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New Fuel For The Fund-Raising Fire

Fowler's actions questioned, Gore announces reform "crusade", McCurry responds to Hatch

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 17) -- Following a brief timeout for President Bill Clinton's knee surgery, Washington has quickly returned its attention to its favorite subject: campaign fund-raising.

New questions emerged about the fund-raising practices of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and former DNC Chairman Don Fowler, while the White House announced a committee that will make the case for campaign finance reform.

The Senate is also slated to resume its debate on a non-binding resolution calling for an independent counsel to investigate Democratic fund-raising.

Fowler's actions questioned


The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that in 1995, Fowler tried to persuade the National Security Council (NSC) to overturn a recommendation that a controversial Democratic donor not be allowed to attend White House meetings.

International oil financier Roger Tamraz, whose company donated at least $177,000 to the Democratic Party, was reportedly allowed access to the White House four more times, despite the NSC recommendation.

The Journal story quoted administration officials who say that in his lobbying efforts, Fowler probably went as far as to arrange for a classified CIA report on Tamraz to be sent to the NSC.

Congressional investigators say Fowler's actions raise questions about national security and it could jeopardize the nomination of ex-national security advisor Anthony Lake to become the CIA director.

Gore announces reform 'crusade'


Meanwhile, Vice President Al Gore pinch-hit for a recuperating Clinton this morning to announce the formation of a committee to lead a "crusade" to educate the public about the need for campaign finance reform.

The committee will be headed by Walter Mondale, the former vice president and ambassador to Japan, and former Kansas Sen. Nancy Kassebaum-Baker. He's a Democrat and she's a Republican.


"In his State of the Union address, the president challenged Congress to pass bipartisan campaign finance reform by July 4," the vice president told an audience of reform supporters. "Let us make the next four months a time of education and action to redeem the promise of self-government."

Gore said, "If we don't act quickly, and if we don't act in a truly bipartisan fashion, reform will fail this year as it has year in and year out."

Warning that the road to reform will not be easy, Kassebaum-Baker denied GOP charges that the White House was simply trying to deflect attention away from their own fund-raising troubles.


"The public education effort for campaign finance reform that Ambassador Mondale and I were asked to lead should not be viewed as a diversion to the story of excessive money in the 1996 election," Kassebaum-Baker said.

Both Kassebaum-Baker and Mondale expressed their support for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill.

The sponsors of that bill, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), and Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), who have introduced similar legislation in the House, sent a letter to the president expressing their support for the committee.

McCurry responds to Hatch


The White House has also had to address Republican charges that it was aware of Chinese government plans to influence U.S. elections through campaign contributions.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, "They [the White House] knew that the Chinese government was going to come into this country and attempt to purchase influence."

White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry downplayed Hatch's accusations. "I suspect that this is another case of a senator hyperventilating on a Sunday talk show."

"If he is certain of that, his information is contrary to what has been communicated to me and contrary to what I've briefed you," McCurry said.

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