Fund-raising Flap Hinges On 1883 Law
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Sep. 21) -- Did President Bill Clinton or Vice President Al Gore commit a felony by placing fund-raising calls from the White House? That's the question shaking up Washington these days, and Attorney General Janet Reno wants the answer.
A federal law first passed in 1883 prohibits government officials from soliciting campaign donations from a government building or on government property.
Any phone calls from inside the executive mansion that resulted in a donation could thus be considered illegal.
But White House officials maintain that Clinton and Gore are exempt from the federal law, saying it refers to federal employees but not the two top executives specifically.
Administration officials also note that the people solicited by the vice president do not apply because the recipients of the calls were not in a federal workplace at the time. In addition, they're quick to point out the law was drafted long before today's widespread use of telephones.
Clinton has said he does not remember making any fund-raising calls from the White House. But then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes has told Senate investigators that Clinton made several fund-raising calls at his request.
Gore admits making 46 fund-raising calls.
The 114-year-old law was aimed at preventing patronage corruption, or shakedowns of federal workers. It applies to donations for direct use by federal candidates, or so-called "hard money."
Reno's decision to launch a preliminary inquiry into Clinton, sources close to the attorney general say, came from recent revelations that some of the money raised by Gore's phone calls landed directly in accounts used for specific campaigns -- "hard money" -- instead of going into more generic "soft money" accounts used by Democrats for party activities.
Reno had previously determined that "soft money" solicitations from federal facilities were not precluded by the federal law, but that "hard money" solicitations were.
Congress and the FBI have been conducting inquiries into methods used by the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign and the Democratic National Committee to raise money. Committees in both the Senate and House are holding hearings into allegations of fund-raising irregularities.From Correspondent Brooks Jackson
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