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Clinton advised of plan to use White House to encourage more donations

February 25, 1997 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two years before the Democratic fund-raising controversy erupted, President Clinton scribbled his enthusiastic approval to a top aide’s plan to use White House visits to motivate big donors, according to administration officials.

The president’s notation was made on a memo from Terence McAuliffe, finance chairman for the Clinton-Gore campaign, the officials said, speaking only on condition of anonymity.

One White House official familiar with the documents said they show the president ``supported the idea that his friends and supporters, especially those who had supported him in the past...should be encouraged to do so in the future with a night over at the White House or attending other White House events.″

McAuliffe said today that his memo did not specifically propose overnight White House stays but did recommend that Democratic donors demoralized after the 1994 election losses get in to see the president.

``I was going to be finance chairman of the re-election committee and we needed to get past supporters into see you (the president) and some time to motivate these past supporters,″ McAuliffe said in an interview.

McAuliffe said the memo had nothing to do with ``overnight stays″ but did recommend that donors ``get in, whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee or something else.″

He said the memo, in response to a request from the president, identified 10 large Democratic donors.

The McAuliffe memo was among dozens of documents former White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes took with him when he left his job and which he recently turned over to congressional investigators, according to individuals familiar with them.

Clinton’s handwritten response to the McAuliffe memo indicates that ``the president was enthusiastic about having friends and supporters stay at the White House and was willing to include those who had been and would be very supportive,″ one official said.

Another official put it this way: ``The president expressed a willingness to have stayovers at the White House for those who were his friends and supporters and who might give again.″

These officials and others with knowledge of the memo spoke only on condition of anonymity. They would not provide a copy of the memo or actual wording of the memo.

McAuliffe said he never saw the president’s response.

The Ickes’ papers provide the most public detail to date of ``an overall program whereby the president and vice president were to be actively involved in generating financial and political support as a result of White House events,″ one official said.

The documents were to be released later today by the White House. Press secretary Mike McCurry said the documents would include complete lists of poeple who stayed overnight at the White House _ from dignatries and friends to political supporters _ as well as ``describe participation by the president in coffees.″

``Terry McAuliffe’s memo makes it pretty plain that there was a desire in the aftermath of 1994 to address concerns that contributors had in the party that ... no one was being very gracious for the support they gave the party _ no one remained in contact with them. The president agreed to ... address that situation,″ McCurry said.

He also said, ``The president was enthusiastic about having his friends and supporters to the Lincoln Bedroom.″

For weeks, Clinton has been addressing questions about reports that dozens of prominent Democratic donors, some who gave upwards of $100,000 each, were rewarded with overnight stays in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Clinton defended the practice in a recent interview. ``I don’t think it’s a bad thing for a president to invite his strong supporters to stay in the White House. And I think it would be a bad thing for anyone to be told `if you give such and such amount of money, we’ll let you spend the night in the Lincoln Bedroom.‴

On Monday, Clinton presided over a dinner held by the Democratic Business Council that brought in $500,000 for the Democratic National Committee. Party officials said 65 percent of the contributions represented ``soft money,″ the kind given without a dollar ceiling to help parties, not individual candidates.

The memo from McAuliffe indicates that Clinton had approved the fundraising strategy for using White House facilities.

In a news conference a few weeks ago, the president acknowledged that donors who attended private White House events got ``a respectful hearing if they have some concern about the issues″ but that there were never any ``guaranteed results.″

Ickes could not be reached and his attorney, Amy Sabrin, declined immediate comment.

Ickes, who left the White House after the re-election campaign, turned over the papers to the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. He is working for Clinton as organizer of the June summit of western economic powers.

The sources said Ickes took the papers with him when he left because they appeared to be political, rather than government in nature. It was not immediately clear whether there are rules that would restrict removal of the documents.