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Memo Links Trips, Fund-Raising

September 18, 1998 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A newly uncovered Democratic National Committee memo shows that the Commerce Department asked the party to suggest candidates for a 1994 trade mission to Russia, which appears to contradict claims that the trips were not used for political purposes, The Associated Press has learned.

Another document shows Commerce officials urged the DNC to develop a list of businesses within each congressional district.

DNC and Commerce officials have denied there was any direct link between the trips and donations to the party. When a list of Democratic contributors was found in a Commerce official’s files last year, a department spokeswoman said it was a personal document, not an official memo.

But the memos, obtained by The Associated Press, offer new evidence that administration officials improperly may have used the government-sponsored trips to foreign countries to boost Democratic fund raising.

In a Jan. 13, 1994, e-mail to his colleagues at the DNC, staff member Eric Silden reported that Commerce official Sally Painter had called ``to ask for a list of candidates for a trade mission to Russia.″

Silden’s e-mail suggested that DNC staffers could use another list of suggested participants for a trade mission to Belgium as a starting point for developing a list for the Russia trip.

The memos contrast with the testimony of the former head of the Commerce office of business liaison, which arranged the trade missions. Melissa Moss had told the Senate she did not know of any DNC lists and such lists were not used that way by her office.

``Is this a typical way that OBL helped determine which companies to invite on trade missions?″ Moss was asked about the possibility DNC lists were used to pick trade mission participants. ``No,″ she answered.

A memo from Painter to her superior, Moss, and a memo from the White House office of political affairs to Painter added to the impression that work at Commerce closely was attuned to politics.

On Aug. 6, 1993, Painter wrote to Moss: ``We contacted Rick Boylan of the DNC about the possibility of creating a list of businesses within each CD.″

The project was rejected by DNC officials as being ``too cumbersome on DNC staff,″ according to Painter’s memo. The memo also said a list of California businesses was being created, regardless, ``since the state has become a major project for RHB.″ The late Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown was a major player in Democratic politics.


Painter asked Moss whether the DNC should not still be urged to compile lists for ``other key states, (ie Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, etc?)″

A memo to Painter from Reta J. Lewis of the White House office of political affairs urges Painter to consider taking ``fellow Clinton classmate, early Clinton campaign supporters and DNC Managing Trustee″ Gerald McGowan on a trip to the Far East.

Commerce spokeswoman Maria Cardona said department officials could have no comment on ``what did or didn’t happen″ before William Daley became department secretary in February 1997.

``When Secretary Daley came into office he instituted strict trade mission guidelines to ensure a fair and objective selection process (that) prohibits participation of any company referred by any political party,″ Cardona said.

``To our knowledge no trade mission participant was ever selected because they were a DNC supporter,″ said DNC spokesman Rick Hess. He noted that Silden’s e-mail recounted the criteria Painter provided for selecting mission participants: Painter wanted ranking officials at companies that did business overseas and were at least 51 percent American-owned.

Neither Moss nor Painter returned requests for comment Thursday.

The Painter memo gave new life to a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, which is pressing a 1995 lawsuit to discover whether Brown offered U.S. companies invitations to the trade missions to raise more campaign money for Democrats.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered on Sept. 11 that the DNC be subpoenaed for ``any and all documents and things,″ from Jan. 20, 1993, to the present, ``which refer or relate in any way to the U.S. Department of Commerce and/or its secretarial trade missions.″

Lamberth’s order granted Judicial Watch president and chief counsel Larry Klayman access to such DNC materials as ``lists provided to and from Commerce, it’s employees and agents,″ ``the names of persons and/or companies who are DNC donors,″ and other files concerning several former DNC finance officials, including Terry McCauliffe and Marvin Rosen.