December 19th, 2007
12:17 PM ET
15 years ago

Former DNC chairman will endorse Clinton

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Don Fowler, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and husband of current South Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Fowler, will endorse Sen. Hillary Clinton for president Wednesday, sources tell CNN.

Fowler served as DNC chairman during former President Bill Clinton's administration from 1995 to 1997, a period that included Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign.

Fowler's wife has been state party chairwoman since April. She has said that she will remain neutral in the presidential primary.

The former chairman is a current member of the DNC, and a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver. Fowler will make the announcement in an afternoon conference call.

South Carolina Democrats will hold their primary on January 26, the final nominating contest for their party before Super Tuesday on February 5.

UPDATE: Fowler said on the conference call he is endorsing Clinton because of her experience and her chances to win in 2008, explaining that she is a "wise leader who understands American government and politics better than anyone in the race."

He also responded to recent poll numbers in South Carolina that show Sen. Barack Obama cutting into Clinton's long-held lead.

"This is a close race," he said. "Anyone who ever thought this was a done deal is a bit mistaken and perhaps naïve."

- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby

Filed under: Hillary Clinton • South Carolina
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Diamond



    December 19, 2007 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  2. Educated Class, Pittsburgh PA

    I have two quick comments...

    Jason from Atlanta, you apparently lack intelligence as well. The post you refer states nothing of racism against Obama. The statement went to the effect of establishment candidates fear the change in status quo (see Edwards or Obama), while people bost of Hillary's experience yet credit none to those who have far more experience (one happens to be a Latino, therefore break the status quo). Granted, the idea of a woman president would break said status quo. Yet she has proven to be more of an establishment candidate than any man.

    Secondly regarding the statement from Pixie in Tennessee, ABSOLUTELY HILLARIOUS!!!

    December 19, 2007 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  3. richard,mo

    This guy does alot of illegal fund raising for the clintons. Read this people...

    DON FOWLER, Former DNC Chairman: We at the Democratic National Committee made mistakes. As chair of the Democratic National Committee, I accept responsibility for those mistakes. To the best of my knowledge, there was no intent by DNC officials to accept money from foreign–illegal foreign sources, despite the pressing needs during the campaign to raise large sums of money to compete with the far better financed campaigns of our opposition party, no one, no one at the White House, not the President, not the Vice President, not anyone else suggested that we cut corners, that we avoid rooms, or that we do anything other than comply fully with every rule, every law, and every ethical standard.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Fowler says that applied to the highly publicized event attended by Vice President Gore at a Buddhist temple outside Los Angeles in April 1996. Improper contributions resulted from the event, but Fowler disputed claims by committee Republicans that the event was designed to be a fund-raiser.

    December 19, 2007 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  4. Brian Des Moines, IA


    What would be better...a Obama who said he would not have voted for the war, but wasn't elected to the position so we don't know that for sure! Also he has missed so many VOTES!! How can we count on him to do the job of a President if he can't do his current job!? Also I wish he would stop complaining about other senator's votes, when he missed the vote himself (Iraq not included since he couldn't vote)!!

    December 19, 2007 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  5. Brad, Stockton, CA

    What is newsworthy about another endorsement? Endorsements are a dime a dozen and they serve merely as crutches for the ignorant and uninformed.

    December 19, 2007 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  6. Ben,Ohio

    So now even Clinton supporters are stealing Obama's slogan?

    Don't be fooled America? You have very little say in who will be your nominee. These "superdelegates" are establishment folks and can pick whoever they want to be the nominee.

    Someone like Obama, who will create change, scares the hell out of them, because it will take power out of their hands.

    Posted By Jesse, Burnsville, MN : December 19, 2007 12:58 pm

    I totally agree with you.
    Do you remember Hillary in black churches in November last year pretending to match over the bridge?

    Do you remember Hillary flicking out when Obama got media attention and asked him to damp 'hope' campaign so that they could be one "united" democratic party?

    Do you remember when hillary was stealing Obama's plan on education,poverty and foreign policy plans?

    Now look at them stealing the slogans,
    I am sick and tired with these fake people who will do anything to get elected!!
    Hillary is Fake. Give me Obama anytime of the day, I trust the guy!

