THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Phoenix, Arizona) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release October 31, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY, JOE LOCKHART, ANN LEWIS, AND FRANK DUVAL
Gammage Auditorium Arizona State University Phoenix, Arizona
9:55 A.M. MST
MR. MCCURRY: Good morning, everyone. The President will -- we've got a number of things here to entertain you until the President starts speaking. Let me just start by saying this is a day consistent with what we've done this week, where the President sums up his argument for reelection as he looks at the agenda that lies ahead and ties together various things that he's talked about during the course of this campaign for many, many months.
Today our focus is on how we can strengthen the American family and those steps we can take to protect our communities from violence, and those things we can do to enhance the capacity of law enforcement through cops on the street, through protecting children from tobacco, drugs, gangs and violence.
On those issues. the President will sum up his argument this morning and also provide some direct contrast to his record versus that of his principal opponent.
What I'd like to do, too -- we can come back to that subject, if you want to, or other subjects. I'd like first, also -- part of our wind up this week, not only the President, his appearances on the various venues that we're speaking at, but we're also, as you've heard from our political folks, well over a million a day on the air. And we thought it would be useful for you to see a little bit of what that ad traffic looks like as we close out. Our ad traffic will shift as we go into the close out over the weekend, but just to give you some sense, because you've been traveling and you may not have seen it, what types of arguments we've been making to voters on the air and Mark Penn and Anne Lewis will do that.
Before we do that I'd like to introduce Fred DuVal. I think all of you know that Fred has been serving as a deputy campaign manager for Clinton-Gore '96. He's a former chief of staff to Governor Bruce Babbitt, ran Bruce Babbitt's 1988 campaign. So he's our official resident expert on Arizona and he'll give you briefs on what's in play here in Arizona.
Fred. And obviously, you will all join me in welcoming back my sidekick and partner in crime, Mr. Lockhart --(applause) -- who has an ample supply of witty one-liners stored up if you'd like him to entertain, too.
MR. DUVAL: It's quite a set up. Welcome to sunny and warm Arizona. As you know, this is an extraordinary opportunity for the Clinton campaign as a Democrat has not carried this state since 1948 -- the only state about which that is true. So the Democratic Party here is extraordinarily excited about the prospects of a Clinton-Gore victory here and what it means for the state.
By way of setting a context, I think the reasons why this state is competitive in 1996 -- there are a couple of points I'd like to make. First is, because of Arizona's disproportionate senior population, obviously the Medicaid, Medicare issues are significant there. Secondly, the new migration into Arizona is coming disproportionately now from California, which is changing our population mix making it a very different population.
Third, Senator Dole had an unusually difficult primary here last spring. It was essentially a four-way tie. It was a very hard fought contest. And I think he has had difficulties putting his base back together after that very challenging primary. Third, we have one of the strongest state economies in the country, which, of course, bodes well for the incumbent President. The values message here -- individual responsibility, crime, education -- are themes which are resonating in Arizona. Fifth is that the Democratic Party is unusually unified and that is reflected top to bottom in the way the ticket is working together is working together in the coordinated campaign.
And in keeping with that, the Vice President made a stop here, the First Lady has made a stop here, and this is the third President stop. So an investment has been made by the principals and that's kept our prospects alive here.
That's sort of by way of a general context for why this might be a winnable state for us this year and why we're feeling pretty good.
Q What are the latest poll numbers?
MR. DUVAL: They did a number of them. Generally speaking, they tend to run from five to 10, 11 points.
Q How about your own?
MR. DUVALL: That's fairly consistent. Mark Penn's here to respond to that.
Q Three stops in --
MR. DUVALL: Three stops in two months.
Q Perot's strong in this state -- his numbers are up five or six. What is the recent -- cash fund to help him and hurt you all?
MR. DUVALL: Perot has always been strong here. It's a residual -- he was strong here four years ago; is, I'd say, strong in relative terms. He just -- the Western states have been slightly better for him. So I think that's not inconsistent.
MR. DUVAL: I'd have to turn that over to Mark and others who are looking at the data for that.
