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Democrats Will Return Another $1.5 Million

Romer defends 'perks' for donors, but decries 'orgasm of righteousness' from GOP


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 28) -- The Democratic Party says it will return another $1.5 million in improper or questionable contributions it received from 77 donors during the 1996 election cycle. Gov. Roy Romer, the party's general chairman, called it "a serious amount," but "a small percentage of the overall amount raised."

An audit conducted by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) turned up the additional improper contributions. That makes about $3 million in problem donations the party has had to return. Much of the money discussed today was brought in by former DNC fund-raiser John Huang.

"Contributions were returned a) if they did not meet legal requirements, b) if the lack of information made a determination of legality impossible, or c) if it was deemed inappropriate for the DNC to retain the contribution," said Judah Best, a senior partner in a law firm the DNC hired to conduct the audit.

Romer said he had not had time to fully evaluate a memo that CNN obtained earlier in the day that suggested some controversial ways the White House could assist in Democratic fund-raising.

But he defended the thrust of the April 1994 note, which was to offer presidential "face time" to big contributors. Romer drew a distinction between what he termed "perks" and "policy" as rewards. He said that Democrats had only offered the former, while Republicans had offered the latter.

A reporter noted the Republican view that the rules are not the problem, but that Democrats broke the rules. Romer called that an "orgasm of righteousness" from the GOP, and rattled off a long list of incidents in which he said Republicans had traded policy for campaign money.


"I'd rather have us keep our support base by giving somebody a perk, rather than change in policy," said Romer. "I think we still need to discuss what is appropriate, and what is not appropriate. But one thing is fundamental, and that is: You never, ever put a price tag on a perk, and you do not solicit on public property."

Romer and Steve Grossman, the party's national chairman, refused to slam such individual fund-raisers as Huang, instead blaming the party's problems on breakdowns in the party's internal processes, and on the political system that forced the party to raise as much as it did.

Romer said the sheer amount of money that politicians need to raise requires them to give major donors more attention. "If you are a president that has to raise fifty or a hundred million dollars in order to win that election, you would be a fool not to allocate your time to go where you can get the job done," he said.

But, he added in his next breath, "I'm still saying you should not price people in and out of the White House. You ought to have a wide variety of people in there and talking to him at coffees."

"If you're going to force modern American politicians to do the thing that they're now being asked to do -- to raise that amount of money -- you've got give them some slack."

Romer and Grossman released a new fund-raising policy they said the DNC would adopt unilaterally. Among the highlights:

  • The party will not ask for contributions in exchange for invitations to White House events.
  • DNC staff will not suggest to donors that their gift would result in a change in government policy.
  • No party functions will be held in any government buildings, except for the "executive residence," the White House. It may be used to entertain supporters of the president and the party.
  • Only those who are eligible to give money will be invited to DNC events, and those invited will be screened to make sure they are indeed eligible to give.

Several of the actions are ones the party says it has never condoned, and would be illegal.

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