09/21/97 - 10:43 PM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Tamraz: Donation was a 'good investment'

Millionaire Roger Tamraz speaks to reporters after appearing on ABC's 'This Week.'
WASHINGTON - Millionaire oilman Roger Tamraz paid $300,000 to eat popcorn with President Clinton, and he insisted Sunday that it was worth it in terms of raising his status with his oil industry peers.

"It was a good investment," Tamraz said on ABC's This Week. "If it allows you to be in the club of the big boys, it's fine."

In testimony before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee last week, the oilman and international fugitive said his donation to the Democratic Party gained him entry to the White House over the objections of Clinton's national-security aides.

The Caspian Sea pipeline project he was promoting was never built, but the Lebanese-born businessman insisted that the important thing was getting his foot in the door.

"Do you know that in Japanese golf companies you pay $400,000 just to become a member of the golf (club) so that you bump into the Toyota chairman and the Sony chairman? It doesn't mean they'll play with you, but you're there," he said.

Tamraz spoke of two brief encounters with Clinton at the White House, at a March 1996 dinner in which he asked the president to support his project, and in June that year when he spent three hours at the White House.

"There was swimming, there was tennis, there was barbecue, there was the movies. We didn't need to talk about the project because I did not have to."

Asked the purpose of attending that social event, Tamraz replied: "Who refuses to go to the White House and to sit with the most powerful man in the world and to eat popcorn and to see him relax and to know he doesn't come from the divine right of kings?"

"There are other pleasures to going to the White House," he said. "One of them is to put my peers into their place, so they know that we have an even field."

By The Associated Press

Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.