    December 19, 2007 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  7. Ike Woodbridge VA

    I am honestly beginning to think that most of you that post your comments on this site are actually Republicans, pretending to be Democrats. If you are a true Democrat that fully understands political dynamics and election strategies, you would know that Barack Obama has no chance to win the general election if he becomes the Democratic nominee. He will not win any state south of the Mason-Dixon line. I am African American, I live in the Sotuh and I have worked in numerous political campaigns. HILLARY CLINTON ON THE OTHER HAND IS THE BEST CHANCE DEMOCRATS HAVE TO WIN BACK THE WHITE HOUSE. WHETHER YOU LIKE HER OR NOT SHE IS OUR BEST CHANCE IN 08.

    December 19, 2007 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  8. Ed M., Greenville, SC

    He also responded to recent poll numbers in South Carolina that show Sen. Barack Obama cutting into Clinton's long-held lead.

    "This is a close race," he said. "Anyone who ever thought this was a done deal is a bit mistaken and perhaps naïve."

    Is he calling Clinton naive?

    December 19, 2007 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  9. Chris

    Ummm Jason nobody said racist, they said evil, hateful, and so forth, not racist...I'm black too and I feel the same way about Hillary, white or black, I think the establishment needs to be broken....not the race issue. As far as Obama I admire him because he HASN'T used his race to get the black vote...

    He's not trying to be the black candidate...he's just being the BEST candidate for All americans... That's something I want from any candidate.

    And before the HIllary supporters say she's the best... sell it to another democrat...I'm an independent, I don't and won't wear rose-colored glasses.

    December 19, 2007 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  10. Dan, NJ


    I disagree with you that the comments were not intended to be racist. For example, the emails sent out saying Obama is a Muslim with ties to terrorism was clearly discriminatory. Moreover, insinuating Obama was a drug dealer was a subtle jab intended to put fear in people with racist tendencies. I think you are looking at things from the standpoint of does it put down minorities. But there is also the aspect of stoking prejudices that may linger in white voters.

    And it is possible it is working. The newest N.H. poll has shown Hillary surge based largely on a boost from older voters. With no degree of scientific evidence, I will simply say the issue of race is different in my generation than my parents generation than their parents generation. Generally, the older the generation the more likely for prejudice.

    December 19, 2007 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  11. Mark, Washington, MD

    Jason of Atlanta – You sound so angry! Are you related to Al Sharpton? Of course many Blacks support Hillary, including Al Sharpton, just as many Whites support Obama.

    But if one feels that the good of the Republic is better served by not voting to institutionalize dynastic rule who are you to tell them go? Go where?

    Bill Clinton was for the likes of you the first Black President because of the narrative of his personal life and thus Hillary by defending his infidelity against the Republican attack machine is qualified to be president because she is tested. Obama is atypical Black man. Good for you Jason!

    December 19, 2007 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  12. David Weiss, Racine, Wisconsin

    Mrs. Clinton continues to be a negative messenger of "gloom and doom!" I keep looking for a signal she represents hope and challenge, however, enough is enough!

    December 19, 2007 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  13. Bart: Washington, D.C.

    This is the same Don Fowler the LA Times wrote the following about in 1997:
    Sent: Thursday, April 03, 1997 12:31 PM
    Subject: CIA Probes Missing Memo on DNC Official

    CIA Probes Missing Memo on DNC Official
    Inquiry: Paper warned that Democrat sought agency's aid for donor.
    Charge sparks party fund-raising questions.
    By JAMES RISEN, ALAN C. MILLER, Times Staff Writers

    WASHINGTON–An internal memo warning then-CIA Director John M. Deutch that a
    top Democratic Party official had improperly contacted the CIA on behalf of
    a major campaign contributor mysteriously vanished in the spy agency's upper
    reaches in 1995, and its disappearance is now the focus of an investigation
    into alleged efforts to exploit the CIA for political purposes.

    The CIA official who sent the warning to Deutch has since been identified in
    news accounts as having cooperated with Democratic National Chairman Donald
    L. Fowler on behalf of a major Democratic contributor.

    That has left some who are familiar with the case wondering whether the CIA
    officer was set up as the fall guy to protect more senior CIA officials who
    may have failed to heed his warning.