Q What's the underside?
MR. DUVALL: I'd refer the polling questions, again, to Mark.
Q Are you showing us his ads?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we're showing --
MS. LEWIS: We just didn't set it up technically. So it will probably be beautiful. He thought you'd want to see it. Why don't you look at them, record them if you like. And if there's a way we can make it easier to see, we'll do that next.
Q Is it possible that, just because the President may start to talk, that if people are agreed to that -- rather than see the ads, we might have a briefing and ask the questions?
Q I agree.
MR. TOIV: I don't think he's going to start at 10:00 a.m.
Q We want to have the briefing not the commercials.
MS. LEWIS: This is -- let me just check with Mike and see how he wants to handle things.
Q Can you set it up on the mult so that later on when you play we can record them?
MS. LEWIS: It sounds like we're going to have five minutes and I don't think -- it's not going to take us longer than that to show these and Mike will be back.
And you'll see very quickly on the ads, as you all know, we are at this stage in the campaign -- our media buy is -- we're spending a considerable amount of money, more than a million dollars a day on advertising. The mix of ads will vary by media market. This is no longer one or two ads being released each week for a substantial, i.e. virtually national buy. Instead we've got a mix of ads out there that are appearing in varied media markets. And we thought we would show you a set that are or soon will be on the air to give you a sense of the direction we're taking with out advertising.
MR. PENN: We're just really going to review here today some of our current traffic. As Ann says, it's fairly extensive. And I think there are really three major themes to note in the traffic that we're running.
First is our continuing commitment to values and the kinds of programs that have helped families be stronger and the kinds of programs that have helped children. And I think you'll see that clearly in the ad.
Second, as we continue to do in virtually all of our advertising, we contrast our record with the records of Senator Dole and Newt Gingrich. And we do that typically on the issues, and you'll see that on the issues such as Family and Medical Leave and you'll see that in the ads.
And, third, the third theme I think throughout the advertising is the 21st century agenda that the President is going around talking about. And you'll see that particularly in, say, the education ad where he talks about his future-oriented programs. So the commitment to values, the contrast on the record and the commitment to the future are pretty much the three themes that you'll see through these ads. And then we'll either have time to take questions on some of these themes and what we're doing or we'll do it privately and individually afterwards.
(The videotape is shown.)
MR. LOCKHART: This is obviously an ad oriented toward young voters and you'll see that in a second.
(Videotape is shown.)
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, sir, Marty.
Q What was Huang doing at the White House in all these many meetings?
MR. MCCURRY: He was doing what Principal Deputy and Assistant Secretary at the State of Commerce and then, later, what DNC fundraiser officials properly do when they frequently visit the White House. He was conducting his work as a Commerce Department official consistent with his responsibilities of Commerce and then later when he became a DNC official he did work and did things at the White House that many people who work for the party and for the President frequently do.
Remember that apparently what has been provided -- you take your pick, either by a government official critical of the administration or by Republican congressional sources, depending on which story you read today -- what has been provided are apparently records of what we call the V-pass electronic records, when people are scanned into the White House with one of the little appointment cards you get when you show up at the White House for employment.
Now, anyone who comes to the White House, whether you're coming to see a friend for lunch or you're coming for an outreach meeting with public liaison, whether you're coming to a departure ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, would be recorded in for that type of visit. We don't have an exhaustive list of Mr. Huang's visits to the White House, in fact, we don't have possession of the records that have kindly been provided to some news organizations. They have been -- they're in the custody of the Secret Service.
But we do know, just anecdotally, that he, for example, would frequently come to meet with people in the Office of Public Liaison in connection with the White House's efforts to reach out to the Asian American community. That's an effort that this White House is proud of. We've reached out to diverse communities around the country in trying to build support for the President and the President's program. We conduct briefings routinely for a wide variety of constituency groups and ethnic and religious and other types of groups.
