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White House kept tabs on coffee fund-raisers

Despite White House efforts to portray the coffees at which President Clinton played host last year as something short of overt fund-raisers, new documents show explicitly that the White House kept close tabs on how much money was anticipated and how much was raised at each coffee.

The documents turned over to Congress by the White House's former senior political aide show that coffees that the president held at the White House in 1996 had systematic fund-raising targets associated with them, often of $400,000 for a session.

One of the documents _ a memo from Harold Ickes, Clinton's former deputy chief of staff, to senior officials of the Democratic National Committee _ also shows that there was a plan on Nov. 12, 1995, to have the president make 18 to 20 calls to raise money personally and the vice president make 10 calls in hopes of raising $1.2-million.

The memo does not make clear whether the president and vice president actually made those calls. At a recent news conference, Clinton said that "I never have liked" making fund-raising phone calls but that he could not rule out the possibility and that he might have made such a call as president.

The dozens of previously undisclosed documents give further insight into precisely how the White House political operation, in conjunction with the DNC, was using the more than 100 coffees led by Clinton in the White House Map Room and by Gore in his ceremonial office in the Old Executive Office Building to bring in millions of dollars for Democratic campaigns.

While acknowledging that many of the guests were donors or potential donors, the White House has said repeatedly that money was not solicited at the coffee sessions, nor were particular dollar targets set for someone to attend.

But time and again, monthly schedules of events for the president show that coffees had precise projected revenue attached to them, with many of them budgeted to raise $400,000. One January 1996 schedule of events, for example, shows that a Jan. 17 coffee session with the president was projected to raise $400,000. Another such coffee on Jan. 25 was to bring in another $400,000. And a third coffee, one day later, was projected to bring in yet another $400,000.

A coffee session on Feb. 6 that has become well-known because it was attended by the head of a Chinese arms trading company also had a projected revenue intake of $400,000.

The documents track not only how much money the coffee sessions were projected to raise, but how much of the money had been raised to date. They also show how much each coffee would cost the party. And they make no distinction between the coffees and more traditional fund-raising dinners, which also are listed with budgeted revenue projections and accounts of sums raised to date.

One April 25, 1996, memo shows that the president and vice president were forwarded the April fund-raising schedule, suggesting that both men were personally being kept abreast of each month's fund-raising intake.

Lanny Davis, the White House spokesman on campaign finance matters, issued this statement Saturday night:

"As we have previously stated, these events were for the purpose of generating support for the president and his campaign, including financial support. We always hoped that individuals attending these events would be willing to support and work for the president, including making a financial contribution.

"Two facts, however, remain uncontradicted as far as we are concerned. First, no solicitations for funds were made at these White House events. And second, as far as our policies were concerned, there was no requirement to make a contribution in order to attend these events."

Asked about the memo from Ickes setting the specific amounts of money Clinton and Gore could be expected to raise personally through telephone calls of solicitation, Davis simply repeated the answer that Clinton gave at a recent news conference. "As the president has previously indicated, he may have been asked to make fund-raising calls, but he does not recall that he ever made any such calls," Davis said.

The documents are among hundreds of pages of papers that Ickes has turned over to congressional committees investigating the Democratic Party's fund-raising in the past presidential campaign.

A first batch of the documents were made public by the White House itself last month, including one that showed that Clinton personally approved a plan two years ago under which the Democratic Party rewarded some top donors and fund-raisers with meals, coffees, golf outings and morning jogs with him and overnight stays in the White House.

Davis only answered questions about the new documents after they were obtained independently by the New York Times. He said that the White House had planned to release the new ones itself but had been waiting until after Clinton's summit with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Helsinki.