07/10/97 - 10:24 AM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Sullivan, Senator clash over coffees

In one of the more intriguing exchanges Wednesday, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., questioned Richard Sullivan about 103 White House coffees. People who attended the coffees ultimately contributed $27 million to the Democratic Party. Sullivan said they were not fund-raising events. Domenici said they were. Excerpts:

Domenici: So they were really fund-raisers, weren't they?

Sullivan: Senator, the coffees helped us with our fund-raising. I was the fund-raising director. But they were not fund-raisers.

Domenici: They were not fund-raisers as you see it, at least as you testify here?

Sullivan: That's correct.

Domenici: In spite of the fact that the DNC called them fund-raising dates, in spite of the fact that the memo from various of the hierarchy - from you - says fund-raising dates. They weren't fund-raisers?

Sullivan: That's correct. . . . The coffees were a tool in helping us motivate and energize the people that we needed to motivate and energize to help us raise $130 million that we wanted to raise in 1995 and 1996.

Domenici: You made a distinction based upon tickets - ticket prices. Events held at a hotel. And then you said, "We didn't really expect these coffees to raise money." Is that correct?

Sullivan: Senator, I expected the coffees to help us raise money. That's why we had them. . . . The coffees were very helpful to our overall fund-raising goals.

Domenici: . . . Normally, I'd love to hear you ramble on. I think it's great. But let me just stop you for a minute. . . .

Sullivan: It was part of an overall plan to get to the $130 million goal that we wanted to get to. . . .

Domenici: Now for the first time since you've been here, I really believe you are spewing words calculated to confuse the issue. . . . My question to you is did these coffees yield campaign contributions or not?

Sullivan: They yielded campaign contributions over the course of 1996.

Domenici: . . . If it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck, it is a duck. Now, frankly, there is no doubt in my mind the White House coffees were fund-raisers. And you can explain it any way you want, but . . . that's precisely what they were.