Sights & Sounds: The Coffee Tapes
Tape Shows Reagan White House Fund-Raising Pitch
Thompson continues to press for all coffee tapes; Daschle taking flak for Mt. Rushmore event
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 10) -- Videotapes have Washington buzzing this week, as the belated release of tapes of White House coffees with President Bill Clinton and potential donors breathed new life into the Senate fund-raising hearings. Yet another videotape has surfaced, this one showing a Republican president hosting contributors at the White House.
The latest tape, provided to CNN by Democratic sources, shows former President Ronald Reagan making a fund-raising pitch to a group of major Republican contributors at the White House. (1.3MB QuickTime movie)
At the 1987 reception for top donors, known as the Republican Eagles, Reagan made a plea to attendees for continued support.
"Thanks to the Eagles, the Republican Party had the financial strength to recapture not only the White House, but to win the Senate as well ... I'll campaign hard for the nominee of our party. And let me ask you now, I know this is silly, but can I count on you to help?"
Reagan hosted the East Room reception on September 30, 1987. The president went on to outline the Eagles' role in the 1980 Republican victory. He added: "You started as just 85 contributors. But your support helped our party, and in a few short years, you helped us come roaring back."
Democrats hope the Reagan tape will provide some ammunition for their argument that both parties have used the White House to entertain big contributors.
But the Clinton Administration faces continued pressure to turn over more tapes of his White House coffees.
Sen. Fred Thompson, chairman of the Senate committee investigating campaign finance abuses, is demanding that the White House release all remaining videotapes of the president's fund-raising events by the end of business today.
White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry says collecting all the tapes is an enormous task and suggested to reporters, "Well, then ask them to send us 50 or 60 lawyers to come down here and work with our people to get it."
White House officials say more than a hundred new tapes could be released next week.
Lott: Hearings Reinvigorated
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott says the coffee tapes have "reinvigorated" Thompson's probe, which until then "was basically shutting down."
During an interview Thursday on C-SPAN Radio 90, Lott expressed frustration at the direction the fund-raising hearing were going. "I was disappointed when it looked like the Government Affairs Committee was basically shutting down a couple of weeks ago and hadn't ... been able to really get at a number of the key witnesses that obviously were involved in getting illegal foreign contributions into the campaign," he said.
But now, the committee's probe "seems to be reinvigorated by last week's discovery of the videotaped coffees. The tapes also appear to have spurred committee members into action," Lott said.
A Special Tour Of Mount Rushmore
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) is having to answer questions about a fund-raiser on his behalf that allowed contributors to take a guided tour of Mount Rushmore.
For $5,000, 20 donors were escorted to the top of George Washington's head by a national park superintendent last month, The Washington Post reported Friday.
While the average visitor can be jailed or fined for climbing to the top of the presidential carvings, National Park Service spokesman Jim Popovich said that special or private tours are often requested by lawmakers. "Typically, we don't take people up there, but senators and congressmen and people who are doing something to help Mount Rushmore are usually taken up," he said.
Daschle's political director, Michael Meehan, said that Daschle "wanted to brag on their state" of South Dakota, where Mt. Rushmore is located. Meehan told the Post that the idea Daschle sold "access" to the national landmark "is a totally unfounded claim."CNN's Wolf Blitzer, John King and Sarah Ruth contributed to this report.
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