- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2000

Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign raised $24,000 at a Washington fund-raiser in December organized by a Pakistani lobbyist shortly after her husband announced he would not visit Pakistan during an upcoming trip to India.

The Washington event was followed in February by a New York fund-raiser organized by Pakistani-American businessmen, during which $50,000 was raised for the first lady an event reported Monday by the New York Times.

Last week, President Clinton reversed himself and said he would visit Pakistan during his weeklong India trip, which begins Saturday. Pakistani-Americans had encouraged Mr. Clinton to visit the country to find solutions to the war in Kashmir, a territory claimed by both Pakistan and India.

Both fund-raisers were legal and there is no evidence to suggest Mrs. Clinton influenced her husband's last-minute decision to stop in Pakistan. But the fund-raisers have raised political questions of whether campaign donations to the first lady are a factor in influencing Clinton administration policies.

Mrs. Clinton, who has said publicly she supported a visit by her husband to Pakistan, denied this week that campaign contributions to her Senate race had any influence on White House policy.

"If anybody thinks they can influence the president by making a contribution to me, they are dead wrong, and I think there is no evidence of that," she said.

The White House also rejected concerns that Mr. Clinton decided to visit Pakistan in part because his wife received campaign donations from Pakistani-Americans.

"The decision was made by the president in consultation with his foreign policy team based on our interest in the subcontinent, our interest in that part of the world, without regard to anyone's politics, including the first lady's," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said.

The New York fund-raiser was organized by the Pakistan Political Action Committee, known as Pak-Pac, the political arm of the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA). The Washington fund-raiser was organized by Lanny J. Davis, a lawyer at the D.C. law firm of Patton and Boggs.

Mr. Davis, former White House special counsel who defended the Clinton administration in various scandals, represents Pak-Pac on a $22,500-a-month contract. Patton and Boggs also handles the official Pakistani government account.

According to Federal Election Commission records, 37 lawyers from Patton and Boggs attended the Washington fund-raiser, contributing $24,000 to the first lady's senatorial campaign. The contributions ranged from $250 to $1,000 per person.

Mr. Davis, as a lobbyist for the Pakistani government, acknowledged in an interview that he encouraged the president to add Pakistan to the India trip, but denied any relationship between the Washington fund-raiser and Mr. Clinton's ultimate decision to visit that country.

"I wish I could say I had the influence and had applied the right pressure for the president to visit Pakistan, but I didn't, so I can't," he said. "What really happened was that the president made his own decision and remained faithful to his legacy in bringing people together in tension situations around the world."

Mr. Davis added that the money donated by the Pakistanis was "minor" compared with the amount of cash being given by Indian-Americans to various campaigns, including lobbying efforts against the Pakistani visit. He described the Washington fund-raiser as a gathering of individuals looking to make contact with a political candidate "just like every other group."

Those who attended the New York fund-raiser said Mrs. Clinton told them she hoped her husband would visit Pakistan, which has been ruled by a military government since a coup last October. They also said the Clinton campaign required a minimum of $50,000 in donations in exchange for her appearance at a fund-raiser.

"I cannot deny the fact that she's the president's wife makes a difference," Dr. Asim Malik, a Long Island physician, told the New York Times. "But also as a woman, she can feel more pain for the victims of Kashmir, the women and children."

Mr. Davis, the Pak-Pac lobbyist, also attended the New York fund-raiser.

The White House has said Mr. Clinton's visit to India and Pakistan is aimed at easing tensions between the two countries.

Having exploded nuclear weapons in May 1998, India and Pakistan battled in Kashmir, and India downed a Pakistani reconnaissance plane along the Arabian Sea coast. Months of patient diplomacy by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott failed to prevent the South Asian fighting or roll back the nuclear weapons development.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said there was "great danger" a war could begin over the disputed region of Kashmir, but he hopes Mr. Clinton's visit might ease the tension.

But Indian Foreign Minister Jasawant Singh said Mr. Clinton would not be asked to mediate the Kashmir dispute, which India has long insisted must be settled between the two Asian countries themselves.

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