Clinton aide stays close to clients Economic adviser defends letters

February 05, 1993|By Keith Bradsher | Keith Bradsher,New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Robert E. Rubin, a former co-chairman of Goldman, Sachs & Co. who is President Clinton's top economic adviser, sent a letter in December to many of his clients urging them to continue doing business with the investment banking firm and to stay in touch with him at the White House.

A copy of one of the letters, on Goldman Sachs stationery and signed by Mr. Rubin, assures a Japanese client that Goldman Sachs can continue to work closely with the client despite his departure.

"I am confident that Goldman Sachs will continue to work as well or even better with" the company, Mr. Rubin wrote, "given the strength of trust and the bond of mutual respect between our organizations."

The three-paragraph letter concludes: "I also look forward to continuing to work with you in my new capacity."

Mr. Rubin said in an interview Wednesday that he had sent "many" such letters, but he refused to provide a precise figure. He said the statements were social phrases intended to encourage cooperation between private industry and government and were not intended to encourage any improper contacts or special pleading.

"What it meant was, it's in the interest of the U.S. government to work constructively with everybody," Mr. Rubin said.

Dee Dee Myers, a White House spokeswoman, said the letter does not violate federal ethics laws or regulations.

But the letter highlights the looseness of government regulations on contacts between administration officials and their former clients, said Charles R. E. Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit organization in Washington. He said it created at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Mr. Rubin's correspondence also sheds some light on his extensive dealings in a rarefied circle of international business and finance. Mr. Rubin, the head of Mr. Clinton's new National Economic Council, is not subject to Senate confirmation. He has not filed his financial disclosure forms with the federal government but must do so by Feb. 19.

An adviser to the Japanese executive who received the letter provided a copy on the condition that neither the executive nor his company be identified. The adviser said that as many as 1,000 Goldman Sachs clients in the United States, Japan, Europe and elsewhere received similar letters.

Mr. Rubin also said in the letter, "I hope I can continue to rely on your interest and support as I move from Broad Street in New York to Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., and would be grateful for whatever suggestions you would offer."

A federal lawyer who had read the letter and who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, "It doesn't strike me that there's anything there that would raise any kind of specter of a violation of law or regulation."

Federal ethics regulations are mainly aimed at limiting contacts by former administration officials with the agencies they have left.

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