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Clinton Orders Democrats to Curb Big-Donor Perks

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From Associated Press

President Clinton ordered the Democratic Party to stop promising presidential dinners and other perquisites to big-money donors--or at least not to be so blatant about it.

The President and his party were roundly accused of peddling access after the Democratic National Committee began circulating a brochure offering goodies. The top item: two dinners with the President. The price: $100,000.

Calling the program “marketing activities,” White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said Thursday that an angry Clinton put the project on hold while aides review it.

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But McCurry said the party will continue to raise money aggressively, and he did not rule out any fund-raising strategies for 1996. Officials left open the possibility that donors could still be promised dinners, briefings or other perks.

“The President was mad about it and said: ‘Don’t do that,’ but we’re going to continue to raise money,” McCurry said. “Those are the facts of life.”

Ann McBride, president of the watchdog group Common Cause, said Clinton did not go far enough. “It’s not just how you package or market access, it’s ending the process by which large campaign contributions are buying access to the presidency,” she said.

McCurry, whose office strongly defended the DNC strategy last week, argued Thursday that Democrats must compete with Republican fund-raising activities. He noted that Clinton remains active at fund-raising dinners and other campaign events.

But he said Clinton was concerned about the brochure’s blatant pitch for cash.

“I don’t think he was very happy with the tone of the specific brochure that was being used to solicit them, so they are looking very carefully at that document and will make any changes that are necessary,” McCurry said.

Democratic Party Co-Chairman Donald Fowler stopped short of pledging to stop promising perks for pay.

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“The President is concerned about certain appearances of marketing the presidency,” he said in a statement. Fowler said White House Chief of Staff Leon E. Panetta and his deputy, Harold M. Ickes, were told by Clinton “to review the program and determine whether modifications are in order.”

Some examples from the DNC catalogue:

* An annual $100,000 contribution brings two meals with Clinton, two with Vice President Al Gore, a spot on a foreign trade mission with DNC and business leaders, “impromptu meetings” with Administration officials and a daily fax “briefing” report.

* A $100,000 gift also gives donors the designation of “managing trustee,” entitled to preferential treatment at the 1996 Democratic convention and a DNC staff member “specifically assigned . . . to assist them in their personal requests.”

* A $50,000 donor gets a presidential reception, a dinner with Gore and special policy briefings, plus other privileges.

* A $10,000 contributor gets a presidential reception and a dinner with Gore and “preferred” status at the convention.

* A $1,000 donor can get invited to events featuring First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gore’s wife, Tipper. A special package designed for female contributors also includes social events with female political appointees.

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