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Still Quiet on Library Donors

President Bill Clinton is showing no inclination to disclose the names of the people whose sizeable donations helped construct his $165 million presidential library.

During Wednesday night's presidential debate, Tim Russert asked Sen. Hillary Clinton whether, in the absence of legislation requiring the Clinton library to identify donors, the library would consider voluntarily releasing their names. Clinton said she was "sure he'd be happy to consider that."

Clinton library officials and his personal spokesman did not return repeated calls, but NBC News caught up with the former president in New York Thursday, where he was hosting a news conference about his Global Initiative.

"If she becomes president I will treat it as if we are covered by that and I will disclose all the donors to our library and activities," he told the network

But that won't apply to those who have already donated, he said.

"For the people that have already given me money I don't think I should disclose it unless there is some conflict of which I am aware and there is not. Because a lot of people gave me money with the understanding that they could give anonymously and if they gave publicly then they would be the target of every other politician in America to hit on them for the rest of their lives. And some of them are Republicans, they may not want anybody to know (laughter) it might ruin their reputation in their own party."

There are other names on the list the Clintons would probably prefer not be out in the public domain. Right now, what little is known about the financing of the $165 million Clinton Library was reported in this New York Sun article. The reporter found the donor names on a touch-screen computer mounted on a wall on the third floor of library, shortly after it opened in 2004. The computer was removed soon after the article appeared. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette followed up with a more complete list the following year.

Among the names that surfaced were a range of foreign donors, including the Saudi Royal Family, the State of Kuwait, the Embassy of the State of Qatar, and the Government of Brunei. Foreigners are not permitted to make campaign donations, but there are no rules in place about who can give to a presidential library.

There were figures who have factored into stories about the Clintons' fundraising. For instance, Patricia Hotung, the wife of Hong Kong businessman Eric Hotung, was a library donor. In 1997, the couple was also in the news because Patricia Hotung donated $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee shortly after her husband, Eric Hotung, was granted a meeting with then-President Clinton's top national security advisers.

Also on the list, Vin Gupta, the chairman of InfoUSA, who has faced legal challenges from shareholders for shuttling the Clintons around on the company's jet, and for putting President Clinton on the company payroll.

And there is William Lerach, the nationally-known trial lawyer who recently agreed to plead guilty on conspiracy charges. Lerach had been bundling contributions for one of Sen. Clinton's campaign rivals, former Sen. John Edwards.

--Matthew Mosk

By Washington Post editors  |  September 27, 2007; 7:38 PM ET
 
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