DEMOCRATS GIVE BACK MORE IMPROPER DONATIONS.
As the Clinton administration fended off new questions over proposals to trade White House perks for donations, the Democratic Party on Friday returned an additional $1.5 million worth of questionable and improper campaign contributions.
Republican congressional sources released an anonymous memo, drawn from the papers of former deputy White House Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, proposing that President Clinton offer donors seats on Air Force One and ``better coordination'' on appointments that they seek to federal boards and commissions.
The one-page, unsigned and undated memo includes a 10-point list of proposed perks for contributors.
``In order to reach our very aggressive goal of $40 million this year, it would be helpful if we could coordinate the following activities,'' said the memo to Martha Phipps, identified by the Democratic National Committee as a former employee.
The list of suggested perks included: ``Two seats on Air Force One and Two trips, six seats at all private dinners, six to eight spots at all White House events, official delegation trips abroad, White House mess privileges, White House residence visits and overnight visits.''
White House spokesman Mike McCurry said officials were still studying the memo. ``Some of the things that are listed on this one document did happen; others didn't happen,'' McCurry said.
``It looks like a wish list written by someone who clearly did not know the rules,'' said Democratic Party national Chairman Steve Grossman.
White House officials have acknowledged that they used events there to encourage and reward donors, but say no solicitation of money ever occurred at the executive mansion. It is illegal to solicit donations on federal property. The White House earlier this week released several hundred pages of documents from Ickes' files, including records showing Clinton liked proposals to use White House sleep-overs and coffees to reward big-ticket donors.
Ickes did not write the one-page memo and does not recall how it came to be among his papers, his lawyer, Robert S. Bennett, said.
Seeking to put the best face on a bad situation, the new Democratic Party general chairman, Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado, said the nearly $3 million returned by the Democrats since Clinton was re-elected in November represents only 1.3 percent of the total raised by the party between 1994 and 1996.
``That's a serious amount, but it's a small percentage of the overall amount raised,'' Romer said.
Auditors hired by the Democrats examined every contribution over $5,000 made at fund-raising events. The auditors targeted the Asian-American community, and the Democrats will return $1,492,051 in addition to the $1,471,800 they already gave back because of questions about the money's sources.
The Justice Department is investigating three fund-raisers who collected three-quarters of the $3 million later returned. The three are Little Rock deal-maker Yah Lin ``Charlie'' Trie, who raised $645,000; California fax systems developer Johnny Chung, who gave $366,000; and John Huang, the former director of U.S. operations for the Indonesian Lippo Group conglomerate. Huang became a Commerce Department official, then a full-time fund-raiser.
Some $1.6 million of the $3.4 million raised by Huang has been returned. Some smaller donations are still being examined, and the rest of the money was properly collected, Democratic officials said.
Among other funds returned:
About $40,000 from Wireless Advantage Inc., a corporation associated with swindler Eric Wynn, who attended a White House coffee five months after he was found guilty of manipulating stocks to benefit an alleged member of New York's Bonanno crime family and a man who gave $75,000 to the party.
About $143,000 from Farhad Azima, an Iranian whose aircraft leasing company has been embroiled in disputes with tax authorities and government regulators.
Azima also gave $3,000 in 1996 to Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., whose Senate Governmental Affairs Committee is planning to review Democratic contributions. Azima is a former legal client of Thompson who has held fund-raising events for the senator.
About $50,000 in contributions ``deemed inappropriate'' from Empire Sanitary Landfill near Scranton, Pa. A seven-count federal indictment against the firm's president was dropped in August after the government's key witness died of cancer two days before the trial was to start. There was no answer at the company's office Friday.
About $64,050 from a fund-raiser at the Hsi Lai temple in Hacienda Heights, attended by Vice President Al Gore, who later said it was a mistake to hold the event at a tax-exempt religious temple. The Democratic Party is returning only 44 percent of the money raised there - contributions they determined were funneled from someone other than the named donor or given by a person who wasn't an American citizen.
PHOTO Roy Romer
Looks on the bright side