He would come -- if he was coming to see a friend in the Personnel Office for lunch, he would be clocked in through that system. That would be anything but extraordinary because he was someone that helped identify people of Asian American heritage who could serve in the administration. And this President pledged to reach out to that type of -- make that type of effort in reaching out to diverse communities. If he were, for example, helping arrange meetings for people who we wanted to be supportive of the President and the President's program, he would be at the White House helping to arrange that type of meeting.
He was doing, in short, what those who work for the President are expected to do as they carry out their official duties as an administration official in the time he spent at the Commerce Department, or when they serve in their political capacity as he did when he left the Commerce Department and went to the DNC for the balance of this year.
Q Are those actual examples?
MR. MCCURRY: These are anecdotally examples from just people who have some memory or some recollection of having worked with him or seen him there.
Q Can you say that he did not meet with anyone in the political operation at the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I cannot at all. He was a DNC fundraiser and he would have met with political people. He would have -- we've already acknowledged the President has no doubt met with other officials at the White House.
Q -- (inaudible) -- the President --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, yes, that's been recorded now for well over two weeks.
Q Mike, when you say -- (inaudible) -- these records -- what, is the Secret Service giving them to Congress and Congress is giving them to --
MR. MCCURRY: It's my understanding from talking to the Counsel's Office that the Secret Service has apparently provided these to a congressional committee. That's reported in the Washington Post today.
Q -- the President's secretary is the head of the Secret Service. Won't they provide them to you on your request? Are they withholding them?
MR. MCCURRY: We have not requested those, have not had a reason to request them.
Q If you had the records could you determine from those records what the purpose of Mr. Huang's visits were at each individual time?
MR. MCCURRY: You could, but at the moment there's not a reason to indicate that that's a necessary process to undertake.
Q Would you want to do that in light of these accusations, if it's possible to do so?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure what the accusations are. You know, there's a temptation here to prejudge guilt. And what I just told you was that he had a pattern of activity consistent with his responsibilities at the Commerce Department and then the Democratic National Committee. And we don't have an indication based on what we know that he was doing anything other than what he should have been doing in both of those capacities.
Q -- this question in a different way? When you say that he had no contact with policy people when he worked at the DNC -- I mean, you said he has contact with political people, as he should have -- could you say if he had any contacts with policy people?
MR. MCCURRY: He had contact with a range of White House officials consistent with his own responsibilities and then at the DNC.
Q -- the DNC.
MR. MCCURRY: At the DNC when he was there, he was engaged in both -- his specific assignments were obviously related to fundraising, but they also would have included building support for the President and reaching out to Asian Americans who we wanted to actively include* in part of the President's party political effort.
Q What are you saying? That he had 65 or 70 lunches at the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying I gave you --
Q Then why not do this in his own office?
MR. MCCURRY: I gave examples of the kinds of things that he would have been doing. They're consistent with -- look, I had the same rank when I was at the State Department. I was a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. I'm sure I'm on record from the few years I served at the State Department, going to see friends at the White House and going to meetings at the White House related to foreign policy, going to meetings that included discussions of how we would build support for the President's foreign policy. And those are all perfectly consistent with duties of people of that rank.
Q -- the number of times --
MR. MCCURRY: There's an extraordinary interest in the number and I'm not sure that the number itself is even unusual. People who have got that type of responsibility at the party would have prudently come to the White House, particularly people who were well known at the White House, who had friends at the White House. Remember, you would be clocked in as having been waved in to the White House if you were seeing a friend, if you were going to a meeting, if you were attending a large reception. And there are any number of reasons why someone would come to the White House.
Q Have you checked to make sure that he was not discussing specific fundraising tactics with people at the White House? For example, has he -- do you have any documentation of meetings with Mr. Ickes or other people who could --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he had fundraising responsibilities. But we don't conduct fundraising at the White House. We conduct outreach, those who are responsible for doing that, consistent with what their responsibilities are at the DNC or at Clinton-Gore campaign depending on where they work. And we got very strict separation between the work that people do to brief and reach out to communities and then what we do to solicit funds.
