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Clinton kicks off fund-raising spree in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. President Clinton Friday kicked off a four-day spree of political fund-raising and Hollywood partying that threatens to steal the spotlight from Al Gore just as the vice president is to be crowned the Democratic presidential nominee.

Arriving in Los Angeles ahead of the Aug. 14-17 Democratic convention, Clinton was to be wined and dined everywhere from the fashionable Beverly Hills restaurant Spago to the Malibu home of entertainer Barbra Streisand.

The weekend is designed as a victory lap for the president, who leaves the White House in five months, as well as a way to raise money for his wife's U.S. Senate race, other Democrats, and his own presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

In one of its most extravagant events, singers Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and Cher will serenade Clinton at a star-studded event on Saturday night that will include tributes to him by actors Goldie Hawn, Gregory Peck and John Travolta.

While the event is billed as a tribute to the president, it is also designed to raise money for first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is fighting Republican Rep. Rick Lazio for a U.S. Senate seat from New York.

The fund-raising has sparked grousing from Gore associates, mostly in anonymous comments to the media, that the president and his wife are siphoning media attention, if not campaign money, from the vice president.

Under federal law, Gore has raised as much money as he can for his own campaign and will receive about $67 million from the federal government once he has been formally nominated by the convention Thursday.

As Clinton, his wife and their daughter Chelsea landed in Los Angeles on Friday afternoon, the president shrugged off a question on whether he was stealing the spotlight from Gore. "I never heard him say that," he told reporters.

White House plays down fund-raising figures

White House officials and other Democrats sought to play down a New York Times report that Clinton aimed to raise $4 million for his wife's campaign and $10 million for the museum, library and policy center he plans to build in Arkansas.

Edward Lozzi, the publicist for the Saturday gala, said $4 million would not be an "unreasonable" tally, adding: "There's always somebody who writes a big check to show off at the end of the evening."

But Mrs. Clinton's campaign spokesman, Howard Wolfson, said she expected to raise about $1 million.

Clinton associates said there no way to know how much might be gathered for the library at a Sunday brunch at Streisand's Malibu home, saying possible donors are not asked for specific commitments ahead of such events, where the president makes a soft pitch for funding for the $125 million project.

Skip Rutherford, one of the main organizers of the library, said $10 million "seems a little high to me" but added that he did not know how much would be collected. The White House found itself in the odd position of having Clinton spend the weekend with some of the nation's most famous entertainers, including possibly partying with the cast of the ABC television hit "The West Wing," while trying to ensure that he keeps a relatively low profile so as not to upstage Gore.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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Friday, August 11, 2000


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