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President Clinton is "placing the presidency on the auction block" by collecting large contributions outside the limits of campaign finance laws, Common Cause charges.

The self-styled citizens lobby planned a protest Wednesday night outside a Washington hotel where Clinton and the Democratic Party are holding a $1,500-a-plate fund-raiser expected to raise $2 million.White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said Wednesday that Clinton, unlike his Republican predecessors, is willing to sign a campaign bill that outlaws the so-called soft money contributions. Until then, he will continue to raise the funds at will.

"The president is not going to stand by while the GOP raises millions of dollars to try to defeat him while he's trying to reform the system," Myers said. "We're operating under the existing rules. Nobody ever said we would unilaterally disarm."

On Tuesday, Clinton welcomed about 500 members of the Democrats' Business Leadership Forum to a reception at the White House. To join the forum, individuals must contribute $10,000 and corporations must donate $15,000.

"The president who said he would fight to change the system not only hasn't done it, but now he's the leading practitioner of the abuses of the system," Common Cause President Fred Wertheimer said Tuesday. "He has failed to keep his promise to the American people."

"The crown and scepter now belong to President Clinton, the new soft-money king," Wertheimer said. He accused Clinton of "placing the presidency on the auction block."

From July 1992, when Clinton was nominated, through March 1994, the Democrats collected $40.5 million in large corporate, union and personal contributions, the group found - nearly double the $21.4 million raised by the Republican Party.

The largest single giver was media conglomerate Time Warner, which donated $508,333 to the Democrats during the 21-month period. The National Education Association was the largest union contributor, at $339,950. And the largest individual donor was Carl Lindner, CEO of American Financial Corporation, who wrote a check for $250,000.