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White House Curbs Access of Former Clinton Staffer

Ethics: Ex-aide used his ties to executive mansion to impress clients, officials say. Case raises issue of revolving door between government and business.


WASHINGTON — White House officials announced Friday they have found evidence that Mark Middleton, a former presidential aide, abused his White House access to impress business clients. He has been barred from entering the executive mansion without high-level approval, they said.

The decision came in response to indications that Middleton, a former aide to presidential advisor Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty, had flaunted his White House connections in an effort to become an international deal-maker.

Among other things, he is accused of using his White House business cards and keeping a voice-mail message on the White House telephone system long after he had left his job there. He also is accused of taking business clients to the White House dining room without authorization and portraying himself as someone with influence among President Clinton's inner circle.

The announcement also reflected an effort on the part of the president to take affirmative steps in response to the burgeoning controversy over illegal and questionable fund-raising for the Democratic Party. While Middleton may prove to be little more than a bit player in the fund-raising saga, revelation of his actions caused the White House considerable embarrassment at a time when it is trying to fend off the scandal.

Before Middleton left the White House in February 1995, he was the chief aide to McLarty, who served initially as White House chief of staff and later as a senior presidential advisor. McLarty chose Middleton as his deputy after watching the young man work as a fund-raiser for Clinton in Arkansas in 1992.

Middleton, 32, a former Little Rock lawyer, also was a friend of Democratic fund-raiser John Huang, who was responsible for raising millions of dollars from Asian American sources--some of which has been returned by the Democratic Party because it was from illegal or questionable sources.

According to a political consultant in Taiwan, Middleton discussed the possibility of accepting an illegal $15-million contribution for the Democratic campaign from an official of the ruling Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, in Taipei. Both he and Kuomintang officials have denied the allegation.

Middleton issued a statement Friday acknowledging that "questions have been raised about whether I misused access to the White House for personal gain. I categorically deny any implication that I acted improperly."

Aides Raise Questions

Many of the questions about Middleton were raised by presidential aides who have spent the last week charting the former employee's comings and goings at the White House in the nearly two years since he resigned.

The record they uncovered shows that Middleton entered the White House complex 65 times between February 1995 and last September and often roamed the premises and dined in the White House mess.

White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said the record suggests that Middleton abused his access, even though his business activities apparently were not in violation of ethics rules restricting what former presidential appointees can do.

"If you're a visitor to the White House, you're not supposed to be roaming the building [and] you're not supposed to go to the White House mess, except with a White House employee," a White House official explained.

Approval Condition

McCurry said that White House employees have been told that Middleton will not be allowed to enter unless he has the approval of the chief of staff. Until now, Middleton, like any other former employee, has been able to enter the complex at the invitation of anyone who works at the executive mansion.

"The White House looks askance at anyone misrepresenting themselves as a representative of the White House," McCurry emphasized.

According to White House records, Middleton saw the president on six of his visits to the White House since February 1995. On one occasion, he accompanied James Riady, scion of a wealthy Indonesian family and a close friend of the president. They engaged Clinton in a discussion of U.S. trade policy with China.

Before joining the administration as a Commerce Department official, Huang was employed by the Riadys' Lippo Bank. Middleton apparently made the acquaintance of both Riady and Huang in Little Rock, where they worked for Worthen Bank in the mid-1980s.

On another occasion after leaving his government post, officials said, Middleton attended a presidential reception at the White House accompanied by Siti Hediati Harijadi, the daughter of President Suharto of Indonesia. According to Middleton's lawyer, Robert Luskin, Middleton is trying to broker a business deal for Suharto's daughter.

Records show that eight of Middleton's post-employment visits were authorized by McLarty. But White House officials said that McLarty remembers only one such visit, on March 20, 1995, when Middleton brought his new employer, Steven Green, then-owner of Samsonite and other companies, to the White House.

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