Q And if he were to be called to Congress say to testify -- are you convinced that he would not ever testify that he brought specific requests from contributors to people at the White House --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm certain that those who are responsibility for setting foreign policy particularly related to Indonesia or to Asia were called upon to testify, they would say that foreign policy in this administration was conducted based on the merits and the substance and the direction of the President consistent with the views of his National Security advisors.
Q Mike, that wasn't the question. The question was whether or not he ever brought requests from contributors to the White House and discussed them --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, if there -- I think there is a distinction between requests, and requests can include everything from a letter of congratulations or -- these are examples, I'm not suggesting these are what happened. That's separate from policy request. Policymaking is done by policy makers.
Q Mike, since the Political Director is here -- Doug, could you shed any light? Did you ever meet with him? Could you shed some light on what any of visits or discussions might have entailed?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Sosnik.
MR. SOSNIK: I don't recall -- I know John and I've seen him at events, but I don't recall meeting with him at the White House.
Q Do you have any idea --
MR. MCCURRY: Correct. But I would -- at the same time, others would have and there it would be consistent with his duties both at the DNC or at the Commerce Department prior.
Q Mike, are you convinced that the separation was --
Q -- tied to the White House after he went to the DNC? What would it have been proper for them to discuss at the White House when Mr. Huang was working for the DNC?
MR. MCCURRY: They could have discussed efforts to build support for the President's program and his priorities. Mr. Ickes, as you know, had responsibility in the White House for overseeing some of out political activity this year. And it was not inconsistent with his own responsibilities to have contact with Democratic National Committee officials and to review the work of the Democratic National Committee.
Q Mike, have you -- are you satisfied that the strict separation was honored in the case of Mr. Huang? I mean, have you looked into that to make sure that the --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we -- look, I make it clear, we have no process underway to review each and every meeting that he had or his activities because we're not aware of suggestions that there was anything improper about his work. Obviously, if we had any of those indications, we would pursue those and pursue those with some determination. But I'm not aware of any of that. And with the reports are that he came to the White House and our suggestion is, of course, he did.
Q Is the President concerned that there was not adequate oversight at the DNC of its financial fundraising activities?
MR. MCCURRY: The President knows that there was an extensive effort by the Democratic National Committee and by his own reelection campaign to raise money this year. The President will suggest tomorrow that there was -- had to be because of the nature of the law and the reality of the political challenge that we face in this election year -- an extensive effort to raise money. And one thing he will suggest tomorrow is that we need to reform those laws to minimize the kind of work that has to put with the -- are the priority that has to be placed on fundraising as against other activities in an election year. That's one reason among many why we do need campaign finance reform.
Q Mike, the New York Times today says that Mark Middleton was handing out business cards that had him still listed as a White House aide even after he left the White House. They say that there's a phone number that answers at the White House that still has his name and refers people over to his private number. I was wondering what you think of the propriety of that and if anybody at the White House is looking into Mr. Middleton's activities?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any reason to dispute the account in the New York Times. I haven't had a chance to look at that particularly. But when people depart the White House, they frequently leave a forwarding voice mail or they leave forwarding information. That's often is the case. I'll have to check into the specific circumstances of Mr. Middleton.
Q Mike, when I've called many people at the White House, I've never gotten a phone number that someone -- that refers me on voice mail to another business. I've gotten -- if you call somebody, they answer the phone and they say so-and-so isn't here anymore. But this seems a little different. Is there anybody else -- can you give us some other examples of people w ho have done that kind of thing?
MR. MCCURRY: ** voice mail and new ways that you can leave forwarding information. But I'll check further into --
Q ** is true, is that an appropriate thing --
MR. MCCURRY: I'll check further into that question and see if that is a common practice or not. I'll check further into it.
Q Any more about anyone looking at his activities overall to see if he was representing himself as working for the White House at a time when he had already gone from the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of it. I'm not aware that there is a specific process for looking into that. I think we would be concerned if someone was misrepresenting the work they had done at the White House or their status at the White House. But I don't have any knowledge at this moment that there's anyone pursuing that with respect to Mr. Middleton. I'll check on that further since there's a question on the table on that.
