- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2000

Terry McAuliffe, a key figure in the White House campaign-finance scandal and a major fund-raiser for President Clinton, is expected to become the Democratic National Committee's chairman early next year.

Ohio Democratic Chairman David Leland, who was a possible candidate for the top party post, took himself out of contention yesterday after a meeting here with Mr. McAuliffe, who raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Mr. Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and first lady and Sen.-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton.

While some of the party's black and Hispanic members were angry with the way that Mr. McAuliffe quietly and quickly clinched the DNC chairmanship in the postelection period, Mr. Clinton's support for the legendary fund-raiser all but ruled out any challengers.

DNC National Chairman Joseph Andrew had hoped to run for another term but decided against it after meeting with Mr. Clinton last week.

Party insiders said the choice for chairman was a struggle between Democrats loyal to Mr. Gore and those loyal to Mr. Clinton who wanted to reward Mr. McAuliffe for raising money for Mr. Clinton's re-election campaign and his presidential library in Arkansas. Mr. McAuliffe also had offered to put up money to help the Clintons buy their $1.7 million home in New York.

This has led to speculation that Mr. Clinton, through Mr. McAuliffe, will retain political control over the DNC and be in a position to help his wife run for president four years from now.

However, Mr. McAuliffe's rise to the top of the party has come under fire from campaign finance reform advocates who criticized his involvement in the White House fund-raising scandal, in which the Lincoln Bedroom reportedly was used to raise millions of dollars from wealthy Democratic donors.

"It's outrageous but not surprising considering the Washington culture. It's a metaphor for the arrogance and corruption of the Clinton operation," said Charles Lewis, executive director of the bipartisan Center for Public Integrity.

"It shows the only lesson the Democrats learned from the fund-raising scandal was that: a) they can get away with it with impunity; and b) that they need more money in the next election cycle," Mr. Lewis said yesterday.

Mr. McAuliffe also was implicated in a scheme to obtain $1 million from the Teamsters Union in exchange for kickbacks to help re-elect Teamster President Ron Carey in 1996.

Mr. McAuliffe denied in sworn depositions to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee that he knew anything about the scheme, but five Teamster witnesses later testified that he had a role in the fund-raising trade-off.

"McAuliffe was never indicted, so he has managed to outdance the fiddler for the federal law enforcement community," Mr. Lewis said.

"But the last person the Justice Department is going to prosecute is the Clintons' best friend who delivered the White House to Clinton and delivered the Senate seat to Hillary," he said.

DNC officials said that the committee's 451 members will meet to elect the new chairman sometime late next month or in early February.

Mr. McAuliffe has given no indication he will join a call for bipartisanship with President-elect George W. Bush, telling reporters last week that he will hold hearings around the country on the Florida recount.

"Let [George W. Bush] have a good Inauguration. But we need to give these Republicans the same honeymoon they gave us: none," he said.

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