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Ickes' Role In Donations Questioned

By Bob Franken/CNN


WASHINGTON (Feb. 3) -- Harold Ickes, the former White House deputy chief of staff, is facing questions about how he handled an offer of political contributions while on the White House staff.

CNN has obtained a copy of a memorandum from Ickes to R. Warren Meddoff, a representative of a major Democratic donor. The memo directs how the donor could make large contributions so he could get the "favorable tax treatment" he wanted.

The memorandum, faxed from the White House chief of staff's office, begins by saying, "If possible, it would be greatly appreciated if the following amounts can be wired to the designated banks."

The memo goes on to specify more than $1 million, with $500,000 sent to three get-out-the-vote organizations, including two that had the same tax-exempt status as groups involved in House Speaker Newt Gingrich's ethics case.

Another $500,000 was requested for the Democratic National Committee.


Ickes has not returned repeated phone calls. But at the White House, Press Secretary Michael McCurry addressed questions about whether Ickes had violated the law against government officials raising campaign funds.

"Based upon our understanding of the facts, Mr. Ickes' identification of entities does not constitute a solicitation in violation of the Hatch Act," McCurry said. "Rather, it is a response to Mr. Meddoff's request for organizations to which he could make substantial contributions."

Meddoff was present at a Miami fund-raiser attended by President Bill Clinton in October. He was representing a Texas financial speculator, William Morgan, who wanted to donate $5 million to help the Democrats.

Morgan told CNN he holds hundreds of millions in defaulted, unpaid historical bonds, including some from pre-World War II Germany.

While Meddoff was unavailable for comment, Morgan said the offer was the outgrowth of a proposition from unnamed Democrats that Meddoff told him about a couple of years earlier as he sought help in getting money for the bonds.

"It is my understanding that it boiled down to a simple, 'If we help you with the Germans, what will you do for us?' and a commitment was made by one of my associates for $5 million," Morgan said.

But the money never changed hands. Former party chairman Don Fowler was concerned the whole thing might be a Republican set-up.

Ickes asked that his memo be "shredded," according to a report in Newsweek. Ickes said he doesn't recall that, and a GOP source said the Democrats, who are under fire for a series of questionable fund-raising efforts, didn't need to be set up.

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