- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s former national finance director never knew the total cost of a 2000 Hollywood fundraising gala, his attorney said yesterday in opening statements at his federal trial over whether Democratic campaign contributions were illegally concealed.

Defense attorney Paul Sandler said the event’s expenses were hidden from David F. Rosen by its organizers, Peter F. Paul and Aaron Tonken.

Federal prosecutors say Mr. Rosen panicked when costs for the celebrity-studded event rose, and that he lied to the government to conceal it.

Mr. Rosen has pleaded not guilty to three counts of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, which oversees campaign contributions. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Mr. Sandler said yesterday that Mr. Rosen didn’t gain anything by underreporting the cost to the FEC and that Mrs. Clinton’s New York Senate campaign didn’t benefit.

?David Rosen’s responsibility was not to be Sherlock Holmes? by investigating expense reports, Mr. Sandler said. He suggested that the event’s original producer never told Mr. Rosen of its mounting costs.

On Wednesday, however, federal prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg told jurors that it was Mr. Rosen’s job to raise money for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and to keep track of how much was spent to do so.

The event, held at a 112-acre Brentwood estate, attracted stars such as Cher, Diana Ross, John Travolta, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

It was underwritten by Paul, who pleaded guilty in March to unrelated charges of securities fraud. Paul has told the FBI that he gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign that were not reported.

In his opening statement Wednesday, Mr. Zeidenberg told jurors that Mr. Rosen was responsible for campaign-finance reports that claimed ?in-kind? contributions of $400,000 for the Hollywood gala, when he knew that the value of such contributions of products or services exceeded $1.1 million.

?How are you going to react when you see that you have OK’d $5,000 for Patti LaBelle’s hairdresser, or $10,000 worth of Paul Anka CDs given away on a single night?? Mr. Zeidenberg said. ?David Rosen knew that people would be extremely alarmed and upset at those kinds of expenses.?

Under federal election rules, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign would have benefited by underreporting the event’s cost. The more a fundraiser costs, even if part of the cost is covered by in-kind contributions, the less money a campaign can spend on the election.

Mr. Sandler told jurors yesterday that the exact cost of the gala still isn’t known.

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