- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2000

President Clinton's legal fund has raised $8 million to pay the bills for his defense in the Whitewater, "Travelgate," "Filegate," campaign-finance, and Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky scandals, trustees reported yesterday.

But the fund still needs to raise another $3.9 million to pay all the first family's current legal expenses associated with the scandals that have dogged the Clinton administration, they said.

"There should be an opportunity for the public to enable any first family to leave office without this tremendous burden," the fund's executive director, Anthony F. Essaye, said of private efforts to pay more than $11 million in legal expenses incurred so far by the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton since the Whitewater probe began in January 1994.

Mr. Essaye said the next five months before Mr. Clinton leaves office "will be a ripe time to continue our [fund-raising] efforts" and give Democratic loyalists an opportunity to give him "a concrete expression of thanks" for his two terms as president.

The fund, which replaced a previous defense fund in February 1998, has raised $1.1 million since January, Mr. Essaye said.

Over the entire period, about 75,000 individuals have given contributions averaging less than $77, he said.

Christopher Healy, the fund's administrator, told reporters yesterday that 136 donors had given the maximum allowable contribution of $10,000 per year. But trustees acknowledged that contributors are solicited repeatedly and that many wealthy supporters have given $30,000 or more.

According to FEC Info, an Internet Web site (www.tray.com) that tracks federal political contributions, 176 individual donors actually contributed $10,000 or more to the Clinton defense fund through December 1999. Another 21 donors gave $10,000 in the first six months of this year, according to data released yesterday.

They included Yuen-Fung Chu and Chiao Jen Wang of Arlington, Va., owners of International Corp. of America, who have given a total of $60,000; socialite Smith Bagley of Washington, who has donated $30,000; and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, who has donated $20,000.

Hollywood producers and stars made up the bulk of the most generous givers. They include Universal Studios tycoon Lew Wasserman and his wife, Edith, who have given $60,000; DreamWorks trio Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, $20,000 each; producer Ron Burkle and his wife, Janet, $40,000; producers Peg and Bud Yorkin, $30,000; and TV producer Norman Lear, $20,000.

Entertainment celebrities and executives giving $10,000 include singers Tony Bennett and Barbra Streisand; actors Michael Douglas and Tom Hanks; director Ron Howard; producer Gail Zappa; and Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson.

Mr. Essaye said two Washington law firms got the bulk of trust funds for Mr. Clinton's legal representation.

Williams & Connolly has billed $8 million for work associated with independent counsel investigations, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has billed $3 million for the president's defense in the sexual harassment lawsuit of former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones.

Mr. Essaye said the fund, formally called the Clinton Legal Expense Trust, also is paying the president's legal costs for disbarment proceedings in Arkansas over Mr. Clinton's false testimony in the Jones case regarding his sexual liaison with Miss Lewinsky.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright found the president in contempt of court and assessed him $90,000 for falsely stating that he "did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

Asked whether the legal-defense fund would pay for Mr. Clinton's contempt-of-court fine or the $850,000 settlement awarded to Mrs. Jones, Mr. Essaye said "neither has been certified… . Theoretically, [fund trustees] could still do it, but I have no reason to believe they would."

When pressed further, he said neither expense conformed "to the precise words" of the trust's charter and, if requested to pay for Mr. Clinton's contempt fine and settlement with Mrs. Jones, "We would have to cross that bridge when we come to it."

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