LOS ANGELES -- Industrialist Justin Dart has declared President Reagan's 'kitchen cabinet' of wealthy advisers 'finished' in the aftermath of a controversy over fund-raising, it was reported today.
'The kitchen cabinet has served its useful purpose and, unless the president calls on some of us, the cabinet is finished,' Dart told The Los Angeles Times.
But another member of the Reagan inner circle, composed primarily of the president's closest California associates, told the newspaper it would be 'a tragic mistake' for the group to disband.
Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nev., said the group 'should continue to do things for the president on an ad hoc basis. It will not go away, nor should it.'
The kitchen cabinet, which helped give Reagan his start in politics and helped shape his administration, has been touched by controversy due to two recent White House initiatives restricting its activities.
One was a legal opinion evicting the group's members from offices in the Executive Office Building. The other was a request to disband the Coalition for a New Beginning, which had raised $800,000 to finance a lobbying campaign for the president's economic program.
The Times said Dart was furious over reports that some corporations had complained to the White House that they were pressured to contribute to the lobbying campaign.
'If you can find one corporation that says I strong-armed them in any way, I'll give you a thousand dollars,' Dart said. 'In other words, it's just a dirty, lousy lie -- 100 percent.'
The kitchen cabinet has been an informally structured group of about 20 Reagan associates. In addressing the question of how many of Reagan's friends actually qualify as members, Dart said: 'Damn fewer than is generally advertised.'