    Regardless of the answer, Fowler's willingness to reach into the U.S.
    intelligence community on behalf of a generous donor who wanted the CIA's
    help in gaining access to President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore has
    raised new questions about the blurring of the line between the cash-hungry
    Clinton reelection campaign and the government.

    Fowler tried to assist Roger Tamraz, a Lebanese American entrepreneur
    seeking U.S. support in his effort to build a multibillion-dollar pipeline
    from the Caspian Sea through the strife-torn Caucasus to Turkey.

    Tamraz, who is wanted by the Lebanese government on bank embezzlement
    charges, attended six White House events with Clinton, including at least
    three after a National Security Council official urged the administration to
    bar him from such high-level access.

    The December 1995 memo warning of Fowler's allegedly improper contacts with
    the CIA was signed by William Lofgren, then-chief of the central Eurasian
    division in the agency's directorate of operations, its clandestine
    espionage arm.

    The warning memo carried a "routing code" showing that, in addition to
    Deutch, it was also addressed to many of the CIA's other top
    officials–including Nora Slatkin, the agency's executive director and
    third-ranking official, and David Cohen, deputy director for operations and
    head of clandestine espionage.

    U.S. intelligence sources stress that Lofgren sent the memo, but CIA
    officials insist that there is no evidence Deutch or the other senior
    officials to whom it was addressed actually received it. CIA sources also
    say that Deputy CIA Director George J. Tenet, Clinton's nominee to head the
    agency, never received the warning either.

    Phone Calls Leave Electronic Record

    The mystery of the missing memo is now the focus of an inquiry by the CIA's
    inspector general into contacts between Fowler and the CIA, according to
    U.S. intelligence sources.

    Lofgren, who has since retired from the agency, refused comment. After
    leaving the CIA, he briefly worked as a consultant for Tamraz.

    Fowler denied that he had contacted the CIA, but two calls from Fowler to
    the CIA were electronically documented on a CIA caller ID system, according
    to a White House source. The CIA's "inspector general has determined to his
    satisfaction that those calls were made by Don Fowler," the source said. In
    addition to the electronic record, he said, contemporaneous notes show that
    the caller identified himself as Fowler on both occasions.

    Sources say that Lofgren's warning came in response to repeated attempts by
    Fowler to enlist the CIA to help Tamraz, who had a long-standing, secret
    relationship with the CIA.

    When he found that he had been shut out of the White House, Tamraz told DNC
    officials that the resistance was probably due to his shadowy past in the
    Middle East, and that the CIA could vouch for him to overcome the
    gatekeepers at the National Security Council.

    In October 1995, Tamraz also complained about being denied access to the
    White House during a dinner with DNC Finance Chairman Marvin Rosen, sources
    say. That same month, Fowler telephoned one of Lofgren's subordinates in the
    central Eurasian division who had served as Tamraz's contact in the agency,
    leading CIA officials to believe that Tamraz had told Fowler whom to call.

    Fowler asked the CIA officer to send a memo about Tamraz and his activities
    on behalf of U.S. intelligence to Sheila Heslin, a specialist on the
    Caucasus at the NSC who had raised red flags about Tamraz at the White
    House. Fowler told the CIA officer that Tamraz was trying to obtain a
    meeting with Gore but needed to overcome the NSC's resistance.

    Heslin had met with Tamraz in June 1995 about his pipeline proposal and
    afterward had told her superiors at the NSC that Tamraz should not be given
    meetings with anyone else further up the chain of command. She had also
    already obtained a CIA memo on Tamraz before her first meeting with him in

    But in July 1995, Tamraz began contributing generously to the Democrats,
    ultimately giving at least $177,000 to the Democratic National Committee and
    state parties and pledging to give several times more. Sources say Tamraz
    was seeking–unsuccessfully, as it turned out–one-on-one meetings with both
    Clinton and Gore to discuss the Caspian Sea pipeline proposal.

    When Fowler called the CIA on Tamraz's behalf in October, he was told that
    the agency would not cooperate with him. But Fowler still called Heslin to
    tell her that the CIA had information for her on Tamraz that could convince
    her that Tamraz should be given greater White House access.

