Clintons Return White House Furniture

ByABC News

W A S H I N G T O N, Feb. 8, 2001 -- Former President Clinton and his wife, Sen.Hillary Rodham Clinton, have sent $28,000 worth of household goodsback to Washington after questions arose over whether the itemswere intended as personal gifts or donations to the White House.

“We have been informed that it is being shipped back, and theNational Park Service is ready to receive it, take possession of itand take custody of it,” Jim McDaniel, the National Park Service’sliaison to the White House, said Wednesday.

“The property is being returned to government custody untilsuch time that the issues can be resolved. It may well turn outthat that property is rightly the personal property of theClintons.”

Giving Back

After they were criticized for taking $190,000 worth of china,flatware, rugs, televisions, sofas and other gifts with them whenthey left, the Clintons announced last week that they would pay for$86,000 worth of gifts, or nearly half the amount.

Their latest decision to send back $28,000 in gifts brings to$114,000 the value of items the Clintons have either decided to payfor or return.

McDaniel discussed the matter Wednesday with Betty Monkman, theWhite House curator, and Gary Walters, the chief usher, orexecutive manager of the White House.

They were reviewing the gifts the Clintons chose to keep after$28,000 worth of items were found on a list of donations the ParkService received for the 1993 White House redecoration project. TheWashington Post this week quoted three people who said that theyassumed the furnishings they donated for the project would stay inthe White House.

“As a result of questions about the status of certain propertydonated to the White House during the Clinton administration, theNational Park Service will accept the return of the property inquestion and act as a custodian of such property,” according to astatement released by the Park Service, which administers the WhiteHouse as a unit of the national park system.

A person familiar with the Clintons’ move out of the WhiteHouse, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would say only:“They’ve been returned.”

Furniture Movers

While the Clintons’ decision to return these gifts was a way toget out from under this and other criticism surrounding theirdeparture from the White House, the couple provided scant detailsabout the shipment.

Mrs. Clinton’s office referred all questions about the giftreturn to the former president’s transition office. Transitionoffice workers said the Clintons would make no statement. Theyreferred all questions to the Park Service, which wasn’t exactlysure which gifts were being returned or where they had been kept.

In a statement released Monday, Clinton’s transition office saidevery item they accepted was identified by the White House giftoffice as a present to them. They said none of the gifts taken wason a curator’s list of official White House property.

“Gifts did not leave the White House without the approval ofthe White House usher’s and curator’s offices,” the statementsaid. “Of course, if the White House now determines that acataloging error occurred, ... any item in question will bereturned.”

Instead of waiting for the issue to be resolved, the Clintonsreturned the items.

The gifts in question were: A kitchen table and four chairsvalued at $3,650 from Lee Ficks of Cincinnati, Ohio; a $1,000needlepoint rug from David Martinous of Little Rock, Ark.; twosofas, an easy chair and an ottoman worth $19,900 from SteveMittman of New York; lamps valued at $1,170 from Stuart Shiller ofHialeah, Fla.; and a $2,843 sofa from Brad Noe, a businessman fromCalifornia.

The gifts were just one of several flaps that followed theClintons out of the White House:

Lawmakers are questioning Clinton’s desire to rent expensiveoffice space in New York City at government expense. Because of thecontention, the former president’s foundation has offered to pay atleast $300,000 of an estimated $790,000 annual rent for the officeClinton favors.

Mrs. Clinton, the new senator from New York, has facedquestions about the propriety of accepting the gifts in the periodbetween her election and her swearing-in. Senate rules would havelimited what she could accept had she been a senator.

Members of both parties also have criticized Clinton forgranting scores of eleventh-hour clemency requests, including thepardon of Marc Rich, a fugitive in Switzerland from 51 counts inthe United States of tax evasion and fraud.