WASHINGTON — Representatives from at least three plastics industry companies and an industry lobbyist were among those attending White House coffees, according to information released by the Clinton administration.
The coffees have attracted scrutiny because of allegations that White House officials traded access for sizable campaign donations. A review of campaign contributions for the plastics industry did not reveal any clear links, and officials interviewed said they were not asked to donate to party coffers for the coffees they attended.
According to a White House list, representatives from Dow Chemical Co., DuPont Co., Phillips Petroleum Co. and W.R. Grace & Co. attended the coffees, although the Grace official listed as attending said she does not remember being there. And Dan Dutko, a Democratic party fund-raiser and lobbyist for the American Plastics Council, also attended one coffee, the White House records indicate.
White House officials have said they did not break the law and have defended the coffees as a chance to talk in more detail with a wide variety of people. It is against the law to raise money in the White House.
Lobbyists for Midland, Mich.-based Dow and Bartlesville, Okla.-based Phillips said they were not asked to contribute before, during or after a May 2 coffee they attended with Vice President Gore.
``The discussion was not meant to be a fund-raiser,'' said Frank Farfone, vice president of trade, policy and commercial issues with Dow. ``This was very oriented toward business issues.''
Farfone said he only talked about trade with China and did not raise any issues specific to Dow. A Phillips official said he talked about gas prices, which were very high at the time, and did not receive any follow-up calls from the Democratic National Committee or White House officials.
Both Farfone and Don Duncan, federal relations manager with Phillips Petroleum, said their invitations came about because of their company's relationship with the DNC.
Dow gave $15,000 to the DNC in late 1995, and sent a $16,000 check July 26, almost three months after the coffee, according to Federal Election Commission records. That contribution was made because ``we wanted to participate'' in the Democratic National Convention, Farfone said. ``We try to give enough to get exposure to both sides of the aisle.''
A Dow political action committee also gave $5,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on July 15, FEC records indicate.
Phillips received the invitation because it is a member of the Democratic Business Council, a DNC organization to which the company pays $15,000 a year, Duncan said. Phillips sent the DNC $15,000 on March 27, 1996, FEC records indicate.
Duncan said Phillips officials attended receptions at the White House for Presidents Reagan and Bush that were given for contributors to Republican organizations.
Mark Nelson, DuPont vice president of federal affairs, who is listed as attending a June 19 coffee, did not return telephone calls. DuPont is based in Wilmington, Del.
Former W.R. Grace lobbyist Judith Hofmann, who was listed as attending a Nov. 21, 1995, coffee with Gore, said she does not remember attending any meetings with Gore: ``I would think that if I had gone to a White House coffee, I certainly would remember.''
Grace officials said the company was probably a $15,000 member of the Democratic Business Council at the time. Grace is headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla.
The White House said the list it released ``may not be completely accurate'' and was its ``best effort'' to identify attendees.