    Heslin then called the CIA for an update on the Tamraz memo she had received
    before her June meeting. Her call came to the CIA within a day or two of
    Fowler's initial call to the spy agency, sources say. But since the NSC has
    the right to ask for information from the CIA, Lofgren's office complied
    with her request.

    New Memo on Donor Intercepted, Sanitized

    An updated memo on Tamraz was then prepared by the CIA's central Eurasian
    division–the successor to the CIA's old Soviet-Eastern Europe division–for
    Heslin, but it was intercepted by the CIA general counsel's office. The
    CIA's legal experts, wary of disseminating negative information about an
    American citizen, sanitized the report before it was sent on to Heslin,
    sources say.

    But by December of 1995, Tamraz was still meeting NSC resistance in his
    efforts to gain access to Clinton and Gore. So Fowler called the CIA again,
    reaching the same officer in the central Eurasian division and again asking
    for more support for Tamraz.

    Alarmed that their earlier efforts to rebuff Fowler had not deterred him,
    staffers in the central Eurasian division wrote a memo detailing Fowler's
    contacts. It was sent up to Deutch's office under Lofgren's signature.

    And then it vanished, sources say. It is still unclear how far the memo went
    before it was lost or intercepted. A copy was kept at the central Eurasian

    Meanwhile, Fowler had called Heslin again, leaving a voice-mail message.
    Alarmed, Heslin told her superior, Staff Director Nancy Soderberg, about
    Fowler's calls. Soderberg called Fowler to tell him to "knock it off" and
    leave NSC staffers alone.

    Top CIA officials insist that they did not become aware of Fowler's 1995
    contacts with CIA officers until recent weeks, when Fowler's efforts to
    reach into the CIA became an issue in the Democratic fund-raising
    controversy. The CIA's inspector general opened an investigation into the
    matter on March 13, and Tenet later provided a classified briefing to the
    Senate Intelligence Committee on the controversy.

    Tamraz's work with the CIA dates back at least to the early 1980s, when he
    was a close advisor to Lebanese President Amin Gemayel. Sources say he also
    had ties to former CIA Director William J. Casey during the Reagan
    administration. After Israel invaded Lebanon, Tamraz briefly acted as a
    secret, back-channel envoy between Gemayel and Israeli Prime Minister
    Menachem Begin–at Casey's behest, Tamraz and other sources say. Tamraz, a
    native of Cairo, became a U.S. citizen in 1989 but had held a U.S. green
    card since his days as a Harvard Business School student in the 1960s.

    A major Republican campaign contributor during the Reagan administration,
    Tamraz had never given to the Democratic Party until mid-1995, after he had
    held a series of unproductive meetings in Washington with State and Energy
    department officials and Heslin, pushing, without success, for Clinton
    administration support for his pipeline proposal.

    "Nobody did anything different with him than with any other oil guy," said
    one senior State Department official who met with Tamraz before he
    contributed to the Democratic Party.

    Contributions to the Democratic Party

    In an interview, Tamraz said he wanted nothing more than assurances that the
    administration would not oppose his pipeline. The administration finally
    endorsed a "multiple pipeline" approach calling for new pipeline routes out
    of the Caspian basin.

    In addition to the money Tamraz contributed, he raised about $75,000 from
    friends and relatives for the DNC, Democratic sources say. His largest
    contribution - $100,000 to the Virginia Democratic Party–was requested by

    Fowler gave party officials a green light to accept Tamraz's money even
    after a computer check of stories on the controversial international
    businessman disclosed that he was wanted by the Lebanese government on bank
    embezzlement charges, sources say. They say the DNC officials regarded
    Tamraz as "an aggressive businessman in a tough environment."

    Copyright Los Angeles Times

    December 19, 2007 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |

    Wow, I'm so surprised! Who would have thought this could happen?

    December 19, 2007 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  15. Emily, East Lansing MI

    Dear "Educated Class"

    There is a great irony in your spelling and rhetoric.

    December 19, 2007 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  16. Chris, Middletown, CT

    Hillary supporters...quick question – when HRC is asked a question...and doesn't answer it – or makes a speech that completely contradicts her position of less than a year ago – do you actually bury your head in the sand...or is that a figure of speech...and if you do need to buy the sand – where do you get it?

