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Clinton star attraction at Democratic fund-raiser

January 28, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The buck didn’t stop on Election Day: President Clinton was back on the fund-raising circuit Tuesday.

Within hours of a news conference dominated by the White House’s cash-for-access scandal, Clinton was the featured speaker at a $1 million Democratic soiree. About 70 business leaders paying $10,000 per person or $15,000 per company were attending the Democratic Party event at a Washington hotel.

``The fund-raising machine in Washington never shuts down,″ said Don Simon, executive vice president of Common Cause.

``It’s a truism that as soon as one election is over, everybody starts raising money for the next _ or paying off debts from the last,″ Simon said. ``What’s wrong with that is it keeps the money chase a permanent part of Washington culture, which means the sale of access and influence never really stops.″

The fund-raiser, the first of Clinton’s second term, was scheduled as Justice Department and congressional investigators sought to determine whether access to Clinton was sold to political donors. The president met at the White House with dozens of Democratic contributors during the election cycle.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Mary Crawford said Clinton’s participation at Tuesday’s fund-raiser ``is consistent with a pattern that we have seen where public statements most often conflict with the behind-the-scenes practices.″

Yet, the RNC is raising money through the mail and planning a multimillion-dollar April 29 gala. Crawford said 88 percent of GOP money raised since the election came from donations of less than $100.

Officials with both parties refused to say how much money they had raised since the election.

With all the talk of reforms, nobody expects fund-raisers to go away,″ Crawford said. ``How would a party function without it?″

Clinton agreed: ``Neither party has the capacity to raise all their money from direct-mail campaigns and contributions of $100 or less.″

``I don’t think there’s anything wrong with raising money for the political process,″ he said at the news conference. ``The problem is ... the volume of money, the amount of money, the time it takes to raise, the inevitable questions that are raised.″

Clinton is supporting a bill in Congress to curb contributions.

Tuesday’s fund-raiser was hosted by the Democratic Business Council _ a group of party donors from big business. Clinton said there is nothing wrong with addressing or meeting contributors _ just as long as government policy is not affected.

``I am very appreciative of the fact that these folks have been willing to come and help us, and that we have increased the ranks of ... younger, more entrepreneurial people in the Democratic Party supporting us,″ Clinton said.

It was Clinton’s second fund-raiser since the election: In December, he spoke on behalf of Democratic candidates in Texas’ special election, helping them raise $400,000.

And the president is expected to attend a mid-February fund-raiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Asked how much he hoped to raise, committee spokesman Paul Johnson said, ``As much as possible.″

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