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Clintons' Data Base

by William Safire

February 24, 1997

WASHINGTON -- You've long heard about "Emily's List"-- a legitimate fund- raising operation created to elect women.

You'll soon be hearing more about "Hillary's List"--an unprecedented abuse of Federal power in political fund-raising.

Officially called the White House Data Base (WhoDB), this computerized list of 355,000 names was compiled over the past four years at taxpayer expense to help the Clintons raise money to stay in power.

This political cybercorruption was directed from the top: "Both the President and the First Lady have asked me to make this my top priority," wrote White House aide Marsha Scott on Dec. 7, 1993. "Bruce [Lindsey] will be kept fully informed."

Fifteen months later, Mrs. Clinton's personal involvement in building her base is documented in a staff memo to Ms. Scott: "During the demo the First Lady mentioned that she would like to see the Miles Rubin rapid response list in the database."

Everybody who got favors or gave money was inputted.

Lincoln bedroom overnighters, Democratic National Committee fat cats in the Kennedy Center box, private guests at radio talks -- all are still going in at a rate of 10,000 a month, many with children's names, dietary restrictions, special interests, and almost all with Social Security numbers and addresses.

Never has technology been married to power greed to produce such political gain.

Despite an early planner's assurance that the data base was "government property and cannot be given to or used by a campaign entity," its central purpose has been fund-raising, and it has been wrongfully used by D.N.C.- paid White House "volunteers" to get payment for Clinton favors bestowed.

Representative David McIntosh told NBC's Lisa Myers "the taxpayer was fleeced"; his committee will focus on how Erskine Bowles built the Mailing List From Hell. But misappropriating $1.5 million to match donors with favors is not all.

What has gone unremarked is the rape of individual privacy.

Coded notations on thousands of files indicate whether somebody on the WhoDB is black, Jewish, Catholic, Hispanic, of Ukrainian or Chinese or other ethnic descent. You want a printout of Italian Jews from California who are gay and got a Clinton holiday greeting? Just click on the demographic icon and cross the religious and ethnicity fields.

If you are in her data base, you may think that surely your file, containing private information about race and religion that universities and companies are prohibited from collecting about you, will be denied to anybody outside the White House.

You may be mistaken. Clinton lawyers have written Congress repeatedly that "the Privacy Act [5 U.S.C. 552a] does not apply" to the White House Office.

Unless successfully challenged, that means that the data will go on to the Clinton Library in 2001. There it will be available to all.

Think about that. Maybe you don't want everybody to know you're a Buddhist, or that you were in Washington on a certain weekend, or that you could afford a $100,000 night in Lincoln's bed. Too bad: Hillary's list was created by public money and is a public record.

Think further. Suppose some unscrupulous Republican is elected President next time. He would have, by modem to the library, a vast and instantly retrievable "enemies list"--and know whom not to invite to a state dinner, or whom to solicit for how much to "get well" with him.

Ah, but maybe some upright archivist will insist the vulnerable half- million listees be protected from scholars, journalists, reformers and right-wing kooks.

Too late; I'll bet Hillary's data already have been copied to other CD-ROM's. And some mean hacker is getting set to attack the White House data base to download all the dossiers to the Internet's webhubbelsite.

If you're on Hillary's list, at best you'll be getting legal defense fund solicitations and offers to buy Clinton memoirs at irresistible discounts. At worst you'll be harassed by global telemarketers who will know your political inclinations, children's nicknames and donor history.

Enjoy it. You'll know which First Lady to thank.

Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company

Posted here February 24, 1997
Web Page: http://www.aci.net/kalliste/