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Fund-raising questions slow Herman confirmation pace

January 28, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Republicans are pressing Cabinet nominees Rodney Slater and Alexis Herman about their involvement in President Clinton’s re-election campaign while also working for the government.

They see potential for a confirmation fight in Herman’s case in the wake of fresh disclosures about her work on White House political activities, a top Senate GOP leadership aide said Monday.

The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee has not scheduled a confirmation hearing for Herman, the nominee to be labor secretary. While the White House voiced fresh support for her on Monday, two friends with senior administration jobs described her as nervous about her confirmation prospects.

In contrast, Slater, Clinton’s pick for transportation secretary, is to appear Wednesday before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and his confirmation was described by several Republican aides as all but assured.

However, committee aides have alerted Slater to be ready for questions about his work for Clinton’s presidential campaigns and also perhaps his role in generating black voter turnout in Clinton’s campaigns for Arkansas governor. He is the federal highway administrator.

Meanwhile, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., asked Clinton on Monday to keep White House counsel Bruce Lindsey from being allowed to collect fund-raising documents for congressional investigators because he participated in a meeting that is part of the inquiry.

``I would have preferred to resolve this matter without the necessity of requesting your assistance,″ Burton, chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, said in a letter to the president. ``However, I believe it is important that potential conflicts of interest are avoided at the outset.″

White House special counsel Lanny Davis had no immediate comment on Burton’s request. Before he left the administration recently, former presidential counsel Jack Quinn told Burton he did not believe Lindsey had a conflict of interest and should not be removed from document collecting.

The White House supplied a stack of documents last week about Herman’s political activities while serving as director of the White House public liaison office, and committee Republicans are likely to submit written questions to her before settling on any hearing timetable.

Among the areas of GOP interest are Herman’s relationship with John Huang, a former Commerce Department official and Democratic fund-raiser at the center of investigations about questionable campaign contributions from non-citizens and companies with foreign interests.

Also, Republicans are eager to explore Herman’s role in arranging coffees and other receptions at which campaign contributors and potential supporters were invited into the White House to meet with Clinton.

At one such meeting, disclosed by the White House last week, banking industry leaders were given extraordinary access to Clinton, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and the government’s top banking regulator, Comptroller of the Currency Eugene Ludwig, who said he would not have attended had he known the event was organized by the Democratic National Committee.

Several GOP sources said Herman probably would receive a detailed written questionnaire about her political activities before any confirmation timetable is considered.

``Everything depends on how long the review of this new material takes,″ said Joe Karpinski, a spokesman for the committee chairman, GOP Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont.

``The president has strong support for the excellent nominee he’s put forward for secretary of labor,″ White House press secretary Mike McCurry said Monday when asked about the nomination.

Herman and Slater coauthored a strategy for winning black voters that, among other things, urged Clinton to court community leaders and activists by inviting them to White House receptions and events. Both Herman and Slater are black.

Republicans want to question both about whether any of their political activity was done on government time or interfered with government work. McCurry said both followed the Hatch Act, which governs political work by government employees.

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