09/30/97 - 01:05 AM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Senate panel likely to call Ickes

WASHINGTON - Former presidential aide Harold Ickes is likely to be called to testify at Senate hearings next week about the White House role in fund raising for President Clinton's re-election effort, Senate sources said Monday.

Ickes, Clinton's top political adviser on the White House staff who oversaw the Democratic National Committee's fund raising, will be questioned about a wide range of campaign activities, said Senate sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The decision to call Ickes as a public witness comes as the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee shifts its focus away from allegedly improper coordination third-party interest groups and political candidates.

Last week, the panel heard testimony from election-law experts and others about abuses of the current campaign-finance system, particularly the flow of "soft money" that proponents of reform want to ban.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale and ex-Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, R-Kan., named by Clinton to study proposals to change the campaign-finance law, are scheduled to testify Tuesday.

Interest groups such as the AFL-CIO and the Christian Coalition have resisted turning over documents about their political activities in response to committee subpoenas. The groups' resistance, on the ground their First Amendment rights are being violated, figured in the decision to shift hearings back to campaign operatives such as Ickes, sources said.

The committee is also putting a high priority on examining an alleged scheme to divert Teamster union money to the re-election effort of Teamster President Ron Carey, Senate sources said.

Carey's former campaign manager and two others pleaded guilty in New York Sept. 18 to charges they participated in the illegal scheme, implicating the DNC and the AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer, Richard Trumka.

Trumka and two other top AFL-CIO officials have been subpoenaed to give sworn testimony in depositions and could be called later as public witnesses, sources said.

Ickes, who took extensive notes and wrote a stream of political memos to Clinton and Vice President Al Gore about campaign fund raising, provided investigators with a mountain of documents after he left the White House staff.

He is likely to be asked about the DNC's use of the White House to entertain big donors at coffees and dinners where contributors could meet Clinton. He also could face questions about any fund-raising coordination between the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Party.

Ickes told investigators that Clinton telephoned "a very small number" of donors in 1994 from the residential quarters in the White House to solicit money.

Those phone calls and 46 by Gore are the subjects of Justice Department reviews to determine whether an independent counsel should be appointed to investigate whether Clinton and Gore broke a law barring solicitation of contributions on government property.

Attorney General Janet Reno is to decide Friday whether to expand the Gore review into a 90-day preliminary inquiry.

By The Associated Press

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