October 24, 1997
Records Show Clinton Called Donors From White House
Nonprofits Were Quiet Partners of Both Parties in Last Election Senate Deadlocked on Campaign Finance Coverage of the Political Fund-Raising Debate
Join a discussion on White House Fund-Raising
By JOHN H. CUSHMAN Jr.
ASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration has turned over to federal investigators telephone records showing that President Clinton made telephone calls about campaign fund raising from the White House, including one from the Oval Office and others from his residence, White House officials said Thursday.
The telephone records were delivered to Justice Department investigators who are looking into possible violations of campaign-finance laws, and a letter describing the records was sent to the Senate committee investigating campaign-finance abuses, the officials said.
Republicans and Justice Department officials have been at odds over whether fund-raising calls made from various parts of the White House violate federal laws.
Lanny Davis, the White House special counsel, said the phone calls in 1994 and 1995 "were completely legal and appropriate, and consistent with what we have previously stated." In the past, Clinton has said that he might have made campaign-finance calls from the White House, but that he could not remember.
Davis said the Oval Office call was "a thank-you call" to a campaign fund-raising committee in New York. The other calls were made from telephones in the residence areas of the White House and went to potential donors, he said.
The news that telephone records of White House phone calls to fund-raisers and donors have surfaced is likely to roil members of the Senate committee, whose chairman, Sen. Fred Thompson, spent part of Thursday criticizing the White House for its delay in producing videotapes of coffees with wealthy donors at the White House.
Thompson also announced Thursday that the hearings in the next few weeks would include high-profile witnesses. He said Thursday that he intended to call Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to answer questions about how a controversial Indian casino project was handled by the Interior Department.
And Bob Dole, the Republican presidential candidate, wrote a letter to the panel stating that he would appear to answer questions about GOP advertising in the 1996 campaign. The financing of "issue advertisements" by the Democratic and Republican parties during the 1996 campaign has been a hot topic at the committee all week.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Janet Reno expanded a preliminary inquiry into President Clinton's fund-raising activities to determine whether any possible telephone solicitations violated federal laws. She also has under way a similar investigation of Vice President Al Gore's telephone calls. In both cases, the investigations could lead to appointments of an independent counsel, a move that Republicans have long urged her to seek.
The White House has argued that such calls are not illegal, no matter where in the executive mansion and its offices they originate, but some critics have said that laws prohibiting fund raising in federal offices make any such calls improper.
The law at issue is the century-old Pendleton Act, which restricts solicitation by government officials on federal property and was aimed at curbing shakedowns of civil servants by their superiors.
Reno has said the law has limited application. In letters to Congress, she has said that a violation would occur only if there is a solicitation in official working space and if the resulting contribution is applied directly to efforts to re-elect the president.
In the call from the Oval Office, a memo shows Clinton had been asked to call a group of New York fund-raisers in October 1995 to "ask for their help" and thank them for organizing a major fund-raiser for his re-election campaign.
"New York has the potential to raise more money than any other city in this country, and the hard work of the co-chairs for the next six days is critical to achieving that," Clinton-Gore fund-raiser Terence McAuliffe wrote in an Oct. 30, 1995, memo stamped "the president has seen."
The memo stated the call's purpose was to "thank the New York co-chairs for their efforts and ask for their help in the final six days."
Davis said that the new information about the phone records was uncovered early this month when the Justice Department asked the White House to check whether any of a list of specific phone numbers had been called from White House telephones during the campaign.
The numbers were those of six individuals listed as potential donors by the campaign's staff.
Davis said that the Senate committee had never asked for the telephone records documenting the calls, nor had it asked for the White House to check whether these specific numbers had been called.
The documents were provided to the Justice Department on Oct. 6 and the committee was told about them two days ago, he said.
The Oct. 31, 1995, call from the Oval Office was to participants in a meeting of the co-chairs of the New York Clinton-Gore campaign-finance committee, he said. He described it as a "brief" call.
At the Senate committee investigating campaign finance, representatives from the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by the military that made the coffee tapes in question, said the tapes had not been found earlier because a page in a fax requesting information about the coffees had been lost.
Democrats also continued to point to a statement that Dole made last year about how the Republican Party was paying for television advertisements supporting his candidacy. Speaking by satellite in June 1996 to a meeting of ABC affiliate stations, Dole referred to a party-sponsored biographical advertisement and said, "It never says that I'm running for president, though I hope that it's fairly obvious, since I'm the only one in the picture."