By CHRIS MONDICS Herald Washington Bureau
September 20, 1997
Plantation businessman R. Warren Meddoff
testified Friday that former White House aide Harold Ickes asked
him for $1.5 million in campaign contributions last October and
then asked him to shred a record of the request.
Meddoff, testifying before the Senate Governmental
Affairs Committee, said that at a Democratic fund-raiser in Coral
Gables on Oct. 22, he told President Clinton about a business
associate's offer to donate $5 million to the president's campaign.
Clinton told him that someone would follow up, Meddoff said.
Soon afterward, Meddoff said, Ickes called
him from Air Force One, saying he had an urgent need for $1.5
million within 24 hours. Meddoff said Ickes directed him to contribute
to several tax-exempt, Democratic-leaning groups. Ickes then faxed
Meddoff a memo that specified the names and amounts of the donations.
That led to another phone call.
``He [Ickes] called me and very nicely said,
`I sent you that fax in error; I shouldn't have sent it. Would
you please shred it?' '' Meddoff testified. ``We had a brief discussion
regarding even where the shredding machine was located within
my office. And that was the last time I spoke to Mr. Ickes.''
Meddoff did not destroy the document, which
was produced at the committee's hearing Friday.
By presenting testimony that Ickes allegedly
sought to have campaign documents shredded, Republicans are trying
to show that the White House knew it was engaging in questionable
practices during last year's campaign.
Federal law bars government employees from
soliciting campaign contributions on government property, although
there is debate on when those rules apply. The law also restricts
when political campaigns can coordinate their activities and spending
with outside groups.
While acknowledging that Ickes sent the memo,
Democrats on the committee, as well as the White House, on Friday
denied that Ickes ever instructed Meddoff to destroy documents.
In an earlier deposition to the committee, Ickes denied telling
Meddoff to shred the fax.
The controversy started when the onetime
Broward auto exporter and Davie town council candidate attended
a $1,500-a-plate Coral Gables fund-raiser for Clinton, intending
to urge the president to resume aid flights to Cuba. The flights
had been banned since Cuba shot down two private U.S. planes in
The offer of $5 million came from William
R. Morgan, a Texas investor who wanted the contribution to be
The flights resumed. But the donation was
never made: Morgan withdrew the offer because he did not support
the aims of all the organizations on Ickes' list. They included
Defeat 209, a California organization whose goal was to defeat
a ballot initiative banning affirmative action in the state.
Meddoff at the time worked as an export manager
for Bukkehave Inc. in Hollywood, a company that provides heavy-duty
vehicles to relief efforts worldwide. He was fired in July, for
reasons ``totally unrelated to this issue,'' Bukkehave attorney
Richard Bright said Friday.
Bright would not say what the reasons were,
saying that Meddoff is a private individual. ``We don't want to
say what it was and have him come back and sue us,'' Bright said.
At the hearing Friday, committee Democrats
vigorously attacked Meddoff's credibility.
They produced evidence that the man on whose
behalf Meddoff sought to make contributions had few assets, had
been sued for failing to pay bills, and had two tax liens filed
against him. The Democrats said the offer of a contribution was
rejected after Democratic officials started looking into his background.
``I for one will not have you come before
this committee and make claims against people I've known much
of my life, people who have been trusted in leadership of the
United States of America, considering aspects of your credibility
`` said Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J.
`Soft money' under fire
In a related development, the committee announced
that next week it would move beyond its probe of Democratic fund-raising
improprieties and begin looking at the explosive growth of unregulated
``soft money'' in political campaigns.
For years, federal law has strictly limited
contributions made directly to candidates. But a series of court
decisions have opened the door to millions of dollars in unrestricted
spending of soft money by special interests on behalf of candidates.
Critics of the campaign-finance system say
the soft money loophole has greatly increased the clout of well-heeled
special interests on Capitol Hill and in the White House.
Herald staff writer Christina A. Samuels contributed to this report.