White House Coffeepots Perked Up Big Money

Article excerpt

Between spring 1994 and late summer 1996, more than $600,000 poured into Democratic war chests within weeks of at least 68 coffee klatches held at the White House. Indeed, the coffee drinkers gave $6.5 million. President Clinton's aides deny any direct correlation and insist that it's all just `coincidence.'

Like the smiling Juan Valdez character, President Bill Clinton has been very successful in the coffee business. Instead of keeping the records of his coffee fund-raisers in the saddlebags of the Democratic donkey, however, Clinton has used the White House Office Data Base, or WHODB, a sophisticated computer system also known as Big Brother, which cost taxpayers well over $1.7 million. The White House has denied any wrongdoing, but congressional sources and bipartisan officials of prior administrations allege that uses of the Executive Mansion computer have broken ethical and legal rules that prohibit commingling of government and political purposes.

How much intermingling has there been between operations at the White House and the Democratic National Committee, or DNC? The answer is suggested by the steam rising from a series of coffee klatches held at the Executive Mansion in 1994, 1995 and 1996. Based on newly obtained documents and interviews with government and private-sector sources, Insight has learned that, contrary to statements by senior White House aides and DNC officials, an operation was established at the highest levels of government to generate large sums of cash for Democratic coffers -- going so far as to sell time with the president. This despite Clinton's own clear statement about the issue during public remarks on Aug. 4, 1995, when he said: "It is wrong to raise money on the promise of guaranteed specific kinds of access."

The evidence now suggests that precisely is what happened, as officials at the White House and at the DNC worked behind the scenes to rake in big bucks from the private sector by linking donations to the highest imaginable access -- time with the president himself -- and overnight stays at the White House in the Lincoln Bedroom.

In fact, according to a list of people who attended at least 68 coffee klatches at the White House between 1994 and 1996, these individuals were, indeed, big-time donors to Democrats -- with combined contributions at the federal level topping $6.5 million. Moreover, within a month of each of the coffee klatches, according to Federal Election Commission records, the take from these sources was more than $600,000 to beneficiaries including the Clinton/Gore reelection committee and the Clinton legal-defense fund.

Members of Congress and investigators from both political parties are alarmed about the ethnical and legal implications. As one of many sources told Insight, "this raises substantial questions about the buying of an American president." According to another source familiar with congressional and press scrutiny of the erupting fund-raising scandals involving influential Asians such as John Huang, the terminated DNC financier and former Commerce Department official, one of the tools investigators successfully may use to explore the tangled roots of the Clinton money tree is the Big Brother computer. As regular readers of Insight know, this computer system variously has been described by White House aides as a simple Rolodex, a Christmas-card mailing list and a social organizer involving only "official government functions." Now comes yet more information confirming that WHODB was and is being used on a much larger scale. Besides keeping track of financial supporters, the Big Brother computer system also has been used to orchestrate events at the White House, such as those "private" coffees with the president.

For example, of the roughly 980 individuals listed as participants at these events, attended by many of the same people, nearly half were or are top-tier officials in the finance and political divisions of the DNC and the White House. …