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More Questions About Democratic Fund-Raising

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By Carl Rochelle/CNN

NEW YORK (AllPolitics, March 1) -- The Clinton family braved foul weather for a weekend getaway from the continuing controversy over Democratic fund-raising irregularities.

But amid the celebration of daughter Chelsea's 17th birthday, questions about the president's role in fund-raising efforts persisted.

McAuliffe

President Clinton's chief campaign fund-raiser tried to limit the damage, saying he was the one who suggested the president meet with potential contributors.

"I didn't care if we had the meeting at McDonald's. It didn't matter to me," former Clinton finance chairman Terry McAuliffe said on CNN's "Inside Politics Weekend."

"What mattered to me is that I could get supporters in front of the candidate, the president."

Craig

Republicans say they're convinced it all goes deeper than that, as more lawmakers of both parties insist Attorney General Janet Reno appoint an independent counsel to get answers.

"She is at this moment trying to duck it," said Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho). "She is saying she needs to wait for evidence to mount. Evidence as high as it is currently mounted would have plunged any administration, up to this one, into an independent investigation by the Justice Department."

A former Dole campaign official considers the most serious allegation, if true, to be that of the Chinese government funneling money to the Democratic Party.

Lighthizer

"If it is, it goes to the very heart of our democracy," former Dole adviser Robert Lighthizer said on CNN's "Inside Politics Weekend."

"It is a very, very fundamental question and, I think, probably far more important than all the other things that we're looking at in this administration."

More questions will come from several thousand pages of documents turned over to a House committee by former deputy White House chief of staff Harold Ickes. The papers are expected to be made public soon, including one DNC proposal that called for perks, such as Air Force One rides for donors, in an effort to raise $40 million.

A new CNN-TIME magazine poll shows a majority call the president's fund-raising activities unethical but not illegal, and believe the president is not committed to campaign finance reform.

But there's also some good news for the president. His approval ratings have not suffered from the ongoing controversy.


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