- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 7, 2002

Officials from both political parties often cater to donors and lace their pitches for money with promises of meetings with top officials, according to fund-raising memos turned over to a court hearing the first legal challenge to the nation's new campaign finance law.
"Gave 100K last year and 20K this year. Ask her to give 80K more this year for lunch with Potus on Oct. 27th," said a 1995 memo for then-Democratic Party Chairman Don Fowler, urging that prominent donor Denise Rich be solicited for money before attending a lunch with President Clinton.
Mrs. Rich's name later surfaced in both the Clinton fund-raising and pardon controversies.
In 2000, Republican Party fund-raiser Mel Sembler wrote to the chief of the now-bankrupt Global Crossing Ltd. telecommunications company, which had already given $100,000: "As you recall in our conversation some weeks ago, you agreed to upgrade your Team 100 membership to the Regent program [$250,000] when the merger was approved.
"Thankfully this has now been approved, so I am taking the liberty of enclosing an invoice for the additional upgrade."
The documents show that money buys access, and that is how the game is played in Washington, said Kent Cooper, co-founder of PoliticalMoneyLine, a nonpartisan Web site that tracks campaign finance, and a former Federal Election Commission official.
"We expect these documents will trigger further investigations," he said.
The documents were submitted to the court under seal but were provided to the Associated Press and other news organizations yesterday under an agreement between the national political parties and the lawmakers who sponsored the law.
DNC spokeswoman Maria Cardona saw nothing new in the Democratic documents.
"This was part of the thousands and thousands and thousands of documents we dumped during the whole investigation of the 1996 fund-raising," Mrs. Cardona said. The Democratic committee supports the new law, she said.
The Republican committee refused to comment on specific documents. Party Chairman Marc Racicot said in a written statement that the RNC provided more than 400,000 documents to government lawyers and the court and that a minuscule number are said by the law's defenders to be evidence of corruption.
"In most cases, they are nothing. In some cases they may be interesting but amount to nothing in the eyes of the law," Mr. Racicot said. The RNC is among 80 plaintiffs challenging nearly every aspect of the new law.
Basically, the law bans unlimited, so-called soft money donations that corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals once gave political parties, chiefly to buy TV ads. It also tightly regulates private groups that buy broadcast campaign ads in the final weeks before elections.
Opponents say its new restrictions will muffle public debate and violate First Amendment rights of free speech and association. Defenders counter that the law will preserve democracy from the corrupting influence of huge donations.
Drug companies, some of the country's more active political donors, were a frequent subject of party memos.

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