- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2003

If Hillary Rodham Clinton is so smart, so savvy, so razor sharp, how did she allow celebrity scam artist Aaron Tonken to dupe her and her husband?

And if she denies being duped — nobody can pull the wool over those steely blue eyes — then what exactly did Hillary know about Mr. Tonken’s fraudulent charity schemes and when did she know it?

Federal investigators are now probing Mr. Tonken’s involvement with a $1 million Hollywood political event for Hillary’s 2000 Senate campaign, according to the Los Angeles Times. Earlier this week, a Los Angeles judge granted a preliminary injunction that prevents Mr. Tonken from soliciting any more money for charity. Mr. Tonken has been sued by California state Attorney General Bill Lockyer for allegedly bilking a half-dozen charities supported by the Clintons and prominent Hollywood celebrities. Tonken also faces a federal criminal charge of mail fraud.

Here’s the lowdown on Hillary’s Hollywood flimflam man that you won’t find in her new best-selling book:

Mr. Tonken is a former street bum with a creepy lifelong attraction to Hollywood stars and powerbrokers. He once cold-called Jackie Onassis and sweet-talked Zsa Zsa Gabor into allowing him to stay at her apartment. He crashed the celebrity fund-raising scene a decade ago and quickly rose to the top. Mr. Tonken hooked up with Democratic socialite Denise Rich — ex-wife of fugitive financier and Clinton pardonee Marc Rich — for a lavish charity event in Milton Berle’s honor five years ago; it was reportedly Mrs. Rich who introduced Mr. Tonken to the Clintons.

Mr. Tonken’s mentor was Peter Paul, a convicted felon who was seeking access to the Clintons on behalf of his business partner Stan Lee (comic-book creator of “Spider-Man”). Paul claims to have underwritten a Hollywood gala for the Clintons produced by Mr. Tonken in August 2000. The liberal elite bash — attended by Cher, Melissa Etheridge, Ted Danson, Michael Douglas, Whoopi Goldberg, Goldie Hawn, Shirley MacLaine and John Travolta — was both a tribute to the former president and a soft-money fund-raiser for Hillary’s New York Senate campaign.

Paul, who partied hard with Bill, Hill and Chelsea at the star-studded event, alleges his direct and in-kind contributions worth $2 million were disguised in order to hide his involvement with Hillary’s campaign. He also claims Democrat officials solicited a contribution from Paul in return for a presidential pardon he unsuccessfully sought for his two prior convictions for cocaine possession and fraud. Paul has since fled to Brazil. He is fighting extradition to the U.S., where he faces an indictment for his role in a $25 million stock manipulation scam involving Stan Lee’s media company.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tonken faces a lawsuit by California Attorney General Lockyer alleging he defrauded charities and their donors, diverted donations to bank accounts he controlled and refused to account for more than $1.5 million in contributions to six charitable events he agreed to produce. The defrauded charitable organizations include the Kids Campaign, the Joan English Fund for Women’s Cancer Research, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the Betty Ford Center and Inner-City Games Foundation.

The ripped-off charities include organizations supported by celebrities such as singer Rod Stewart, the pop music group Nsync and the cast of the TV show “Ally McBeal.”

According to an FBI affidavit relating to the federal mail-fraud charge against Mr. Tonken: “Tonken routinely made misrepresentations which defrauded the underwriters and donors for these events. To cause donors to contribute to the events, Tonken regularly overstated the amount of underwriting funds that had been raised, understated the cost of producing the event, and promised that celebrities had agreed to appear at the events when they had not.”

(Given his connections to two fugitive FOTCs (Friends of the Clintons), one questions the wisdom of allowing Mr. Tonken to remain free on a $50,000 unsecured bond.)

How could the brilliant, ethical, do-gooder Hillary get herself entangled with such a creep? The same way so many other lowlife FOTCs came into their lives. Cha-ching. “Through Peter Paul’s money, I bought entre to President and Mrs. Clinton,” Mr. Tonken recently bragged. Whether she was stupidly conned or complicitly cunning, her involvement with Mr. Tonken and Paul stinks to high heaven.

This is sordid history she prefers not to relive.

Michelle Malkin is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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