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White House: Stock Manipulator 'Not Appropriate' Guest For Presidential Chat

Clinton

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 1) -- The White House conceded Saturday it was inappropriate for a New Jersey stock promoter convicted of fraud to be invited to sip coffee with the president.

Eric Wynn bilked millions from investors and had already served two years in prison when he sat down for coffee at the White House with President Clinton and seven other guests in September 1995, The Washington Post reported Saturday. He served his time after a 1989 guilty plea on theft and tax charges.

Moreover, his fraud scheme may have benefited an alleged Mafia associate. Citing court records, the Post said the New Jersey promoter ran a stock-manipulation scheme and had set up an account for a member of the Bonanno organized-crime family.

White House officials now say the meeting never should have taken place. "Mr. Wynn was not an appropriate person to be included at a White House event such as this," White House Special Associate Counsel Lanny Davis said in a statement issued Saturday.

"Regarding the future, as the president has indicated, he believes previous procedures used to vet guests at the White House were lax. He has instructed his staff to implement improved standards. Some of these changes have already been put into place. The evaluation of additional standards is ongoing."

White House embarrassed

The White House has been embarrassed by disclosures that guests at functions over the past four years have included a convicted drug dealer and the head of a Chinese arms company now under investigation by U.S. authorities.

Questions have arisen about Clinton's White House coffee chats with wealthy people, many of whom later contributed large sums to the Democrats -- a reported total of $27 million.

Clinton has insisted no laws were broken in the way Democrats attracted donors. But there have been so many questions raised that Republicans in Congress are promising oversight hearings and want Clinton to appoint an independent counsel to investigate.

Was guest seeking a pardon?

The meeting with Wynn raises additional questions of impropriety. An associate of Wynn's, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wynn is trying to win a pardon for his July 21, 1995, stock manipulation conviction.

"Eric will do anything to stay out of jail," the source told the Post. The Justice Department said no formal request for pardon was on record.

Fowler

Don Fowler, chairman of the Democratic Party at the time of the meeting, told CNN: "We did not accept any contributions in exchange for any kind of benefit or any kind of advantage to the contributors."

It was not immediately clear who issued the invitation to Wynn. White House and Democratic Party officials said they could not comment on the matter until they collected more information.

Wynn, who is in his late 30s, is not listed on federal reports as donating money directly to the Democrats, but sources told the Post that he has attended several Clinton or Democratic National Committee fund-raising events.

Wynn was invited into Democratic fund-raising circles by Richard T. Mays, an Arkansas lawyer who served as a Clinton appointee on the Arkansas Supreme Court in the early 1980s, sources told the Post.

Among those who joined Wynn, Clinton and the other invited guests for coffee were a number of senior White House and party officials, including Erskine Bowles, then deputy chief of staff, Thomas McLarty, the former chief of staff, and DNC co-chairman Donald Fowler.


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