White House Releases More Tapes
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 15) -- The Clinton Administration released a new batch of videotapes and audiotapes late Tuesday, showing President Bill Clinton mingling with Democratic donors at some 100 fund-raising events. More tapes are expected today, and though the White House says there is no evidence of wrongdoing, investigators already are honing in on some of the footage.
In one video clip, the president congratulates former Democratic fund-raiser John Huang, the elusive but central figure in the fund-raising controversy, at a July 1996 fund-raiser.
"I have known John Huang for a very long time, at least as young as we are," Clinton tells the gathering at a Washington hotel. "And when he told me that this was going to come off, I doubted him. But I should have known, he has never told me anything that didn't happen."
In all, about 50 videotapes and 108 audiotapes were released late Tuesday, with another dozen videos being released today. Many of the events are fund-raisers held at Washington, D.C., hotels. Previously, the White House turned over 44 videotapes with footage of coffee gatherings at the White House.
In one tape from June 1996, Clinton gives a tour of the White House Blue Room to a group of Democratic supporters including political consultant Martin Davis, who has been charged with crimes connected to the Teamsters election. Investigators want to know if the DNC helped finance Teamster President Ron Carey's election.
Pauline Kanchanalak, the controversial Thai businesswoman eluding investigators, appears in a tape of a White House event in October 1994. Other events include an August 1994 health care breakfast, one of 10 such events for which the DNC belatedly reimbursed the White House.
Another taped event likely to be scrutinized is a February 1996 event for Asian donors, where investigators allege funds were laundered by controversial Clinton associate Charlie Trie.
"Soon to be 20 years I had my first meal with Charlie Trie," Clinton says on tape. "Almost 20 years and just a few months. At that time neither one of us could afford a ticket to this dinner."
In an Oval Office tape, Clinton greets entrepreneur Johnny Chung at a March 1996 radio address, saying, "Good to see you!" Chung created headaches for the White House when he presented a $50,000- check to Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, Maggie Williams, in the White House.
At the same radio address Clinton talked with James Riady, son of an Indonesian billionare. Riady was the original contact between John Huang and the Lippo Group.
Bending campaign finance laws?
At May 1996 event inside the White House, Clinton thanked attendees for their contributions.
"I can tell you that the daily [election race], it's almost like reading the racing, following the news in Washington. It's like reading the racing form. Who's the jockey, who's the trainer. What's the strategy, what is the track condition is like. But that's not what public affairs are really about. And the fact that we have been able to finance this long-running constant television campaign [has helped]."
The president looks downright bored at one unremarkable May 1996 fund-raiser at a hotel a few blocks from the White House, which raised $300,000 for the Democratic National Committee. But close listening offers a telling glimpse of how the political parties take advantage of a giant loophole in campaign finance laws.
The big contributions guests made at that event are known as "soft money." There are no limits, but the cash is supposed to be used for general party building and not to directly support candidates.
But then-Democratic Party Chairman Don Fowler leaves no doubt where the money is going.
"Your support of the president and his missions and what he is doing is absolutely vital for the next 25 weeks," Fowler told the gathering.
Then, the party's top fund-raiser at the time, Marvin Rosen, says the money is going into a $1.5 million-a-week TV ad budget.
"That has had a major impact on the ability of the president to get his message out and has had an impact upon getting swing voters on our side," Rosen told the gathering.
On the tape, Clinton says those ads are critical to defending his big lead over Bob Dole. "This is not anything that can be taken for granted," Clinton says.
Republicans say this shows that Democrats, with the president's blessing, crossed the line and abused one of the most criticized loopholes in campaign finance laws.
The White House rightly notes that the GOP spent its soft money much the same way. But the videotapes give Republicans ammunition to pepper the White House with new questions about this and other campaign finance controversies.
CNN's John King contributed to this report.
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Wednesday Oct. 15, 1997
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