Let's Go To The Videotape
Senators show competing clips of presidents entertaining their contributors
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 22) -- Videotapes were the star witnesses at this morning's Senate fund-raising hearing as Sens. Fred Thompson and John Glenn hauled out dueling clips of presidents raising funds and thanking wealthy donors at the White House.
Thompson, the Tennessee Republican chairing the proceedings, presented a series of video clips -- most previously released to the news media -- showing President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office and at fund-raisers outside the White House, as he greeted the stars of the yearlong fund-raising controversy, former fund-raisers John Huang and Charlie Trie and Asian businessmen James Riady and Johnny Chung.
Thompson highlighted 1996 footage of Clinton telling donors their contributions to the Democratic National Committee were paying for a crucial ad campaign.
"I cannot overstate to you the impact that these paid ads have had in the areas where they've run," Clinton said.
Asserting the president had controlled his party's election-year expenditures and campaign to an unprecedented extent, Thompson wondered, "Did Mr. Clinton spend more on his election campaign than he agreed to when he accepted public campaign funds?"
Noting the raging disagreements over what campaign law says about the president's actions, Thompson reiterated his call to Attorney General Janet Reno to call for an independent prosecutor. (256K wav sound)
"We can take this mass of facts right up to the courthouse door, but we can't break the door down," Thompson said. "I think we've laid the facts out there and [it all] cries out for an independent counsel in this case."
Glenn, the ranking Democrat, highlighted transcripts of a TV interview with former GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole as proof the Republicans used issue ads to support their candidate as well.
"'But we can through the Republican National Committee, through what we call the Victory 96 program, run television ads and other advertising,'" Glenn quoted Dole as saying. "That meant it was not coming out of his campaign funds," Glenn added. (224K wav sound)
Thompson later rebutted Glenn's point, saying a crucial difference was that Clinton personally directed and approved the DNC ads. He challenged Democrats to come up with evidence Dole did likewise, saying, "I'll put it on as soon as you come up with it."
Another video clip played by Thompson showed the president and vice president at a White House event thanking donors for their financial support. Glenn followed up with a lengthy segment of Reagan tapes, showing the former president thanking the Republican Eagles, a group of wealthy donors, at the White House.
Noting President George Bush had held some 30 similar events at the White House, Glenn said his purpose in showing the Reagan tapes was not to assert an "everybody-does-it" argument.
"To my way of thinking, is it wrong to say 'Thanks' in the White House?" Glenn asked. "Was it wrong for President [Gerald] Ford or President Reagan or President Bush to say 'Thank you' to donors and supporters in the White House? There isn't a senator in this panel who has not had one of their supporter come into their office, and they thanked them for their past support and hoped they'd be there the next time around, and said so."
Appearing before the panel this afternoon will be Steven Smith, White House Communications Agency chief, who has told investigators administration officials could have easily learned of the tapes of White House coffees if only they had asked the right questions.
Addressing that point, Glenn said he couldn't believe that career government employees responsible for the tapes would have "conspired" to withhold the tapes. By way of contrast, Glenn pointed out that the Dole campaign turned over a set of computer files six months after receiving a subpoena from the Thompson committee.
"I wish I had the same kind of outrage on the Republican side of this failure of the Republican National Committee and the Dole campaign to produce materials vital to this investigation," Glenn said.
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Wednesday Oct. 22, 1997
Let's Go To The Videotape
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