The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 8, 1997 · Page 8
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 8

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Wednesday, October 8, 1997
Page 8
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A8 WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 8, 1997 CAMPAIGN FINANCE THE SALINA JOURNAL Senator accuses Clinton of stalling investigation 3V ir- 21 ".-A oj 170 111 -T Former White House aide says Clinton's campaign violated no laws in its fund-raising efforts By LARRY MARGASAK The Associated Press WASHINGTON — Fuming over delays in producing evidence, the Senate's chief fundraising investigator Tuesday accused President Clinton of "trying to run out the clock" on the investigation. A former presidential deputy unabashedly defended using the White House to raise Democratic money. "We played by the rules," former White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes told senators, capping a day of dramatic political combat in the Senate hearing room. And, while Republican senators lashed at the White House for failing to turn over videotapes of controversial fund-raising events until last weekend, the Justice Department asked White House lawyer Lanny Breuer to appear before a federal grand jury today to explain the delay of several months. Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee that is investigating fund-raising abuses, cited the videotapes as he accused the White House of "a clear pattern of delay, foot-dragging, concealing." Thompson urged Clinton to "step up to the plate" and force the help of his supporters who have refused testimony and to join the Republicans' push for appointment of a special prosecutor. "People leave the country, documents are destroyed, defenses are gotten together on, and evidence gets cold," he said. Ickes, the architect of Clinton's 1996 fundraising efforts, waited most of the day to testify as senators expressed their outrage and argued with each other at length, then took a long recess for votes on the Senate floor on campaign-finance legislation. When he finally got his opportunity, the former deputy chief of staff declared "I have no regret" and flashed his trademark acerbic wit. He made a point-by-point defense of the Democrats' much maligned fund-raising efforts, from coffees and sleepovers for donors to Clinton's and Vice President Al Gore's fund-raising phone calls inside the White House. "It simply is not illegal or untoward for a president or vice president to grant access to supporters, no more than it is illegal for a senator or other member of Congress to grant access to their supporters," he said. In fact, Ickes said, the "Clinton White House merely followed well-established Republican precedent" in using White House events to reward and encourage donors. He even.cited "no less an authority" than comedian Jay Leno to argue that it would be unpractical to expect Clinton to leave the White House to make fund-raising calls — solicitations that Ickes remembers but the president does not. "What's he supposed to do, go to the pay phone at the Seven-Eleven?" Ickes said, quoting a Leno monologue. The Associated Press Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., calls Tuesday on President Clinton to back a special prosecutor to look Into fund-raising activities. Although Ickes was eased out of his White House staff position earlier this year, he defended all the Clinton-Gore fund raising as legal and maintained the hearings were designed "to tarnish the Democratic Party in general, and President Clinton, and more pointedly. Vice President Gore." Returning to a focus on fund-raising abuses after weeks of scholarly witnesses, Republicans on the committee came prepared for combat. Campaign-finance bill hits snags during two test votes in Senate By The Associated Press WASHINGTON — In an atmosphere of partisan finger-pointing, the Senate deadlocked Tuesday on legislation to overhaul the nation's expensive and scandal- tinged system for financing political campaigns. The blockade left the measure perilously close to defeat for the year. Attacking Democrats for promoting "phony reform," Majority Leader Trent Lott swiftly maneuvered to shelve the bill after a pair of test votes left it in limbo. That sparked a swift, angry retort from Democrats, who accused the Mississippi Republican of attempting to kill legitimate reform legislation by adding a "poison pill" in the form of an anti-union provision — and then denying anyone else the right to propose amendments. "We're being gagged by the majority," said Senate Democratic whip Wendell Ford of Kentucky. "They don't want us to vote." The exchange occurred after lawmakers voted to uphold twin filibusters blocking progress on the legislation, one mounted by De- mocrats against Lett's union provision, and the other maintained by Republicans against the campaign finance legislation itself. .,''.» The bill, backed by Sens/, John McCain, R-Ariz., and RussellJPein- gold, D-Wis., would prohibit '{soft money," or