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Democratic Fund-Raising Flap


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White House Had Strategy To Increase Minority Giving

By Brooks Jackson/CNN money

WASHINGTON (Jan. 24) -- It wasn't just Asian Americans. A pile of newly released documents show that Bill Clinton's White House also targeted Jews, blacks, Hispanics and even Greek, Arab and Irish Americans for what it called "outreach."

The White House insists it honored the letter of the laws that prohibit fund-raising on federal property or politicking on government time. But the documents show that the White House itself was used to a remarkable extent for political purposes, wooing votes and money.

More than 100 political coffees sponsored by the Democratic Party or the Clinton campaign were held, mostly at the White House, with a few at the Old Executive Office Building and the official residence of the vice president. Many were to thank big political donors.

President Clinton himself attended 71 of the coffees, as many as four a week. Vice President Al Gore was more deeply involved than previously known, presiding at 23 political coffees. His wife Tipper presided at five, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at four.

Among the documents is a White House memo ordering formation of so-called constituency groups to help Clinton's re-election, written in January 1996 by top Clinton aide Harold Ickes.

The Asian constituency group, headed by White House aide Doris Matsui, produced a report stating "the overall fund-raising goal for the Asian Pacific American community is $7 million by November."

An African-American constituency group was headed by Alexis Herman, now nominated to be secretary of labor. Its report noted that when it comes to political fund-raising "the black community has never given to its financial potential." It laid out plans to invite black donors to White House affairs.

The goal of the Jewish group was "to mobilize electoral and financial support for the party."

The ethnic constituency plan said the party was conducting "significant fund-raising activities by ... Italian-American, Irish-American, Greek-American and Arab-American communities." It listed target groups from Armenian-Americans to Ukranian-Americans.

The White House says that government employees who drew up these plans did so on their own time, at home, and didn't use government computers. And they say nobody asked for money during those White House coffees, so no laws were broken.

But one item that will surely interest investigators was a political coffee at the White House last May with more than a dozen executives of the nation's biggest banks. It was sponsored by the Democratic National Committee, and attended by the president, the secretary of the treasury and the comptroller of the currency, which is the federal government's top regulator of banks.

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