Gavel To Gavel

Gavel To Gavel: Fund-Raising Hearings

Senate Republicans To Zero In On Videotapes

Democrats plan an 'everybody-does-it' defense

By Candy Crowley/CNN

WASHINGTON (Oct. 21) -- When the Senate campaign-finance hearings resume Wednesday, Republicans plan to zero in on the latest batch of White House fund-raising videotapes and what they see as the Democrats' illegal ads to promote President Bill Clinton's re-election.

It's against the election law for political parties to use the unregulated donations they get, known as soft money, to promote a particular candidate.

Did the Democratic National Committee's $45 million ad campaign in the last election help Clinton win re-election? You bet, and Clinton told supporters as much during one luncheon recorded on videotape.

"In the areas where we have shown these ads, we are basically doing 10 to 15 points better than in the areas where we're not showing them," Clinton said.

At the December 1995 luncheon with big donors, the president was also quite precise about why the Democratic Party, not the Clinton-Gore campaign, was picking up the advertising tab.

"We realized we could run these ads through the Democratic Party, which meant we could raise money in 20- and 50- and $100,000 wads. So we didn't have to do it all in $1,000 [increments] and run down what I can spend, which is limited by law," Clinton said.

So, what's wrong with this picture? Plenty, say some Senate investigators who intend to put the ads under the microscope when the Thompson hearings resume.

"These tapes, which the committee will put on display, really nail down the case," said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) "It comes out of President Clinton's mouth that these funds, this soft money, was used to promote his candidacy. He says that. And now we know positively there's been a violation of the federal election code."

The White House contends it is perfectly legal for a presidential candidate to coordinate his efforts with the party that he, in fact, heads.

That doesn't make some members of the president's party feel much better, though.

"I guess the bottom line of the tapes is -- I don't know whether I'm typical -- they make me itch," said Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.). "They make me feel uncomfortable about -- very uncomfortable, embarrassed -- about what was happening. It happened in both parties. And my guess is that in a technical sense it was legal, but it ought to make us feel badly enough that we make it illegal."

Democrats on the Thompson committee hope to counter-program Wednesday's hearings with tapes of their own from the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Democrats say their tapes show everybody does it, which has been pretty much the Democrats' mantra since the Senate hearings began.

In Other News:

Tuesday Oct. 21, 1997

White House Endorses House IRS Reform Plan
Tight Gov. Races In New Jersey, Virginia
Clinton Urges Action On Literacy Program
New Bankruptcy Rules In The Works
Senate Republicans To Zero In On Videotapes
More Pre-Trial Wrangling In Jones Case
New FBI Crime Lab Chief Introduced

E-Mail From Washington:
White House Defends Legality Of Issue Ads

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