Q Mike, you were saying you met with political people. Is there any separation between what he was doing in raising soft money and what the political operation at the White House is doing?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, absolutely. We structure -- the fundraising activities are properly within the domain of the President's reelection campaign and the -- campaign. We take great care to separate what would be deemed official responsibilities or the legitimate activity of a White House engaged in building support for a President's program and his priorities, through outreach, through briefing people, through bringing folks to the White House for a constituency-building type meetings. That has, by our own standards, has to be kept completely separate from efforts to solicit and raise funds. It doesn't really matter whether it's federal or nonfederal money. Those have to be distinctions that are drawn.
Q And isn't there also separation in the sense that he cannot coordinate with the White House because he's raising soft money?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's -- no, there's not -- the restrictions between coordination relate to expenditures, not to fundraising activity, fundraisers who worked in the domain of the party or the reelection campaign are frequently, you know, looking and identifying sources of support for both federal and nonfederal contributions. There's not a distinction on the raising side of those equations. The distinctions apply in how the money is spent on ensuring that they're spent consistently with Federal Election Commission guidelines.
Q Are you satisfied he had no discussions with members of the White House staff about the expenditure money that he was raising?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe his responsibilities ran to expenditures, unless they were ancillary expenditures in connection with outreach events. The DNC does reimburse the cost of outreach events for constituency-building type activities. If you're having a briefing at the White House for Asian American community leaders, the DNC will frequently defray that -- properly so, because that's not an expense that the taxpayers should bear.
Q Isn't there a question here, though, about whether or not he improperly talked to people at the White House about the way money would be expended that was raised?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any allegation of that nature. I didn't see anything reported that suggested he was involved in that type of discussion.
I have not seen anything --
Q -- matter of the visits. It's really unlike this White House not to want to marshal all the facts at its disposal when certain things are questioned. So are you saying that by taking no effort to, like, find out about the records of the meetings or the entrances that you just think there's really nothing to be concerned of here and it's all academic?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm suggesting that there's some care taken to see if was the pattern of activity that he was engaged in consistent with what was expected of an official of his rank at the Commerce Department, or then consistent with his duties at the Democratic National Committee. And as near as we have been determining that that is the case, and if we had information to the contrary it would of course be of concern. I'm not aware of information that suggests that that's something that ought to be of concern.
Q You're determining that by just kind of oral debriefings of people like Alexis Herman and Harold and people that he would have been there seeing --
MR. MCCURRY: People he would have had, anecdotally had some relationship with at the White House. I mean, he was obviously someone who was well known at the White House and someone whose services, particularly with respect to outreach to the Asian American community were valued because we attach some priority to reaching out to ethnically diverse communities.
Q But are you convinced that while he was at the DNC as a fundraiser he did not attend any policy meetings at the White House or carry policy requests from contributors to the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: We have no information that I am aware of that suggests that.
Q -- you just mentioned it -- response to Todd's question. Is there one central person who's sort of collecting facts on that?
MR. MCCURRY: The information that I have provided wa relayed to me by the Legal Counsel's Office. As is frequently the case, we work with them. They have responsibility for reviewing questions like that. So I'm passing on information made available to me by the Legal Counsel's Office.
Q Would it be correct to say that the Legal Counsel's Office was trying to --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it has been looking into some of the -- frankly, they're just assisting us in responding to press inquiries. I think that's the way I would describe it.
Q You're really not investigating this any further --
MR. MCCURRY: We've got the President to be introduced. Is there -- we can keep going.
Q -- no plans to do so?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, no, there's been a number, based on the briefing I'm giving you now and inquiries from news organization -- have got questions that we're attempting to get good answers to. So I wouldn't say that we're not pursuing this or it's not of concern to us. We want to make sure we get good accurate information, such as it is, and pass it on to those who are making inquiries, principally, members of the press.
I'll check further on the Middleton question. I just don't know the answer to that. I'll update you on that. Thanks.
END 10:27 A.M. MST