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Clinton aides got the word in '96: Political events would be recorded

Clinton administration staffers were told in an April 1996 memo, drafted by a high-ranking White House lawyer, that government crews would be recording presidential political events.

Despite the memo, the White House counsel's office - where the lawyer is now second in command - denied knowing until several weeks ago that President Clinton's meetings with Democratic donors were on videotape.The admission came six months after the Senate subpoenaed the White House for videotapes and all other documents related to Clinton administration fund raising. Republicans contend the delay was intentional. The White House denies that.

"It's very sad, indeed . . . that we had to be the ones to pound this information out of them," said Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., chairman of the investigating committee.

"They were doing everything they can to see that they didn't comply" with the subpoena.

But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., disputed that there was a plan to conceal the videotapes. "There was a question of misguided information and perhaps incompetence. That is bad enough, but I don't think there was intentional concealment," he said.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats blocked action on a highway authorization bill Thursday to press their demand that Republicans commit to a "meaningful debate" early next year on campaign finance reform.

An attempt to cut off debate and vote on an amendment to the six-year, $145 billion bill covering federal road-building programs was 48-52, falling 12 short of the 60 needed for passage.

All senators voting for cloture were Republicans, while all 45 Democrats, plus seven Republicans, voted against it.

Democrats have promised not to let their campaign finance reform efforts interfere with bills determining actual government spending for fiscal 1998, which began Oct. 1. The highway bill was targeted because it is a long-term authorization bill.