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Fowler Defends Democratic Fund-Raising

By Bob Franken/CNN

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WASHINGTON (Nov. 12) -- Don Fowler, the co-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, held a long-awaited news conference today during which he accepted full responsibility for the recent flap over Democratic fund-raising. But when it came to answering questions about the campaign money, often his answer was "I don't know."

He didn't know, for example which specific contributions were still being investigated and how much they would involve; didn't know much money was involved altogether; didn't know who had raised what; didn't know why John Huang, the central figure in the imbroglio, had made so many visits to the White House.

Here's what he said he did know:

"Never has there been any desire, plan or intent to evade requirements of applicable laws and regulations," Fowler said. "In fact, we have tried to comply strictly with all relevant requirements.


"Second, our difficulties -- mistakes if you will -- resulted from a very large volume of donations," he continued. "During 1996 alone we will raise approximately $120 million, involving about one million donations. Our system failed to identify ten checks that were improperly received and cashed, as of this date. In each case we refunded the money to the donors when we became aware of the error." (192K WAV sound)

Fowler announced complex new procedures designed to avoid the same kind of mistakes in the future, and said he did not know why these safeguards had been cut back during a period before he became chairman.

As for the charge this all happened because the Democratic National Committee was willing to cut corners because they were desperate to keep up with Republican fund-raising, Fowler insisted it just wasn't so.

"Certainly we felt like that we had to raise a lot of money," Fowler said. "That pressure was no more intense than it normally is in a campaign. So yeah, there was none of that, I mean there was no pressure to cut corners or to do things that were improper to raise money. Absolutely not. Period. Zero. Nothing." (128K WAV sound)

Fowler says he did talk with the President Bill Clinton and says Clinton told him to do the right thing and to take care of the matter. He also disclosed that the Democratic National Committee's general counsel has issued a memo ordering that relevant documents be preserved since there are investigations underway.

Asked by a reporter whether this had hurt the Democrats during the election, Fowler had the obvious answer: "It didn't help," he said.

This story originally appeared on CNN's "Inside Politics."

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