WASHINGTON - For more than a year, the White House kept documents from Congress that said President Clinton wanted a computer database built with federal money to include his contributors and be "integrated" with the Democratic Party.
The documents produced this week also include typed notes from a high-level White House meeting suggesting some aides did not think putting donor information in a government database was appropriate.
"Why do we need this info in our internal management system? Would it not be more appropriate at the DNC or Re-Elect? (Our recommendation)," the notes state. "DNC" is for Democratic National Committee.
White House officials say those notes were written by one of the aides who helped build the database. They say that even though donor names were put in the database, built with at least $600,000 in federal money, it was never misused.
"In fact, it was used the way that every White House used lists of names and computer lists to organize accurate lists of people who the White House wanted to invite to official and social events," White House spokesman Barry Toiv said Thursday.
But the chairman of the House subcommittee that has investigated the issue angrily accused the White House of obstructing justice by withholding the documents for more than a year after they were discovered.
During that time, the committee interviewed many witnesses while unaware of the documents. The committee first requested all relevant documents from the White House in August 1996.
"It is startling new evidence about the level of involvement in the White House in regard to this database," Rep. David McIntosh, R-Ind., said. "And it appears that somebody in the White House counsel's office last year, before the election, made the decision to obstruct justice and conceal evidence."
McIntosh's House Government Reform and Oversight investigative subcommittee has been looking into whether the White House database created in 1994 was misused or improperly designed for political purposes.
Federal law generally prohibits the use of federal funds for political purposes.
White House counsel Charles Ruff turned over the latest documents on Tuesday to McIntosh's subcommittee. Ruff said that they had been located in September 1996 and turned over to his office but that a lawyer there concluded the papers "were not responsive" to the committee's investigation.
The White House has previously acknowledged that contributor records were included in the database and that at one point aides considered sharing data with the Democratic National Committee. The White House says the latter was never carried out.
The newly disclosed documents are the first to come to light suggesting the president encouraged sharing data from the project with the party.
"Harold and Deborah DeLee want to make sure WhoDB is integrated w/DNC database - so we can share. Evidently POTUS wants this to! (Makes Sense)," White House aide Brian Bailey wrote in 1994 notes.
"Harold" is then-deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes. "POTUS" is for president of the United States. Bailey, an assistant to Erskine Bowles, then another deputy, was involved in creating the database, officials said.
Officials said Bailey or one of the other aides building the database is believed to be the author of typed, undated notes in preparation for a spring 1994 meeting with Ickes and Bowles, who is now Clinton's chief of staff.
Those notes state that President and Mrs. Clinton were behind the idea to include 1992 campaign contributor records in the database.
"Primarily direct mail contributors ($25+) from the '92 campaign. POTUS and FLOTUS have expressed interest in having these names in the database," the notes say.
The notes warn that the process of adding the contributor names "could be very time consuming" and also question whether this should be part of a government project.
Toiv said any concern that it was improper to put donor records in the database was misguided, that "every White House prior to this one would have maintained those kinds of lists."
The database documents are the latest in a string of belated disclosures of key evidence in the many congressional investigations surrounding the Clinton White House. Last month, the White House turned over videotapes of Clinton attending donor events to the Senate and House fund-raising investigators.
By The Associated Press
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