WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ah, vacation. Time to rest, read and play
golf. And raise campaign cash, of course.
On his just-concluded 16-day respite from Washington, President
Clinton squeezed in appearances at seven fund-raisers for Hillary
Rodham Clinton's presumed Senate race, the Democratic National
Committee and other campaigns.
"No one has ever seen anyone do more to raise money than this
man at the state or federal level in our lifetimes," said Charles
Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, a
Washington-based watchdog organization.
White House officials say Clinton will keep up a steady pace of
fund raising for the party, Senate and House campaign committees,
his wife and Vice President Al Gore with the approach of the 2000
elections. "He'll be substantially involved," deputy chief of
staff Steve Ricchetti said. "We're getting very close to show
So far in 1999, a nonelection year, Clinton has attended 27
fund-raisers that yielded $14 million for the Democratic National
Committee, according to party figures. That does not count
appearances for the vice president, the first lady or Senate and
"He's a vacuum cleaner," said Republican National Committee
Chairman Jim Nicholson. "And we know that he won't hesitate to use
the assets of the presidency. He sold the White House for
fund-raisers and access and lets out all the stops."
By Republican count, Clinton has been on the road 34 days this
year to attend 55 fund-raisers. Last year, during the midterm
election campaign, he devoted 67 days to raising money at 114
events, according to the GOP.
President George Bush, by comparison, attended 84 fund-raisers
during the 1990 midterm election races, said Robert Holzweiss,
archivist of the Bush library.
White House and DNC officials were unable to provide their own
lists of Clinton's fund raising. The Federal Election Commission
does not compile figures on how much presidents help raise. The
money is recorded by donor and recipient, and it's difficult to
tell which fund-raiser it came from.
"He is absolutely phenomenal and unique," said presidential
scholar Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution. "He is simply
very good at it. He's a man of compulsions. This is one of them. No
other president enjoyed it as much as he did."
Don Simon, executive vice president of Common Cause said, "The
remarkable thing about Bill Clinton is that he seems to enjoy fund
raising, he seems to sort of relish in it. He is just a master of
Clinton may feel driven, Hess said, because he wants to help his
wife and Gore win office. "He has some special obligations to the
Democrats in Congress who kept him in office, literally," during
the impeachment scandal. And he has a unique opportunity to help
the Democrats regain control of the House, where a change of five
seats could put them in power.
Ronald Reagan and Bush raised campaign funds, but not on a par
with Clinton, analysts say.
"They were not as hands-on in the business of politics,
including the grubby business of collecting the cash," the Center
for Public Integrity's Lewis said. "I don't think any of them were
as deeply enmeshed in it as Bill Clinton."
White House officials say Clinton is just trying to help
Democrats keep up with Republicans, who traditionally raise more
money through their allies in big business. In any event, it's
difficult to measure Clinton against other presidents, because
campaign-finance practices have changed dramatically, Clinton aides
"Republicans always out-raise Democrats, always have more
resources," said White House press secretary Joe Lockhart. "The
president believes it's important that Democrats be as competitive
as they can. The president has been willing to take the time to go
out and energize Democrats around the country, including those who
have the resources to help the party fund the elections."
Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign drew intense criticism after
revelations that wealthy donors were rewarded with overnight stays
in the Lincoln Bedroom, rides on Air Force One, invitations to Camp
David and Oval Office chats with the president.
"We've never really seen before a president use the power and
perks of the White House as an integrated part of a fund-raising
machine the way that Clinton did in 1996," said Simon, of Common
Cause. "That was new. And the amounts of money raised were