Motel 1600 White Hostel: Clinton at the center of scandalous political fund-raising.

February 27, 1997

PRESIDENT CLINTON says "the Lincoln bedroom was never sold." He is right. It was only rented. The White House is not a condo; it is a motel for the rich and famous and friendly. Nor would the president of the United States be so gauche as to name a price for a night in Old Abe's eight-foot bed or sell tickets to the dozens of coffee klatches he held in order to listen earnestly to the policy guidance of big-bucks donors.

Bill Clinton is much too subtle, too fastidious, too respectful of the people's property to to solicit political money on the premises of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Besides, he is a Yale-trained lawyer. And, as such, he was careful not to do anything illegal though not averse, in the words of former aide George Stephanopoulos, to go "right up to the edge."

Documents released under congressional pressure demonstrate conclusively that Mr. Clinton was personally and enthusiastically involved in the massive re-election fund-raising effort that has swamped his second term in scandal. Perhaps most damaging are his jottings on a 1995 memo from a political aide who suggested breakfasts, lunches, golf or jogs with the president to "energize" large contributors. Not to be outdone, Mr. Clinton wrote: "Ready to start overnights right away" for donors in the $50,000 to $100,000 category.

Files supplied by former Clinton point man Harold Ickes reveal that 938 visitors overnighted in the Lincoln or Queen's bedrooms during the first Clinton term. Most were friends but enough had deep enough pockets to contribute at least $9.1 million to the Democrats. As for the coffee klatches, another memo indicates that each group of ten invitees should be worth half a million. Total take: $27 million.

Such disclosures effectively jettison Mr. Clinton's pretense that any transgressions were the handiwork of the Democratic National Committee ("that other campaign," he called it). He was ready to exploit his office with more abandon than any of his predecessors.

Each day brings new information about a campaign gone haywire in its efforts to match more successful Republican fund-raising. Although off-and-on-again Whitewater prosecutor FTC Kenneth Starr has done little to enhance the image of independent counsels, Attorney General Janet Reno should go ahead and ask the judiciary to appoint one to look into political money-grubbing. This administration lacks the credibility to investigate itself. And that lack of credibility begins at the top.

Pub Date: 2/27/97

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