Continuing Controversy Over Reagan Finances

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The subject of money continues to enmesh Nancy and Ronald Reagan in controversy.

Both reportedly received multimillion-dollar contracts to write books; both have five-figure speaking fees; both now are in Japan, where they will receive $2 million for two speeches and other public appearances.

Are they cashing in on the presidency?

"This has nothing to do with the book," Nancy Reagan protested when asked about the issue in an interview set up to promote her memoirs.

She said that she and her husband are "not the first" First Couple to travel overseas.

"We didn't ask for the money that was offered in Japan," she said. "It was offered to us. Both of us are going. We're both working very hard over there. We're taking the wives of servicemen over there so they can visit their husbands. And other people have gone over there and been paid comparably."

Paid comparably? "Japan is different. I'm not going to get into this," she replied.

Reagan also has been accused by critics of being more interested in earning hefty speaking fees than in continuing her anti-drug crusade. She recently withdrew her support from a proposed Nancy Reagan Drug Center to be run by Phoenix House in Lake View Terrace, caving in to neighbors who opposed the center and threatened to picket the Reagan home.

"I didn't know at the time how strongly the people felt in that area and how they did not want it there," she said. "I certainly did not come out here to create any bad feelings, you know, in a community or have demonstrations in front of our house and have bad feelings among the neighbors."

Asked if she agreed with protesters that the center would endanger them and harm property values, she replied: "I don't know. I don't think they'd be in danger, but I don't know. I just knew I didn't want them to be as unhappy as they indicated to me that I was going to make them."

Nancy Reagan was the primary force in raising $5.3 million in center pledges; the fate of that money and the new Phoenix House are now in question. Reagan said she does not feel bad about reneging on her promise.

"No," she said, "because Phoenix House will, or somebody's going to get the money. I never asked for the money that was raised. I think Phoenix House is a very good rehabilitation center. But I've never asked for them to send me any money or for anyone to change their donations or write in and say, 'I want the money to go to the Nancy Reagan Foundation.' "

Reagan said she will keep active in the anti-drug crusade through the foundation and speaking engagements.

Will there ever be a Nancy Reagan drug center?

"I don't know. We'll see," she said. "There's just too much going on right now. There really is."

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