    December 19, 2007 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  17. Sam, Bemidji, MN

    Mark from Maryland: "Obama is a[]typical black man"!!! I would like to ask a black man exactly how racists that comment was. Does any typical black man lead Hillary Clinton in the polls from both Iowa AND New Hampshire? Does any typical MAN actually do that, let alone black? No. If Democrats run Hillary, we have got ourselves Romney or Huckabee or that mayor guy who just keeps whispering "9/11" into the microphone! If Democrats are wise enough to nominate Obama, it will be the first time we've had a true liberal in office for several decades. And if you think you don't like liberals: put blacks back into slavery and take away the vote for the women! Liberal change needs to happen once every couple of decades.

    But the point I actually wanted to make was in reference to a comment that we could never know if Obama would have voted for the war, being as he wasn't in the senate at the time. Isn't it true that he opposed the war in the state senate, at least verbally? I think the man has been against the war since before Hillary and Edwards voted for it.

    Obama '08

    December 19, 2007 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  18. pam Eugene OR

    What is that the black people know about Obama that would make then not want to vote for him? I just don't get it? I also agree with the person who said if Hillary is the candidate I will vote Republican. That is how much damage I think she can do.
    Please answer my question. It is asked with the deepest sincerity.

    December 19, 2007 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |


    December 19, 2007 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  20. Steven in Charleston, SC

    Well, I don't know Don Fowler, so I can't comment on the quality of his endorsement, but for all those sniping about the "worthiness" of this article, the endorsement of a prior DNC Chairman IS news, even if you don't like his selection.

    On a more positive note, I do know Carol Fowler, and she has really injected a breath of fresh air into the SC Democratic Party. Unlike the Chairmen of the past, who ran the party like a good ol' boy's club, Carol has gone to great lengths to welcome EVERYONE into the Party tent.

    December 19, 2007 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  21. Steven Stewart, Portland, Oregon

    I had the honor of listening to Clinton speak in Iowa, she is either is extremely honest or the best actress ever. She knows these people and what they want, and she has been working for it for years. Obama has vision. SO? What good will vision do for us? We have to many problems to fix for a vision to fix. People, be smart, Obama needs some more work, let him be present when we need him, or better yet let him get experience under Hillary. I like Obama and his views, but we need to have a president who has experience working for the childern and despareged (Spelling I'm Sorry) for over thirty five years. She has the most direct means to fix our problems. Please Obama people, lets just embrace both in a nice little packet and stop screaming at our allies. This Primary is tearing our party apart.

    Clinton/Obama 08
    For Experience and Vision bring Change.
    (And please no hateful comments back! I was nice to you!)

    December 20, 2007 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  22. Ajay Jain

    DNC owes its prominence to Bill Clinton. Thus DNC should support Hillary. Go Hillary 08!

    December 20, 2007 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  23. Doug, Brentwood, CA

    To Bart: You couldn't have condensed that loooong boring article? If you had, someone might actually have read your comment. In the meantime: Go Hillary!!

    December 20, 2007 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  24. Ajay Jain

    The DNC owes a lot to Bill Clinton for its national standing in politics. The least they can do is to endorse Hillary for 2008.

    December 21, 2007 03:57 am at 3:57 am |
  25. Jack Berkeley, CA

    🙂 Jason – WOW you must have really hit a nerve with the antiHillary ClubMed members! One has to wonder if they all get together on their little sites and compare notes –> sure a lot of cockroaches that come scurrying out of the woodwork and start tag-teaming whenever they hear the name Hillary. One has to figure that they're mostly GOP Trolls 🙁 who haven't gotten over not being able to oust Bill – even though Bush & Cheney are worse than Nixon & Agnew!!! (Remember THE SAME IDIOTS must have voted in 4 more yrs of Rove&Co)

    TRUE SENATOR OBAMA supporters are listening to what he has to preach about wanting to be the uniter not the divider – which instead is the goal of the small but vocal "voices against Hillary" – who if by chance are Democrat are either jealous old cows or insecure Neanderthal wannabees... Either way they are the ones who are still stuck in the 90's and they are only serving to turn off the undecided and Independents from voting for ANY candidate 🙁

    December 21, 2007 04:23 am at 4:23 am |
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