Clinton Library Won't Identify Big Donors
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 19, 1999; Page A1
Organizers for President Clinton's presidential library have collected more than $20 million in pledges but are declining to disclose the identity of the donors or the amounts they promised to give.
Clinton and library organizers have been quietly meeting with prospective contributors in recent months as Clinton travels around the country in unpublicized events not listed on the president's public schedule. Organizers are also working to put together a library board of advisers whose members give or raise at least $1 million. The library is projected to cost as much as $125 million.
Library officials said they are under no legal obligation to reveal the names of donors and noted that Ronald Reagan -- the last president to raise library funds while in office -- did not disclose the names of his contributors at the time, even as he wooed them with intimate dinners at the White House.
Skip Rutherford, the Little Rock public relations executive heading the project, said officials were still developing "guidelines" on disclosure. "We're in the very early stages," he said. "We've not even begun a full-fledged national fund-raising campaign."
Sources familiar with the library fund-raising, being overseen by first friend Terence McAuliffe, said it has collected pledges of $20 million to $30 million. The money comes from some of the Democratic Party's most generous donors, including San Francisco developer Walter H. Shorenstein, who recently pledged $1 million, and California supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, who is prepared to give $5 million to $10 million. Fox Family Worldwide chairman Haim Saban and Universal Studios chairman emeritus Lew Wasserman have committed to similar sums.
Clinton has raised millions in campaign funds for himself and other Democrats, reporting the contributions as required by law. The Clintons also voluntarily disclosed the names of those contributing to their legal defense fund, which releases its donor lists every six months and limits contributions to $10,000.
The library fund-raising is striking both for the gargantuan size of the pledges being made and the refusal -- at least so far -- to disclose the donors.
"Any president of the United States should not be raising secret money, period," said Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, which advocates change in campaign finance laws. "If you're president of the United States and you are raising money, particularly for things that inure to your benefit and interest, you've got a responsibility to the American people to tell them where the money is coming from."
Asked about Clinton's response, White House spokesman Jim Kennedy said the matter was being reviewed by the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation, the nonprofit group collecting the money. "All I can say is the foundation, which is going to be setting the policy, is in the process of determining what its guidelines are going to be in that regard and has not yet finalized that process."
Unlike political contributions, gifts to the library foundation are tax-deductible and do not have to be reported. In his meetings with prospective givers, Clinton does not directly ask for money, but outlines his vision for the library and its role in his future plans.
The library is to be built in Little Rock, and organizers -- mindful of the difficulty that President Jimmy Carter had in securing funds for his library after his defeat -- are scrambling to raise as much as possible before Clinton leaves office.
About 15 possible donors -- including businessman John Catsimatides, Mattel Inc. director William Rollnick and songwriter Denise Rich -- met with Clinton when he visited New York earlier this month, according to sources familiar with the library fund-raising. Clinton also attended a library dinner last June at New York's swank La Grenouille restaurant with fashion industry luminaries such as designers Vera Wang and Nicole Miller.
Former White House chief of staff Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty flew aboard Air Force One with Clinton to New Orleans last month to attend a library meeting with prospective donors including corporate executives and trial lawyers.
Clinton picked up the $1 million commitment from Shorenstein when he stayed at Shorenstein's house during a West Coast swing earlier this month. Clinton had also been scheduled to attend a library brunch at producer David Geffen's house with entertainment industry luminaries and other big Democratic party contributors, but it was canceled at the last minute.
DreamWorks SKG partners Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg have indicated their willingness to support the library. The DreamWorks trio has not committed to giving anything "specific as of yet," said political adviser Andy Spahn, but "certainly all three guys have been supportive of the president and his administration and would certainly be likely candidates to provide support for the library."
Global Crossing Chairman Gary Winnick has pledged $1 million. Others promising or seriously weighing pledges, most in the million-dollar-and-up range, include former Democratic National Committee finance chairman Alan Solomont, New York investor Stanley Shuman, fashion industry executive Arnold Simon, Boston financier Tom Lee and James H. Levin of Chicago. Another who has promised $1 million -- "and certainly I will do far more than that" -- is Kansas City aviation leasing executive Farhad Azima.
The library is also accepting corporate contributions but will put off hitting up foreign governments until after Clinton leaves office, sources said.
In addition to Rutherford, the foundation directors are Ann D. Jordan, wife of attorney Vernon E. Jordan Jr., and former Arkansas senator David H. Pryor. A former DNC and Clinton-Gore fund-raiser, Peter O'Keefe, is handling the money effort from Washington, while McAuliffe's former deputy at the DNC and Clinton-Gore, Laura Hartigan, has taken the lead on the West Coast.
The William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation's filings with the Internal Revenue Service show that it raised more than $3 million in 1998 and estimated it would bring in $7 million this year. Like other nonprofits, the foundation will file annual updates with the IRS, but the publicly available documents don't include donor names.
"Certainly, they've raised what by any measure is a lot of money," said Solomont, who said he and his wife "are seriously considering making a commitment" to the library. "Look -- you've got two of the best fund-raisers in the history of civilization who are involved in this: Terry McAuliffe and Bill Clinton."
Although library officials say they have encountered little resistance, some major Democratic donors have so far ignored entreaties to give to the library. Some sources familiar with the fund-raising said some degree of "Clinton fatigue" is evident among givers -- either because they have been repeatedly hit up to contribute to the president's campaigns, the Democratic party and his legal defense fund, or because they remain disappointed by his behavior.
"It is not where the action is," said one Democratic source. "The guy's been elected and reelected. It's sort of 'been there, done that.' "
Staff writers Susan B. Glasser and Ianthe Jeanne Dugan contributed to this report.
© 1999 The Washington Post Company