White House Representatives are soliciting U.S. corporation officials for contributions to help pay for Mondayhs state dinner honoring Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
The asking price -- in exchange for invitations to the dinner in some cases -- is $1,000 a plate.
Presidential spokesmen confirmed that corporation officals have bee asked to help defray the govrnment's expenses for the large dinner, which will be held in a huge tent on the White House South Lawn. The presidential spokesmen streesed that private funds have been used to defray the cost of state dinners in the past -- at least in every administration going as far back as John Kennedy's. But the president's spokesmen said they did not know as of last night whether private individuals had ever been asked specifically for founds in exchange for state invitations.
"Obviously, if you ask people to contribute, you are going to ask them to participate in some way," said White House press secretary Jody Powell. He added that thw White House will make public a list of the contributors.
America's leading corporations were asked to contribute funds to help defray the cost of the recent Kennedy Center gala honoring China's Vice Premier Deng Sixaoping. And the White House provided a list of the contributors -- 150 of th corporate rate Who's Who in America, including Allied Chemical, Bank of America, Bethlehem Steel, Coca-Cola, Deere & Co., Ford Motor Co., and others.
There is also a precedent for private founds being contributed to the White House on things that have nothing to dod with dinging or entrertainment. In the Kennedy eyars, the White House was furnished with antiques provided by private contributions; in the Ford years, a White House swimmisng pool. was built with private funds.
According to the White House sopkesmen, the effort to solicit corporation executives for contributions to Monday night's dinner is being headed by Lee Kling, who is a private citizen but formerly served as assistant to Robert S. Strauss back when Strauss was President Carter's chief inflation fighter. Kling previously served as treasurer of the Democratic National Committee under Strauss.
On one occasion, according to a nongovernment source, a New York businessman received a teleophone call from a person who idenmtified herself as Carol Carlyle." As the source recalled it, she said she was from "the White House Protocol office." The caller is said to have asked the businessman. if he would like to bring four guests to the state dinner in exchange for a $5,000 contribution that would be used to help defray the federal government's cost for the dinner. (Actually, there is no such thing as the White House protocol office. There is the White House social office, which is handling this dinner, and there is the State Department office of protocol, which coordinates all state dinners and pays for them.)
According to the White House switchboard records, a Carol Carlyle was employed in the White House's office of inflation.
Expenses for this state dinner (and in fact all dinners where a foreign head of staste is entertained) are paid for out of State Department funds and not the president's expense account.
Contributions for this dinners would not supplant the president's and not the president's expense accoutn.
Contributions for this dinner would not supplant the president's personal expense, Carter Administration officials stressed. According to State Department Chief of Protocol Edith J.(Kit) Dobelle, the checks of contributors would be made out to the "treasury of the United States."
According to press secretary Powell, the idea of asking for contributions to defray the governent expense originated during a discussion involiving White House social secretary Gretchen Poston, who is in charge of planning for the dinner, and Kling.
The dinner -- a historic event commemorating the signing of a peace treaty between Egypt and eIsrael -- would be larger than past state dinners. So the two thought that corporate officials might be willing to contribute.
"It is just an expression on their part -- a way to contribute to the celebration of peace," said White House deputy press secretary Rex Granum. "... D don't have an apology to make for defraying government expenses."