one call to any of the 10 people listed on the sheets that Clinton received in February, an unsuccessful effort to reach Federal Express Chairman Frederick Smith.
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