Big Brother and the Clinton Money Machine

Article excerpt

A mid reports of improper - an possibly illegal - cash fro Indonesia flowing into the coffers of the Democratic National Committee, or DNC, come new question about campaign operations at the House. Answers could link Preside Clinton to questionable donation received by the DNC and to an administration scheme to use a computer system financed with more than $1 million of tax money to facilitate behind-the-scenes fund-raising at the White House

At issue is a previously secret computer system some at the White House call "Big Brother." This is not just fancy electronic rolodex to keep track of holiday greetings and parties at the executive manse, as suggested by Clinton friends. In fact, it has been used help coordinate political contribution for Clinton through a tightly controlled series of legal trapeze flips that has intermingled DNC and White House political operations to collect million in campaign donations for the president's reelection committee.

"Pure and simple,[Big Brother] is a campaign coordinator for the Clintons and top brass at the DNC," says one of several current and former White House aides and private-sector contractors interviewed by Insight. "What can "I tell you?" asks one of the sources familiar with the computer project. "It is designed to hide the fact that we're working with new technology to get money in the door," the source says on conditions of anonymity similar to those under which others have been willing to talk about Big Brother. Why the secrecy? "I don't want to lose my job," says another source.

Formally called the White House Office Data Base, or WHODB, the Big Brother computer was created under orders by the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to keep track of virtually anyone and everyone who comes into contact with the White House. After initial snags in development, WHODB is up and running smoothly to keep tabs on an estimated 500,000 people and companies that have had or want to have links to the Clintons.

Following an expose in Insight (see "More Personal Secrets on File @ the White House," July 15, 1996), congressional investigators with the House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee on National Economic Growth, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs have discovered that, contrary to formal statements by senior White House aides, WHODB has been used for a variety of purposes that have little or nothing to do with government business. Such activities also likely violate the Privacy Act of 1974, which prohibits the government from collecting personal information on individuals, such as marital status, sexual preference, educational background, military record, gender, political affiliation - and whether they are or have been financial supporters of Clinton.

David McIntosh, the Indiana Republican who is chairman of the Government Reform subcommittee probing WHODB, says that despite numerous promises by the White House to come clean about the extent of its use of Big Brother for tasks other than Christmas-card mailings, the administration has been less than forthcoming and, in some instances, has obstructed congressional efforts to learn the truth. As a result of a pattern of activity that one congressional aide summed up as "We'll see you after the election," McIntosh is concerned that something is seedy about Big Brother.

"I have serious questions about why the White House would spend at least $1.7 million of taxpayer money on a blatantly political database," the chairman says after the latest volley of letters to and from Jack Quinn, the White House general counsel who has said the lawyerly equivalent of "Go jump in the lake." "American taxpayers deserve better than this," McIntosh says, vowing to continue his investigation as soon as he returns to Washington after the elections.

McIntosh and other congressmen, including Democrats worried about possible illegal activities at the White House, may want to take a lesson from U. …