Associated Press
April 19, 2000

Mrs. Clinton, Giuliani Trade Barbs


HUNTINGTON, N.Y. (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton deflected questions over her campaign returning a donation to a woman with ties to a drug smuggler Wednesday, saying that her Senate opponent should give back a $100,000 donation from a man she called ''the number one polluter in America.''

''Some information came to my campaign's attention and we immediately returned a donation that was questionable,'' the first lady said of the donation made by Vivian Mannerud, whose Airline Brokers Co. runs charter flights between Cuba and Miami.

Mannerud donated $22,000 to a special account set up by Democrats to raise largely unregulated soft money for the first lady's campaign for U.S. Senate.

She has been linked to Jorge Cabrera, who in 1995 made a $20,000 contribution to the Democratic National Committee from a bank account in which he kept profits from drug trafficking. The DNC eventually returned that donation.

Cabrera pleaded guilty to smuggling 6,000 pounds of cocaine into the United States and was sentenced to 19 years in prison and fined $1.5 million. Mannerud was never charged with any wrongdoing.

She then said Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's Washington-based Giuliani Victory Committee, set up to accept soft money donations which legally bypass federal fund-raising restrictions, should return $100,000 from the Renco Group.

''I would ask the mayor if he intends to keep $100,000 from the number one polluter in America,'' she added.

Kim Serafin, a spokeswoman for Giuliani's Senate campaign, declined to comment.

Among Renco's holdings is the Utah-based Magnesium Corp. of America, which was cited in a 1998 federal Environmental Protection Agency report as the nation's top dumper of toxic chemicals.

Renco is run by Ira Rennert, who has caused an uproar on eastern Long Island by building the largest house in the Hamptons -- a 100,000-square foot beachfront complex in Sagaponack that features 29 bedrooms, 40 bathrooms, two bowling alleys and a movie theater.

Meanwhile, a poll released Wednesday showed Giuliani's approval rating among New York City voters has dropped to its lowest level ever.

A new Quinnipiac College Poll shows that just 37 percent of city voters approve of Giuliani's performance while 57 percent disapprove and 6 percent are undecided. Only a bare majority of 51 percent approve of his handling of crime and just 31 percent agree with his performance on education.

For the past two years, Giuliani has watched his poll numbers slide as his administration has become embroiled in a series of controversial police shootings of unarmed black men.

Giuliani's highest approval rating came in February 1998-- shortly after his November 1997 re-election -- when 74 percent of voters approved of his performance.

The poll surveyed 816 registered voters with a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved.