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Criticism doesn’t dissuade president from attending fund-raiser

February 25, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Ignoring criticism over the way Democrats paid for last year’s presidential campaign, President Clinton pressed ahead Monday to raise more political cash _ even the kind he says should be banned.

``I appreciate you being here for our party because this is not something the president can do alone,″ Clinton told guests at a dinner held by the Democratic Business Council, a donors’ group.

The event raised $500,000 for the Democratic National Committee, 65 percent of it in unregulated ``soft money.″

Clinton told the business audience this is of those historic times when many things are going right for the country, especially for its expanding economy.

``The tendency is either to relax and let things happen and have a good time, or frankly find something to fall out about and fight about,″ he told the audience of about 75 contributors.

``And we must not do any of those two things,″ he said.

Clinton that the positive signs in the economic chart represent ``what you are investing in″ by contributing to the Democratic Party.

``This is what are participating in,″ Clinton said.

White House spokesman Mike McCurry acknowledged earlier that more than 60 percent of the contributions consist of soft money of the kind Clinton raised by the millions for the party in 1996 and which he now says should be banned.

Monday night’s event marked the third fund-raiser Clinton has attended since his inauguration for a second term last month.

Although the Democratic National Committee has placed voluntary limits on soft money _ cash devoted to party-building efforts _ it has not banned such contributions outright.

McCurry was unapologetic about that.

``The president will continue, as we’ve said over and over again, to help the party raise money,″ he told reporters. ``They need the money. They need to be competitive with the Republican Party.″

The GOP, he said, ``has been actively and aggressively raising money on their own.″

McCurry challenged Republicans either to follow the restrictions the Democrats have imposed on soft money or to ban it altogether.

Responding to questions at his daily news briefing, McCurry said he had no information to indicate that Democratic fund-raisers sought up-front contributions for attending a White House coffee klatch with Clinton or that as much as $50,000 was sought as the price for being invited to watch the president deliver his weekly radio address from the Oval Office.

``I think (Clinton) would regret anyone attempting to market any aspect of the coffees that required a direct dollar donation, because that would be contrary to his wishes,″ McCurry said.

He said the radio address is attended by all sorts of people with contributors included among many people who do not give money to the party.

But McCurry said it wouldn’t be surprising ``if those responsible for soliciting donations at the Democratic National Committee followed up on some of these events and contacted those who had attended.″

McCurry also denied that the White House sought or received any information about the Justice Department’s investigation of whether the Chinese government tried to funnel political donations to the Democratic Party.

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., charged in a letter Sunday that the White House ``sought and received a heads-up″ about the Justice Department’s probe. Burton is chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, which is conducting an investigation of Democratic fund-raising abuses.

But McCurry said Burton ``apparently has got erroneous information.″ The White House, he said, made an ``entirely proper request″ for information about a national security matter.

``The president sought and obtained from the Justice Department information that allows him to properly conduct this nation’s foreign policy and national security affairs,″ McCurry said, declining to discuss the nature of the information.

McCurry said he was ``not aware that any of the information that we obtained related to any aspect of a criminal investigation under way by the Justice Department.″ He said the White House also asked that the information be turned over to the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Burton also asked the Justice Department for a full record of the information it forwarded to the White House.

Justice Department spokesman Bert Brandenberg said the information was not connected to the criminal investigation.

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