unlimited, unregulated donations from unions, corporations and others, to the two parties for use in federal elections, tt<«dso would impose new restrictions, on outside groups that mount costly, independent advertising-Campaigns within 60 days of an election, provide incentives for politicians to hold down their personal contributions to their own campaigns) iand provide for new disclosure requirements on campaign donors, vi? The measure also woul4;iive nonunion members the ability to block unions from using-payments in lieu of dues for political purposes. ' "»'> But it contains no such provision for union members, and Lett's proposal would allow them to.deny their unions the right to spend dues money on political activity. Whatever the final outcome on the bill — more test votes aye. set for later this week — the day's tumultuous developments marked the first time since last year'Sj.eJec- tions that either house has cast votes on the issue. -v. 3)1 ir- Reno points out polities' secret Money always has i bought access to White House and Congress By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN The Associated Press WASHINGTON — Attorney General Janet Reno has bluntly outlined a dirty little secret of American politics: It's legal for politicians to sell access for contributions. • • That's a fact virtually every vo politician knows and no politician wants to talk about. It underlies the furor over President Clinton's entertaining of fat-cat contributors in the Lincoln Bedroom and at White House-coffees. As Reno explained in a letter to House Ju- Analysis RENO an diciary Committee Chairman ; E I Henry Hyde, R-I1L, American law ni and courts do not regard access — 3 < the chance to see and talk to a •v^ politician — the same way they do !j: ; a job offer, a government contract d rt or a policy decision. And legal experts have a grim 2S legal assessment for those who ••t.j might wish to outlaw access-for<3 f) donations: Such a ,law would vie- on late the Constitution. dfl; "Reno's absolutely right on the y, law," said Joseph DiGenova, a Republican and former U.S. attor- v;d ne y- "You can't prohibit linking -dj money and access without run- 3f \ ning afoul of the First Amend- 11, ment. People have a right to peti- .1 tion government. But given the .Supreme Court's ruling on the lob«. bying act, you could require pub*• lie disclosure of such meetings." ; "A law to require disclosing these meetings by the president probably would be constitutional," said law professor Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of Southern California, noting the high court has upheld disclosure of campaign donations. "But you I can't ban the meetings, because | the president has the right to talk | to anyone he wants, including •, givers of a lot of money. That's his J constitutional right of free speech J and association, as well as theirs." Hyde and 19 Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee wrote Reno on Sept. 3 about newspaper accounts of 103 White House coffees during 1995 and 1996 and Clinton's 938 overnight guests in the White House. "You can't prohibit linking money and access without running afoul of the First Amendment." Joseph DiGenova former U.S. attorney Hyde noted that many guests were large contributors and that newspapers reported some benefited from government action. Hyde suggested there may have been bribery, extortion or election law violations "if the president knew about a quid pro quo." But Reno replied Friday that Justice investigators "are aware of no evidence whatsoever indicating, that the president may have demanded, sought, received or accepted ... these donations or contributions in quid pro quo exchange for official action." The GOP letter "cites no more than speculation in 'newspaper articles," Reno wrote. And in the absence of actual evidence, "it would be inappropriate to commence a criminal investigation every time an elected official took action that benefited any contributor." Given the reach of modern government and the number of contributors, every governmental act benefits some contributor. Unless evidence of a deal^is required, every government move would have to be investigated. U.S. courts have held that "mere access to the president or the White House, purportedly obtained by virtue of political donations ... is not an 'official act' that can provide a basis for a bribery or extortion prosecution," she wrote. The same applies to senators and representatives who meet contributors. Election law, Reno said, "provides criminal penalties only for promising 'any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit provided ... by any Act of Congress' in exchange for political activity." "Visiting the president in the White House is hot a federal program 'benefit' " under this law, she wrote. Reno's task force continues to examine these episodes. She promises to invoke the independent counsel law if evidence emerges against Clinton or Vice President Al Gore, as she has in the case of their telephone calls. 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