Timeline September '97

1996: Oct | Nov | Dec
1997: Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | June | July | Aug | Sept

Sept. 3, 1997 -- The Justice Department begins a 30-day inquiry into whether allegations that the vice president illegally solicited campaign contributions on federal property should warrant a "preliminary investigation" under the Independent Counsel Act. Separately, the White House releases a stack of documents purporting to show Gore was unaware that an April 1996 event at the Hsi Lai Buddhist temple in suburban Los Angeles would raise funds.

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Sept. 4, 1997 -- Two Buddhist nuns who helped coordinate the Hsi Lai temple event attended by Al Gore admit they destroyed a list of donors and other documents because they thought the information would embarrass the temple.

Sept. 5, 1997 -- The vice president's former deputy chief of staff denies the Hsi Lai temple event was a fund-raiser.

Sept. 10, 1997 -- The DNC chief counsel defends the vice president's White House fund-raising calls as "legal and appropriate." Separately, The New York Times reports that the Democratic Party shifted $2 million in contributors' money from soft- to hard-money accounts during the 1996 campaigns without consulting the donors.

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Sept. 11, 1997 -- Testifying before the Thompson committee, National Security Advisor Sandy Berger says he saw no evidence of "extraneous influences" on the Clinton Administration's foreign policy, despite visits to the White House by some questionable characters with overseas interests. But he concedes there was no clear policy last year for screening overseas visitors who wanted time with the president or vice president.

Sept. 12, 1997 -- The Washington Post reports that U.S. investigators have credible evidence that a Los Angeles businessman made political contributions on behalf of China to influence U.S. elections. The paper reports that senators were briefed on the matter by Attorney General Janet Reno and the directors of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency.

Sept. 16, 1997 -- A business consultant testifies to the Thompson committee that John Huang made an explicit appeal for money at a White House coffee attended by the president. But two other witnesses offer contrasting accounts. Separately, the House hearings, set to begin Sept. 17, are postponed after the lead witnesses refuse to testify without a grant of immunity.

Sept. 17, 1997 -- In a shakeup, the attorney general taps senior FBI investigator Charles La Bella to take over the Justice Department's probe of alleged campaign fund-raising abuses, and announces that new investigators will be added to the 90 already working on the case.

Sept. 18, 1997 -- Lebanese oilman Roger Tamraz rocks the fund-raising hearings, telling senators he contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democrats for access to the president, and would do so again.

Sept. 19, 1997 -- Businessman Warren Meddoff tells senators that former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Harold Ickes asked him to shred documentation of a political solicitation.

Sept. 20, 1997 -- Sources say Attorney General Janet Reno is investigating whether an independent counsel should be appointed to probe the president's White House fund-raising phone calls. The next day, Clinton tells reporters "we believed we were acting within the letter of the law."

Sept. 23, 1997 -- The Thompson committee shifts gears, hearing testimony from two scholars on the impact of soft money on the political system.

Sept. 24, 1997 -- Democrats on the House fund-raising panel join Republicans and approve immunity for three witnesses. The Thompson committee hears more testimony from scholars and activists about campaign finance reform.

Sept. 26, 1997 -- The Senate began debate on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. Separately, Harold Ickes discloses he witnessed the president make fund-raising calls from the White House on several occasion. And The Wall Street Journal reports a federal grand jury is investigating whether former RNC chairman Haley Barbour testified truthfully before the Thompson committee.

1996: Oct | Nov | Dec
1997: Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | June | July | Aug | Sept