FEBRUARY 25, 1997
A storm continues to brew around the White House with allegations that the Lincoln bedroom has been given out for overnight stays in return for campaign donations. President Clinton has denied that any such practice has been going on and that all 938 guests were friends and workers from his 1992 campaign. In face of the President's denials Congress prepares to start probing all White House fundraising activities. After this background report, Elizabeth Farnsworth talks to Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), who is heading up the House investigations as Chairman of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee and Lanny Davis, special White House counsel.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
February 25, 1997:
Elizabeth Farnsworth talks to Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), who is heading up the House investigations as Chairman of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee.
February 25, 1997:
Elizabeth Farnsworth discusses the growing DNC fundraising scandal with White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis.
November 28, 1996:
Margaret Warner discusses campaign finance reform with three members of Congress.
November 28, 1996:
The NewsHour's Kwame Holman reports on this year's efforts to reform campaign financing and how "soft money" may have been the biggest story of this election.
November 18, 1996:
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) discusses campaign finance reform and his party's role in the 105th Congress.
October 25, 1996:
Mark Shields and Paul Gigot discuss the role of money in this election year.
October 24, 1996:
Ross Perot blasts what he sees as President Clinton's corruption.
October 21, 1996:
Margaret Warner examines campaign money and its sources.
October 21, 1996:
A panel debates campaign finance reform and allegations of illegal foreign contributions and egregious misuse of lots of "soft money."
Browse the Online NewsHour's Congressional coverage.
KWAME HOLMAN: When it happened last April, Vice President Al Gore's visit to this Buddhist temple in Los Angeles barely made the news. But by the fall, the temple event was linked to Democratic fund-raising Jon Huang, and it became a symbol of the Democratic National Committee's all out effort to raise record amounts of money to re-elect the President.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: It costs so much money to pay for these campaigns that mistakes were made here by people who either did it deliberately or inadvertently. Now, others, it's up to others to decide whether those mistakes were made deliberately or inadvertently.
KWAME HOLMAN: One of the most prominent of the others looking into those mistakes is Sen. Fred Thompson, Republican from Tennessee, chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, and 25 years ago a minority counsel on the Senate Committee investigating Watergate. Sometime in the next several weeks Thompson will open his own investigation, a public examination of illegal and improper campaign activities that will focus sharply on the Democratic National Committee and the White House.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON, Chair, Governmental Affairs Community: It is of extreme importance that our investigation and our hearings be perceived by the American people as being fair and even-handed. This does not mean that we must strain to create some false balance, or that we have some sort of party quota system. It simply means letting the chips fall where they may.
KWAME HOLMAN: As for fund-raiser Jon Huang, the former Commerce Department official has refused to supply documents subpoenaed by another congressional committee, citing his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, and he isn't expected to cooperate with Thompson's investigation either. Huang had close ties to Asian-based businesses, many of which he reportedly solicited as part of his successful effort to raise $3.4 million in contributions to the Democratic National Committee. Much of that money--like the thousands raised at the Buddhist Temple--came from foreign contributors, an illegal practice. To date, the DNC has returned about $1 ½ million of such funds.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: For reasons I cannot explain or defend, our party did not check all the contributions that were given; therefore, less than 2 percent of the total had been returned either because they were not lawful, or because they raised questions, even though they were clearly lawful. But it was wrong not to check those contributions. And if your party had been doing its job, you wouldn't be hearing about all that today. That is everybody's responsibility, from me down, who didn't know about it and should have, but it will never happen again, you can rest assured.
KWAME HOLMAN: But the revelations have continued. The Justice Department now is investigating whether Chinese embassy officials in Washington were involved in an effort to funnel illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic National Committee.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Obviously, it would be a very serious matter for the United States if any country were to attempt to funnel funds to one of our political parties for any reason whatever.
KWAME HOLMAN: For the most part, President Clinton hasn't shied away from questions about the DNC's fund-raising practices. But the President, himself, participated in some of those activities, including inviting contributors to White House functions and a series of informal coffees where donors got to sit down with the President and cabinet officials.
REPORTER: Last week the White House put out a list of coffees. It showed that at one coffee that included the Comptroller of the Currency, the Secretary of the Treasury, there were people who--bankers who had contributed something like $325,000. You attended that coffee.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I can tell you categorically that no decision ever came out of any of those coffees where I or anyone else said this person's a contributor of ours, do what they ask us to do. In retrospect, since the DNC sponsored it, I do not think the Comptroller of the Currency should have been there. I agree with Mr. Ludwig. And he should have been told who was sponsoring it, and it would have been better had he not come. I agree with that.
KWAME HOLMAN: And today the President responded to new reports that he had, in fact, endorsed the idea of inviting big donors to the White House.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: They were my friends, and I was proud to have them here. And I do not believe people who lawfully raise money for people running for office are bad people. I think they're good people. They make the system work that we have now. I'm proud that they helped me, and I was proud to have them here. I did not have any strangers here. The Lincoln Bedroom was never sold. That was one more false story we have had to endure. And the facts will show what the truth is. Thank you very much.
KWAME HOLMAN: But questions remains such as how DNC officials got access to a White House database, why they used it to search for potential donors, and why, in general, there seemed to be a blurring of the lines between presidential business and party fund-raising. In a year in which the President hopes to push for campaign finance reform law, the fund-raising of his own campaign may overshadow everything else.