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CAMPAIGN 2000

White House Releases Clintons' Sleepover List

September 23, 2000|JOSH GETLIN and SUNNY KAPLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

NEW YORK — Insisting that the Lincoln Bedroom and Camp David are not for sale, the White House on Friday released the names of 361 overnight guests in an attempt to deflect Republican charges that contributors to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign had gotten perquisites in return for money.

An estimated 99 people on the list gave cash to Clinton's New York campaign, including $108,000 in direct contributions and $516,000 to political committees boosting her campaign. The guests included personal friends, political heavyweights--such as Los Angeles attorney and mayoral fund-raiser William Wardlaw--and celebrities such as director Steven Spielberg. They visited the White House or the Camp David retreat in Maryland between July 1, 1999, and Aug. 31 this year.

"We have lots of friends and supporters who spend time with us at the White House and I don't think it's particularly newsworthy," Clinton told reporters at a campaign stop in White Plains, N.Y. "The vast majority of the people on this list have not contributed to my campaign," she said, stressing that there was no political quid pro quo for those who did contribute.

The White House hoped that disclosure of the list would defuse a controversy that had been brewing for weeks over the identities of the donors. But Republicans pounced on the list as proof that the president and first lady have sullied the White House and abused the campaign fund-raising process.

"Americans aren't stupid and they see this for what it is," said Pat Harrison, co-chairman of the Republican National Committee. "As first lady, she has the White House at her disposal but not as a U.S. Senate candidate. We as taxpayers shouldn't be supporting her campaign."

Bill Dal Col, campaign manager for Rep. Rick Lazio, Clinton's Long Island Republican opponent, said it was wrong for Clinton to invite donors to sleep over at the White House. He demanded that she release the dates of the sleepovers, which were not on the list. That way, he said, voters could learn whether she was present or was simply "renting out our major public monuments like they were some cheap motel."

In all, 404 people slept over at either the White House or Camp David, but administration officials did not release the names of 43 guests described as "family and friends" of the Clintons' daughter, Chelsea.

Some of the names on the list have played a major role in Democratic Party fund-raising: Former Slim-Fast executive S. Daniel Abraham has given $1.1 million to Democrats in the current election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that analyzes campaign finance data. Terry McAuliffe, a hugely successful party fund-raiser, helped orchestrate a concert in May that generated $26.5 million. Spielberg, who has invited the first lady to spend several nights in his luxurious Manhattan digs, hosted a million-dollar fund-raiser in April and also gave $140,000 to the Democratic National Committee.

Other VIPs on the list who made political contributions, either to Clinton's Senate campaign or to other Democratic candidates, include entertainers Ted Danson, Chevy Chase, Jimmy Buffett, Mary Steenburgen and Danny DeVito, studio executive Michael Medavoy and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

About 146 of the guests have contributed a total $5.5 million this election cycle, with 98% going to the Democratic Party or Democratic candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics analysis.

White House officials noted, however, that the majority of contributors gave less than $2,000 to Clinton's campaign for the Senate, and said that the issue had been blown out of proportion.

The sleepover controversy surfaced two weeks ago, when Internet tipster Matt Drudge carried an item on his Web site that the New York Times was working on a story about the list. He charged that the newspaper had held back the story for political reasons--an allegation the newspaper denied.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart expressed indignation that charges made by "a nonjournalist gossip-monger on the Internet" had forced the administration to draw up the list. In a statement accompanying the data, the White House insisted that "the Clintons will continue to invite guests to visit with them at the White House and at Camp David during the president's remaining months in office."

Echoing the first lady's comments, Lockhart sought to portray as innocent coincidence the Clintons' practice of inviting supporters to stay overnight at the White House.

"It is a basic common sense issue that your friends and people who you would have come stay at your home would also, in some instances, support your effort financially," Lockhart said. "But any suggestion that there's anything more to that or there's any connection between that, is absolutely false and cannot be supported by any facts."

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