About two dozen protesters who favor campaign finance reform greeted President Clinton and some 2,200 of his supporters Wednesday at a $3.5 million Democratic fund-raiser at the Washington Hilton hotel.
As promised, the watchdog group Common Cause turned out to protest the Democratic event, billed as "An American Celebration," because of the party's stepped-up fund-raising efforts.The president was shielded from the protesters, who shouted at the his motorcade as it arrived at the hotel. Two members of the group held a banner that read, "President Clinton - the new soft-money king."
Earlier Wednesday, Clinton said there would be no "unilateral disarmament" in raising money for Democrats and that he would continue to accept big donations while working "hard for" campaign reform legislation as promised.
Speaking to reporters at the start of a meeting with Jordan's King Hussein, Clinton rejected the accusations of the public interest group Common Cause that he has reneged on pledges to reform the fund-raising process.
"My campaign commitment is to seek campaign finance reform legislation which would put both parties on an equal footing and will give the government of this country back to ordinary Americans," he said. "I have supported that legislation strongly from the beginning. I still believe we are going to get a good campaign finance reform out of the committees and onto my desk in this session of Congress."
But until that time, Clinton said he would continue to accept political contributions, just as Republicans do.
"I don't believe in unilateral disarmament and look, I have had a lot more advertising and attacks against our administration and our policy than we have had the financial wherewithal to respond to," he said. "We have done our best to defend ourselves in the system that now exists, but I agree with Common Cause, we need a campaign finance reform bill and I'm going to work hard for it."
Common Cause criticized Clinton for raising so-called "soft money" contributions for the Democratic National Committee from corporations, labor unions and individuals.
The group said that from July 1992 to March 1994, Clinton and the DNC raised $40.5 million, compared with $21.4 million that President Bush and the Republicans raised during the same 21-month period.
Soft money is corporate, labor and individual contributions that go to the political parties rather than individual candidates. The contributions are not subject to the federal limits and prohibitions on contributors to individual candidates.