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Democratic Party Paid White House 'Volunteers'

By Wolf Blitzer/CNN

clinton

WASHINGTON (Feb. 20) -- The White House says about 20 employees working full-time at the White House at various points during the past four years were actually on the payroll of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Expressing concern, President Bill Clinton has ordered that the practice be reviewed.

White House press secretary Mike McCurry told reporters, "Both the president and the vice president had some questions about whether it would be suitable to have certain types of people doing certain types of functions here."

herman

McCurry says there are currently four such DNC-paid employees -- two working for Vice President Al Gore, one in the president's scheduling office and one in the Office of Public Liaison, which was formerly headed by the president's embattled Labor Secretary-nominee, Alexis Herman.

The White House calls them volunteers. But at least one of them has had access to sensitive information in the White House office database, the taxpayer-funded computerized list of outsiders who have had meetings with the president, the first lady, the vice president and senior staff.

mcintosh

Rep. David McIntosh (R-Ind.), in a letter to White House Counsel Charles Ruff, says allowing these "volunteers" access to the database "is deeply troubling and extremely serious." The operation, he adds, was "inappropriate and perhaps illegal."

The White House says the volunteers are bound by the same confidentiality rules as regular White House officials and defends the policy on the basis of a 1987 Justice Department legal opinion requested during the Reagan Administration.

But senior Reagan and Bush aides deny Republican party employees ever worked in their White House.

gray

President George Bush's White House counsel, Boyden Gray, said, "It does begin to mix government and politics in a way that we tried to keep separate as much as possible."

Officials say the policy resulted from Clinton's 1992 campaign pledge to cut the White House staff by 25 percent, a pledge that meant the Clinton Administration simply didn't have the budget to pay their salaries. So they asked the DNC to pick up the tab.


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